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Information about Fight ClubFight Club is a 1999 (14 years ago) American feature movie adapted from the 1996 (17 years ago) novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. The movie was directed by David Fincher and stars Edward Norton (5 walls), Brad pitt (17 walls), and Helena Bonham Carter. Norton plays the nameless protagonist, an "everyman" who is discontented with his white-collar job in American society. He forms a "Fight Club" with soap salesman Tyler Durden, played by Pitt, and becomes embroiled in a relationship with him and a destitute woman, Marla Singer, played by Bonham Carter.
Palahniuk's novel was optioned by 20th Century Fox producer Laura Ziskin, who hired Jim Uhls to write the movie adaptation. Fincher was one of four directors the producers considered; they hired him because of his enthusiasm for the film. Fincher developed the script with Uhls and sought screenwriting advice from the cast and others in the movie industry. The director and the cast compared the movie to Rebel Without a Cause (1955, 58 years ago) and The Graduate (1967, 46 years ago). They said its theme was the conflict between a generation of young people and the value system of advertising. Fincher intended Fight Club's violence to serve as a metaphor for this. The director copied the homoerotic overtones from Palahniuk's novel to make audiences uncomfortable and keep them from anticipating the twist ending.
Studio executives did not like the film, and they restructured Fincher's intended marketing campaign to try to reduce anticipated losses. Fight Club failed to meet the studio's expectations at the box office, and received polarized reactions from critics. It was cited as one of the most controversial and talked-about movies of 1999 (14 years ago). The Guardian saw it as an omen for change in American political life, and described its visual style as ground-breaking. The movie later found commercial success with its DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) release, which established Fight Club as a cult film.
PlotThe nameless narrator (Edward Norton (5 walls)) is a traveling automobile company employee who suffers with insomnia. His doctor refuses to give him medication and advises him to visit a support group to witness more severe suffering. The narrator attends a group for testicular cancer victims and, after fooling them into thinking he is a fellow victim, finds an emotional release that relieves his insomnia. He becomes addicted to attending support groups and pretending to be a victim, but the presence of another impostor—Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter)—disturbs him, so he negotiates with her to avoid their meeting at the same groups.
After a flight home from a business trip, the narrator finds his apartment destroyed by an explosion. He calls Tyler Durden (Brad pitt (17 walls)), a soap salesman whom he befriended on the flight, and they meet at a bar. Their conversation about materialism leads to Tyler's inviting the narrator to stay at his place but only if the narrator will hit him. The two enjoy a fistfight outside the bar, and the narrator becomes a guest in Tyler's dilapidated house. They have further fights outside the bar, and these attract a crowd of men. The fighting moves to the bar's basement, where the men form a fight club.
Marla overdoses on pills and telephones the narrator for help; he ignores her, but Tyler answers the call and saves her. Tyler and Marla become sexually involved, and Tyler warns the narrator never to talk to Marla about him. More fight clubs form across the country, and they become the anti-materialist and anti-corporate organization called "Project Mayhem", under Tyler's leadership. The narrator complains to Tyler that he wants to be more involved in the organization, but Tyler suddenly disappears. When a member of Project Mayhem dies, the narrator tries to shut down the project, and follows evidence of Tyler's national travels to find him. In one city, a project member greets the narrator as Tyler Durden. The narrator calls Marla from his hotel room and discovers that Marla also believes him to be Tyler. He suddenly sees Tyler Durden in his room, and Tyler explains that they are dissociated personalities in the same body. Tyler controls the narrator's body when the narrator is asleep.
The narrator blacks out after the conversation. When he wakes, he discovers from his telephone log that Tyler made calls during his blackout. He uncovers Tyler's plans to erase debt by destroying buildings that contain credit card companies' records. The narrator tries to contact the police but finds that the officers are members of the project. He attempts to disarm explosives in a building, but Tyler subdues him and moves to a safe building to watch the destruction. The narrator, held by Tyler at gunpoint, realizes that in sharing the same body with Tyler, he is really holding the gun. He fires it into his mouth, shooting through the cheek without killing himself. Tyler collapses with an exit wound to the back of his head, and the narrator stops mentally projecting him. Afterward, Project Mayhem members bring a kidnapped Marla to whom they believe is Tyler and leave them alone. The explosives detonate, collapsing the buildings, and the narrator and Marla watch the scene, holding hands.
