Fight Club has cemented its place in pop culture over the last fifteen years in ways that few other movies have — mostly by giving birth to real-life fight clubs around the world. The David Fincher film based on Chuck Palahniuk’s popular book didn’t garner immediate success like Fincher’s most recent movie, Gone Girl. The film received less-than-favorable reviews from some critics and had its release delayed because of the Columbine High School shooting earlier in the year. Fight Club pulled in over $100 million at the box office, but it wasn’t until its video release months later that it started to build its massive following.
To celebrate the 15 year anniversary of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton teaming up, let’s break the first rule of Fight Club. Here are eighteen facts you might not know about the film, starting with…
1. Elaine Benes could have been Marla. There was a rotating lineup of actresses considered for the part of Marla, with everyone from Janeane Garofalo to Ed Norton’s then-girlfriend Courtney Love being looked at for the part. Fincher also approached Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who was finishing up the final season of Seinfeld. Despite having already directed The Game and 1997’s creepy hit Se7en, Fincher told TotalFilm that during their meeting he got the impression he was a nobody to her: “She had no idea who I was. I’m sitting there thinking of myself, ‘My God, you are such a fucking loser.’”
2. Tyler’s rubber glove during sex didn’t sit well with studio executives. The movie studio suits are always trying to spoil a good time, and Laura Ziskin, President of Production at Fox 2000 Pictures, took particular issue with Tyler wearing a rubber glove in the scene when he’s having sex with Marla and the Narrator is listening outside the door. Ziskin thought it was incredibly crude and wanted the glove removed. It was only after the scene got a huge laugh at the test screening that she bowed down and allowed the sex glove to stay.
3. Ziskin also fought David Fincher over Marla’s abortion joke. Laura Ziskin was one of Fight Club‘s biggest supporters when the project was being discussed at Fox, but still took issue with certain lines in the script, particularly Marla’s “I wanna have your abortion” joke following a sex scene. Ziskin felt it crossed the line of good taste, but Fincher told her “You approved the script, you approved the cast and the budget. We’ll shoot it, and if it’s too offensive, we’ll let the audience tell us that.”
Even when the line got a big laugh, Ziskin still demanded that it be taken out, Fincher shot a second scene with a new joke, instead having Marla say, “Oh my God, I haven’t been f*cked like that since grade school.” When that line got an even bigger laugh with the audience Ziskin told him to put the abortion joke back in.
4. Meat Loaf’s “b*tch tits” were filled with bird seed. Meat Loaf’s a big guy to begin with, but David Fincher wanted Bob to carry almost an extra hundred pounds of sagging weight. In order to obtain this look, two fat suits — one with nipples and one without — filled with bird seed were made by artist Rob Bottin for Meat Loaf.
5. Fight Club became an idea after Chuck Palahniuk was in a real fight. Palahniuk had the idea for a yuppie that gets into fights during his free time after going on a camping trip. During the trip Palahniuk asked campers at a nearby campsite to turn their radio down. A brawl broke out and Palahniuk was roughed up quite a bit. Despite his face looking like it was used as a punching bag over the weekend, none of his coworkers acknowledged his appearance on Monday morning.
6. Watching hooligans spray a priest with a hose was hilarious. If you pay attention to the scene where a fight club member sprays down the priest with a hose, you’ll notice that the camera shakes a little. This is supposedly because the cameraman couldn’t keep himself from laughing during the scene.
7. Ed Norton and Brad Pitt really were drunk during the golf ball scene. Pitt and Norton didn’t have to pretend to be drunk in the scene when Tyler and the Narrator are intoxicated and hitting golf balls. The two actors had previously gotten drunk and were lobbing golf balls at one of the film’s catering trucks.
8. Marla’s smoking gave Helena Bonham Carter bronchitis. Fincher was obsessed with making sure Marla was constantly smoking and getting the right shot, which resulted in the actress getting a bout of bronchitis. At the end of the shoot, Helena Bonham Carter gave the director an x-ray of her lungs as a parting gift. Fincher was also able to convince Edward Norton to smoke during the shoot, after the actor had previously refused while filming Rounders.
