It’s well known ‘the first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club’.
If you hadn’t heard correctly, ‘the second rule of Fight Club is that you DO NOT talk about Fight Club’.
It may make for an iconic line but it’s impossible not to talk about one of the greatest films of the twentieth century.
For those who are unfamiliar with Fight Club, (although I’m not sure how anyone could’ve missed it), the film follows an unhappy, unnamed Narrator, (Edward Norton), as he forms a fight club with soap maker Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt.
Here, other men who are tired of their mundane lives, fight each other, but of course, things soon go out of control.
Meanwhile, Tyler and the Narrator’s relationship frays as Marla, played by Helena Bonham Carter, comes into the picture – a young woman who describes herself as being ‘infectious human waste who is confused and afraid to commit to the wrong thing so won’t commit to anything’.
Although it’s now considered to be a modern masterpiece, with a large cult following, the film has a very troubled history.
Before Chuck Palahiuk’s novel was even published, it was seen by a studio reader and producers at 20th Century Fox, all of whom rejected it.
However, two producers at the Fox 2000 division saw potential and after testing out the material at unpaid screen readings, they eventually purchased the film rights to the novel for a bargain at $10,000.
Getting the rights is one thing though – now the studio had to find a director who would actually adapt the controversial novel, famed for its violence.
Popular directors Peter Jackson, Bryan Singer and Danny Boyle all turned down the opportunity, leaving a reluctant David Fincher to take it on after his dreadful experience battling with the studio while directing Alien 3.
Despite positive test screenings, the film was a commercial flop and even led to 20th Century Fox’s studio head, Bill Mechanic, resigning the following year.
However, as the years passed more and more, people watched the film and it became increasingly popular thanks to the power of word of mouth.
Soon enough, everyone had watched Fight Club and it moved from being a cult classic to a bonafide blockbuster.
In 2007 Total Film ranked the movie as being ‘the greatest film of our lifetime’ and in the following year, Empire magazine named it as the 17th greatest film of all time.
You can watch the original trailer for Fight Club here:
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18 years later and the film has stood the test of time, being recognised for its innovation, stunning visuals, an incredible plot which continually keeps you guessing and spectacular performances.
Although none of the leading cast members were the first choices for their roles, Helena Bonham Carter, Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are some of the key reasons Fight Club is so brilliant.
Pouring their hearts and souls into their work, the cast brought their complicated characters to life pulling us into the wild ride of a film.
Brad Pitt was cast as the hot-headed and aggressive Tyler Durden, because the studio believed casting a major star would help make the film more commercially successful.
Pitt was also on the look out for a hit film after his previous work, the 1998 romantic fantasy Meet Joe Black, bombed at the US box office and with critics.
Although Fight Club at the time wasn’t the triumph both Pitt and the studio wanted, it’s one of Pitt’s most recognised role and arguably, his best performance.
Pitt threw himself into the role in a way he’d never done before and hasn’t done since.
Voluntarily visiting a dentist to have pieces of his front teeth chipped off, Pitt completely changed his physical appearance, dedicating himself to an intense workout regime which left him with one of Hollywood’s most admired physiques.
Working out six days a week and following an incredibly strict diet, Pitt was completely shredded for this film, giving his character the powerful and intimidating presence required.
He was careful not to become a big, bulky, meathead though, as remaining slight like Norton’s Narrator was key because the two were dissociated personalities in the same body.
Pitt’s Tyler also had to be engaging and charismatic enough to draw the audience in, as did The Narrator.
Everyone loves a bad-boy and Pitt made sure his character was dangerous enough to intrigue, with a cheeky, funny and freaky side, giving the film some strange subversive comic relief.
For the role of The Narrator, the studio wanted a ‘sexier’ name such as Matt Damon or Sean Penn, as they thought this would again, make the film more commercially viable.
However, Fincher wanted Norton after seeing him in the 1996 film The People Vs. Larry Flynt and so he was cast.
Both Norton and Pitt dedicated themselves to the role learning how to box, grapple and make soap professionally – this comes across on screen.
Playing against Pitt’s outrageous Tyler must have been a difficult job as Norton had to make sure his more timid Narrator stood out too.
Although Pitt does steal the show – it was always going to happen as Tyler is such a great character – Norton makes his everyday man quirky and twisted enough to make an impact.
His nuanced performance is mesmorising and by making his narrator strangely familiar, audiences are attracted to him as they see some aspects of themselves in the character.
The main criticism Fight Club has received over time is, it’s a ‘guys’ film’, with only one main female character, Bonham Carter’s Marla, playing a love interest for the two male leads.
Although this is true, Marla is much more than a simple love interest. She’s central to the film, helping The Narrator find the strength to kill Tyler.
Pitt’s Tyler and Norton’s the Narrator certainly shout louder, but Bonham Carter’s Marla has a more subtle impact and the film just couldn’t happen without her.
The beauty of Fight Club is people are still debating the possible meaning of it and this will continue as new audiences revel in its madness.
Puzzling, sexy and violent, it’s hard not to be attracted to this burning world which is an uncompromising and unforgiving classic.
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.