DevelopmentThe novel Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk was published in 1996 (17 years ago). Before its publication, a 20th Century Fox book scout sent a galley proof of the novel to creative executive Kevin McCormick. The executive tasked a studio reader to review the proof as a candidate for a movie adaptation, but the reader discouraged it. McCormick then forwarded the proof to producers Lawrence Bender and Art Linson, who also rejected it. Producers Josh Donen and Ross Bell saw potential and expressed interest. They arranged unpaid screen readings with actors to determine the script's length, and an initial reading lasted six hours. The producers cut out sections to reduce the running time, and they used the shorter script to record its dialogue. Bell sent the recording to Laura Ziskin, head of the division Fox 2000 (13 years ago), who listened to the tape and purchased the rights to Fight Club from Palahniuk for $10,000.
Ziskin initially considered hiring Buck Henry to write the adaptation, finding Fight Club similar to the 1967 (46 years ago) movie The Graduate, which Henry had adapted. When a new screenwriter, Jim Uhls, lobbied Donen and Bell for the job, the producers chose him over Henry. Bell contacted four directors to direct the film. He considered Peter Jackson the best choice, but Jackson was too busy filming the 1996 (17 years ago) movie The Frighteners in New Zealand. Bryan Singer received the book but did not read it. Danny Boyle met with Bell and read the book, but he pursued another film. David Fincher, who had read Fight Club and tried to buy the rights himself, talked with Ziskin about directing the film. He hesitated to accept the assignment with 20th Century Fox at first because he had an unpleasant experience directing the 1992 (21 years ago) movie Alien 3 for the studio. To repair his relationship with the studio, he met with Ziskin and studio head Bill Mechanic. In Aug. 1997 (16 years ago), 20th Century Fox announced that Fincher would direct the movie adaptation of Fight Club.
CastingHelena Bonham Carter was cast in the movie based on her performance in The Wings of the Dove.Producer Ross Bell met with actor Russell Crowe to discuss his candidacy for the role of Tyler Durden. Producer Art Linson, who joined the project late, met with another candidate, Brad Pitt. Linson was the senior producer of the two, so the studio sought to cast Pitt instead of Crowe. Pitt was looking for a new movie after the failure of his 1998 (15 years ago) movie Meet Joe Black, and the studio believed Fight Club would be more commercially successful with a major star. The studio signed Pitt and offered him a $17.5 million salary.
For the role of the nameless narrator, the studio desired a "sexier marquee name" like Matt Damon (4 walls) to increase the film's commercial prospects; it also considered Sean Penn. Fincher instead considered Edward Norton (5 walls) a candidate for the role, based on the actor's performance in the 1996 (17 years ago) movie The People vs. Larry Flynt. Other studios were approaching Norton for leading roles in developing movies like The Talented Mr. Ripley and Man on the Moon. The actor was cast in Runaway Jury, but the movie did not reach production. 20th Century Fox offered Norton a $2.5 million salary to attract him to Fight Club. Norton could not accept the offer immediately since he still owed Paramount pictures (wallpaper) a film. He signed a contractual obligation with Paramount to appear in one of the studio's future movies for a smaller salary. (Norton satisfied the obligation with his role in the 2003 (10 years ago) movie The Italian Job).
In Jan. 1998 (15 years ago), 20th Century Fox announced that Brad pitt (17 walls) and Edward Norton (5 walls) were cast in the film. The actors prepared for their roles by taking lessons in boxing, taekwondo, grappling, and soapmaking. Pitt voluntarily visited a dentist to have pieces of his front teeth chipped off so his character would not have perfect teeth. The pieces were restored after filming concluded.
For the role of Marla Singer, the filmmakers considered Courtney Love and Winona Ryder (4 walls) as candidates early on. The studio wanted to cast Reese Witherspoon (11 walls), but Fincher objected that Witherspoon was too young for the role. He chose to cast Helena Bonham Carter based on her performance in the 1997 (16 years ago) movie The Wings of the Dove.