9. Rosie O’Donnell decided to ruin the movie for everyone. Rosie O’Donnell had been to a screening of the movie a week before its release date and disliked it so much that she decided to spoil the movie’s ending by blabbing about it on her talk show. O’Donnell told her audience that she hadn’t been able to sleep for a week after watching it, revealed the movie’s twist at the end, and recommended that her audience avoid seeing the film.
10. David Fincher had to negotiate that Brad Pitt would take his shirt off. Fincher wanted Tyler Durden to have a chipped tooth, which meant that the movie’s studio would have to pay for Brad Pitt’s removable cap. The studio complied to the dental work, under the agreement that Brad Pitt would take his shirt off at least twice in the film.
11. Almost every shot of the movie has a Starbucks cup. David Fincher placed a can of haggis in many scenes of The Game as a tribute to his cinematographer Harris “Haggis” Savides and applied that same Easter egg approach with Starbucks to Fight Club. FightClubStarbucks tumblr has even gone so far as to document each coffee cup found in the movie’s scenes. The twist in the joke comes at the end when the tower is crashing and giant globe crashes into a fictitious shop called “Gratifico Coffee.” This was mainly because Starbucks requested the director not show one of their stores being blown up.
12. We see Tyler Durden five times before he’s introduced. Tyler appears in the film first by the copy machine at the beginning of the movie, then outside the doctor’s office, next at the support group, then when Marla is seen leaving the support group, and finally at the airport.
13. David Fincher tried unsuccessfully to work Tyler Durden into the 20th Century Fox logo. Fincher wanted to include a split second shot of Durden into the 20th Century Fox logo, but the legal department wouldn’t allow it. Fincher then tried to do the same thing with the Regency Enterprises logo, but was shot down again. He had to settle for a Tyler Durden warning after the copyright warning on the VHS and DVD copies of the movie.
14. The Narrator’s apartment is based on David Fincher’s first L.A. apartment. The interior of the Narrator’s apartment was designed to look similar to Fincher’s first apartment after moving to Los Angeles. Fincher stated the reasoning for this was because he disliked his old apartment and always wanted to blow it up.
15. Leonardo DiCaprio appears in the movie… sort of. In the cave scene with the Narrator, Norton’s breath is Leonardo DiCaprio’s breath from Titanic, recycled and fused into the shot.
16. Edward Norton specifically requested one of the new VW Beetles to smash. For the scene with the Narrator and Tyler Durden smashing cars with baseball bats, Edward Norton requested that one of the cars be the new Volkswagen Beetle: Norton felt that it coincided perfectly with the film’s message as the VW Beetle in the 1960s represented youth counterculture, but had now been replaced by an impostor Beetle that was attempting to market the youth of another generation.
“It’s a perfect example of the Baby Boomer generation marketing its youth culture to us. As if our happiness is going to come by buying the symbol of their youth movement, even with the little flower holder in the plastic molding. It’s appalling to me. I hate it.”
17. No bathroom breaks for Edward Norton. Edward Norton dropped full trou for the scene with the Narrator on the toilet perusing through an Ikea catalog. On the DVD commentary when Norton reveals this David Fincher says “really?” to which Norton then jokes “Did you notice I never had to go to the bathroom that day?”
18. The movie borrowed The Matrix’s bullet-time technique for its sex scenes. In order to shoot Tyler and Marla’s sex marathon, cameras were set up in a circle around the bed, with each one taking a different shot for the sequence. Both Helena Bonham Carter and Brad Pitt spent most of the day nearly nude with dots on their bodies to be used as position markers for the various shots. Pitt said that he and Carter then spent another three days recording their various orgasmic screams.
“That was just HBC and I sitting in a room screaming our guts out,” says Pitt. “The sad thing is we had no qualms about it, no politeness, no little hint of embarrassment – just go!”