WritingScreenwriter Jim Uhls started working on an early draft of the adapted screenplay, which excluded a voice-over because the industry perceived at the time that the technique was "hackneyed and trite". When Fincher joined the film, he thought that the movie should have a voice-over, believing that the film's humor came from the narrator's voice. The director described the movie without a voice-over as seemingly "sad and pathetic". Fincher and Uhls revised the script for six to seven months and by 1997 (16 years ago) had a third draft that reordered the story and left out several major elements. When Pitt was cast, he was concerned that his character, Tyler Durden, was too one-dimensional. Fincher sought the advice of writer-director Cameron Crowe, who suggested giving the character more ambiguity. Fincher also hired screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker for assistance. The director invited Pitt and Norton to help revise the script, and the group drafted five revisions in the course of a year.
The bathtub scene served as part of the director's intended homoerotic presentation to make audiences uncomfortable and unprepared for the film's coming events.Chuck Palahniuk praised the faithful movie adaptation of his novel and applauded how the film's plot was more streamlined than the book's. Palahniuk recalled how the writers debated if movie audiences would believe the plot twist from the novel. Fincher supported including the twist, arguing, "If they accept everything up to this point, they'll accept the plot twist. If they're still in the theater, they'll stay with it." Palahniuk's novel also contained homoerotic overtones, which the director included in the movie to make audiences uncomfortable and accentuate the surprise of the film's twists. The scene in which Tyler Durden bathes next to the narrator is an example of the overtones; the line, "I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need," was meant to suggest personal responsibility rather than homosexuality. Another example is the scene at the beginning of the movie in which Tyler Durden puts a gun barrel down the narrator's mouth.
The narrator finds redemption at the end of the movie by rejecting Tyler Durden's dialectic, a path that diverged from the novel's ending in which the narrator is placed in a mental institution. Norton drew parallels between redemption in the movie and redemption in The Graduate, indicating that the protagonists of both movies find a middle ground between two divisions of self. Fincher considered the novel too infatuated with Tyler Durden and changed the ending to move away from him: "I wanted people to love Tyler, but I also wanted them to be OK with his vanquishing."
FilmingStudio executives Mechanic and Ziskin planned an initial budget of $23 million to finance the film, but by the start of production, the budget was increased to $50 million. Half was paid by New Regency, but during filming, the projected budget escalated to $67 million. New Regency's head and Fight Club executive producer Arnon Milchan petitioned Fincher to reduce costs by at least $5 million. The director refused, so Milchan threatened Mechanic that New Regency would withdraw financing. Mechanic sought to restore Milchan's support by sending him tapes of dailies from Fight Club. After seeing three weeks of filming, Milchan reinstated New Regency's financial backing. The final production budget was $63 million.
The fight scenes were heavily choreographed, and the actors were required to "go full out" to capture realistic effects like having the wind knocked out of them. Makeup artist Julie Pearce, who worked for the director on the 1997 (16 years ago) movie The Game, studied mixed martial arts and pay-per-view boxing to portray the fighters accurately. She designed an extra's ear to have cartilage missing, citing as inspiration the boxing match in which Mike Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear. Makeup artists devised two methods to create sweat on cue: spraying mineral water over a coat of Vaseline, and using the unadulterated water for "wet sweat". Meat Loaf, who plays a member of the Fight Club who has "bitch tits", wore a 90-pound (40 kg) fat harness that gave him large breasts for the role. He also wore eight-inch (20 cm) lifts in his scenes with Norton to be taller than him.
The filming lasted 138 days, during which Fincher shot more than 1,500 rolls of film, three times the average for a Hollywood film. The locations were in and around Los Angeles and on sets built at the studio in Century City. Production designer Alex McDowell constructed more than 70 sets. The exterior of Tyler Durden's house was built in San Pedro, California, while the interior was built on a sound stage at the studio's location. The interior was given a decayed look to illustrate the deconstructed world of the characters. Marla Singer's apartment was based on photographs of the Rosalind Apartments in downtown LA. Overall production included 300 scenes, 200 locations, and complex special effects. Fincher compared Fight Club to his succeeding and less complex movie Panic Room, "I felt like I was spending all my time watching trucks being loaded and unloaded so I could shoot three lines of dialogue. There was far too much transportation going on."
CinematographyFincher used the Super 35 format to movie Fight Club since it gave him maximum flexibility in composing shots. He hired Jeff Cronenweth as cinematographer; Cronenweth was the son of cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, who worked for Fincher on the 1992 (21 years ago) movie Alien 3 but died midway through its production. Fincher explored visual styles in his previous movies Seven and The Game, and he and Cronenweth drew elements from these styles for Fight Club.
They applied a lurid style, choosing to make people "sort of shiny". The appearance of the narrator's scenes without Tyler Durden were bland and realistic. The scenes with Tyler were described by Fincher as "more hyper-real in a torn-down, deconstructed sense—a visual metaphor of what [the narrator is] heading into". The filmmakers used heavily desaturated colors in the costuming, makeup, and art direction. Helena Bonham Carter wore opalescent makeup to portray her romantic nihilistic character with a "smack-fiend patina". Fincher and Cronenweth drew influences from the 1973 (40 years ago) movie American Graffiti, which applied a mundane look to nighttime exteriors while simultaneously including a variety of colors.
The crew took advantage of both natural and practical light at filming locations. The director sought various approaches to the lighting setups, for example choosing several urban locations for the city lights' effects on the shots' backgrounds. He and the crew also embraced fluorescent lighting at other practical locations to maintain an element of reality and to light the prostheses depicting the characters' injuries. On the other hand, Fincher also ensured that scenes were not so strongly lit so the characters' eyes were less visible, citing cinematographer Gordon Willis's technique as the influence.
Fight Club was filmed mostly at night and Fincher purposely filmed the daytime shots in shadowed locations. The crew equipped the bar's basement with inexpensive work lamps to create a background glow. Fincher avoided stylish camerawork when filming early fight scenes in the basement and instead placed the camera in a fixed position. In later fight scenes, Fincher moved the camera from the viewpoint of a distant observer to that of the fighter.
The scenes with Tyler Durden were staged to conceal that the character was a mental projection of the nameless narrator. The character was not filmed in two shots with a group of people, nor was he shown in any over the shoulder shots in scenes where Tyler gives the narrator specific ideas to manipulate him. In scenes before the narrator meets Tyler, the filmmakers inserted Tyler's presence in single frames for subliminal effect. Tyler appears in the background and out of focus, like a "little devil on the shoulder". Fincher explained the subliminal frames: "Our hero is creating Tyler Durden in his own mind, so at this point he exists only on the periphery of the narrator's consciousness."
While Cronenweth generally rated and exposed the Kodak movie stock normally on Fight Club, several other techniques were applied to change its appearance. Flashing was implemented on much of the exterior night photography, the contrast was stretched to be purposely ugly, the print was adjusted to be underexposed, Technicolor's ENR silver retention was used on a select number of prints to increase the density of the film's blacks, and high-contrast print stocks were chosen to create a "stepped-on" look on the print with a dirty patina.
Visual effectsFincher hired visual effects supervisor Kevin Tod Haug, who worked for him on The Game, to create visual effects for Fight Club. Haug assigned the visual effects artists and experts to different facilities that each addressed different types of visual effects: CG modeling, animation, compositing, and scanning. Haug explained, "We selected the best people for each aspect of the effects work, then coordinated their efforts. In this way, we never had to play to a facility's weakness." Fincher visualized the narrator's perspective through a "mind's eye" view and structured a myopic framework for the movie audiences. Fincher also utilized previsualized footage of challenging main-unit and visual effects shots as a problem-solving tool to avoid making mistakes during the actual filming.
The opening scene in Fight Club that represents a brain's neural network in which the thought processes are initiated by the narrator's fear impulse. The network was mapped using an L-system and drawn out by a medical illustrator.The film's title sequence is a 90-second visual effects composition that depicts the inside of the narrator's brain at a microscopic level; the camera pulls back to the outside, starting at his fear center and following the thought processes initiated by his fear impulse. The sequence, designed in part by Fincher, was budgeted separately from the rest of the movie at first, but the sequence was awarded by the studio in Jan. 1999 (14 years ago). Fincher hired Digital Domain and its visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack, who won an Academy Award for Visual Effects for the 1998 (15 years ago) movie What Dreams May Come, for the sequence. The company mapped the computer-generated brain using an L-system, and the design was detailed using renderings by medical illustrator Kathryn Jones. The pullback sequence from within the brain to the outside of the skull included neurons, action potentials, and a hair follicle. Haug explained the artistic license that Fincher took with the shot, "While he wanted to keep the brain passage looking like electron microscope photography, that look had to be coupled with the feel of a night dive—wet, scary, and with a low depth of field." The shallow depth of field was accomplished with the ray tracing process.
Other visual effects include an early scene in which the camera flashes past city streets to survey Project Mayhem's destructive equipment lying in underground parking lots; the sequence was a three-dimensional composition of nearly 100 photographs of Los Angeles and Century City by photographer Michael Douglas Middleton. The final scene of the demolition of the credit card office buildings was designed by Richard Baily of image (wallpaper) Savant; Baily worked on the scene for over fourteen months.
Midway through the film, Tyler Durden points out the cue mark—nicknamed "cigarette burn" in the film—to the audience. The scene represents a turning point that foreshadows the coming rupture and inversion of the "fairly subjective reality" that existed earlier in the film. The director explained, "Suddenly it's as though the projectionist missed the changeover, the viewers have to start looking at the movie in a whole new way."
Musical scoreFincher was concerned that bands experienced in writing movie scores would be unable to tie the movie's themes together, so he sought a band which had never recorded for film. He pursued Radiohead, but ultimately chose the breakbeat producing duo Dust Brothers to score the film. The duo created a post-modern score that included drum loops, electronic scratches, and computerized samples. Dust Brothers performer Michael Simpson explained the setup: "Fincher wanted to break new ground with everything about the movie, and a nontraditional score helped achieve that."
ReceptionWhen Fight Club premiered at the Venice International movie Festival, the movie was debated fiercely by critics. A newspaper reported, "Many loved and hated it in equal measures." Some critics expressed concern that the movie would incite copycat behavior, such as that seen after A Clockwork Orange debuted in Britain nearly three decades previously. Upon the film's theatrical release, The Times reported the reaction: "It touched a nerve in the male psyche that was debated in newspapers across the world." Although the film's makers called Fight Club "an accurate portrayal of men in the 1990s", some critics called it "irresponsible and appalling". Another newspaper charged, "Fight Club is shaping up to be the most contentious mainstream Hollywood meditation on violence since Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange."
Janet Maslin, reviewing for The New York Times, praised Fincher's direction and editing of the film. She wrote that Fight Club carried a message of "contemporary manhood", and that, if not watched closely, the movie could be misconstrued as an endorsement of violence and nihilism. Roger Ebert, reviewing for the Chicago Sun-Times, called Fight Club "visceral and hard-edged", and "a thrill ride masquerading as philosophy" that most audiences would not appreciate. Ebert later acknowledged that the movie was "beloved by most, not by me". Jay Carr of The Boston Globe opined that the movie began with an "invigoratingly nervy and imaginative buzz", but that it eventually became "explosively silly". Newsweek's David Ansen described Fight Club as "an outrageous mixture of brilliant technique, puerile philosophizing, trenchant satire and sensory overload" and thought that the ending was too pretentious. Richard Schickel of Time described the director's mise en scène as dark and damp: "It enforces the contrast between the sterilities of his characters' aboveground life and their underground one. Water, even when it's polluted, is the source of life; blood, even when it's carelessly spilled, is the symbol of life being fully lived. To put his point simply: it's better to be wet than dry." Schickel applauded the performances of Brad pitt (17 walls) and Edward Norton (5 walls), but he criticized the film's "conventionally gimmicky" unfolding and the failure to make Helena Bonham Carter's character interesting.
Cineaste's Gary Crowdus reviewed the critical reception in retrospect: "Many critics praised Fight Club, hailing it as one of the most exciting, original, and thought-provoking movies of the year." He wrote of the negative opinion, "While Fight Club had numerous critical champions, the film's critical attackers were far more vocal, a negative chorus which became hysterical about what they felt to be the excessively graphic scenes of fisticuffs... They felt such scenes served only as a mindless glamorization of brutality, a morally irresponsible portrayal, which they feared might encourage impressionable young male viewers to set up their own real-life fight clubs in order to beat each other senseless."
Fight Club was nominated for the 2000 (13 years ago) Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, but it lost to The Matrix. Helena Bonham Carter won the 2000 (13 years ago) Empire Award for Best British Actress. The Online movie Critics Society also nominated Fight Club for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Edward Norton (5 walls)), Best Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay (Jim Uhls). Though the movie won none of the awards, the organization listed Fight Club as one of the top ten movies of 1999 (14 years ago). The soundtrack was nominated for a BRIT Award, losing to Notting Hill.
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