Murmur: Chuck Palahniuk. “Fight Club” @20

Robert Milazzo
November 2, 2019
Murmur (The Modern School of Film)

Where craft meets culture. Hosted by The Modern School of Film’s Robert Milazzo, Murmur is a prescient tour through our sight and sound culture; featuring scenes, songs, and an array of guest tour-guides from all sides of the brain:

Oh, F’it, let’s actually talk about the film Fight Club @ Twenty – still the smartest delinquent in the room – with the man whose book-as-rolling-ball-of-art-and-confusion began a movie birthed by an apropos society of full-throated artists: Chuck Palahniuk. The film still can’t drink, but it’s no less a danger to society. Its meta and mythos are more than meets the eye, and its fever-pitch lives in Chuck’s own agnostic baptisms. Write what you know, perhaps; film what’s to remain, please. Live from Cologne, Germany Live from Cologne, Germany, with an assist from Black Francis of The Pixies. Gleiten [Slide].

June 25, 2019
CCXP, Cologne (Germany)

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Empire Magazine: David Fincher Opens His Personal Fight Club Archive

Ella Kemp
October 1, 2019
Empire

It’s been 20 years since David Fincher’s cult classic Fight Club first exploded onto screens. The film, based on Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel of the same name, repelled and excited audiences in equal measure when it was released, changing the optics of how political cinema could or should be – with the first worries of copycat rebels emerging from the gutters. Today, Fight Club boasts a loyal and fervent fanbase still full of praise, discomfort, conspiracy theories and fascination for the iconic relic of modern cinema.

Exclusively for Empire and Nev Pierce, David Fincher opened his personal photography archives in the 2020 Preview Issue, leafing through his memories on-set, and sharing insights on many of the film’s key ingredients – from the setting of Project Mayhem’s headquarters, to his stellar leading trio of Edward NortonBrad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter, to the mechanics of successfully shooting Edward Norton’s cheek off. Here’s a sneak preview of the feature, in which Fincher explains why the dynamic of his three stars, as the story’s mismatched trio of lonely and dangerous sociopaths, worked so well – with photos from Fincher’s own collection.

Fight Club archive material courtesy of David Fincher. Black and white photography by Merrick Morton. Special thanks to Ceán Chaffin and Andrea McKee.

David Fincher on his leading trio:

“They were a very playful and fun group. Brad is a kind of feline influence. He’s like, ‘Are all the instincts here aligned?’ and, ‘Can we now play and find an interesting mistake or a movement or a gesture?’ Edward is very much, ‘Tell me in advance all the things you want me to hit and let me blow your mind.’ And Helena is sort of a blend of the two. She’s disciplined and, ‘What is it you’re trying to get across? Let me work backwards from that a little bit.’

Edward had only made a few movies and I think he wanted to get it right. There’s a tendency for him to come across as somebody who’s trying to contain or control what’s happening. But really I think what he wants to know is, ‘Where is this thing headed? Let me try and help you get it there.’ He has a very different process than the other two. But when they were together, they were a lot of fun. As far as having an intensely watchable and charismatic triumvirate, they were a ball.”

Read the full interview with Fincher including more unseen photos in the December 2019 issue of Empire – on sale now.

Previous profiles and interviews with Fincher by Pierce at nevpierce.com

“Only Two Guys to a Fight”

Fight Club At Twenty.

Ray Pride
October 31, 2019
Newcity Film, Newcity

Fight Club” is twenty years old. In the decades since its release, box-office disappointment and reinvention through myriad DVD and Blu-ray releases (thirteen million DVDs by 2014), Brad Pitt established himself as a productive, adventurous film producer, with his Plan B productions involved with this summer’s “Ad Astra,” but also award-winning work like “Moonlight,” “Killing Them Softly,” “Tree of Life,” “Twelve Years A Slave,” “Okja” and “The Last Black Man In San Francisco.” Edward Norton, who has moved away from acting, directed and stars in his own adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel, “Motherless Brooklyn” in November.

The world had not yet seen, or reacted, to David Fincher’s film at the time of this bantering interview with Pitt and Norton. (A review that includes my contemporaneous interview with Palahniuk is here.)

August 1999:

“Fight Club” is a ride, a sneaky mindfuck of a movie, and a thunderous journey into the darkest parts of one man’s mind. Within a few dozen seconds, we rush through someone’s brain and out onto a rooftop where another character holds a gun in his mouth. The ride begins.

Brad Pitt plays Tyler Durden, a trickster character who insurance agency flunky Edward Norton meets at a time when he’s been wishing for someone who could push him over the edge. By night, Norton’s unnamed narrator trolls support groups for the grievously ill, pretending to have illnesses in order to sob. That’s where he meets fellow grief-ghoul Helena Bonham Carter. But that’s set-up.   The impression is out there that “Fight Club” is about yuppies gathering in alleys to beat each other up. Uh-uh. There’s more to it.

Everyone’s stuck—in their jobs, their bodies or their heads. Except for Tyler, everyone’s a flunky, a waiter, a cop, solid blue-collar stock. “Fight Club” is one of the funniest, most piercing movies you’d hope for, a ferocious satire that builds on the madness of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, and in its many richly detailed scenes, exceeds even what David Fincher accomplished in “Seven.”

When we talked, no one knew yet if “Fight Club” could be the first epic audience movie of the new millennium, or whether it would tank. Pitt, thirty-five, has a reputation as a reluctant interview, but after talking with him, it seems it may be more out of modesty than ego or fear. Norton, thirty, was his customary talkative self.

Does the actor Brad Pitt exist in the universe of “Fight Club”?

Pitt: [shaking his head] What does that mean, what does that mean, what does that mean?

There are in-jokes throughout the movie, marquees showing “Seven Years in Tibet,” “Wings of the Dove” and “Larry Flynt.” And Tyler tells the narrator at one point, “I’m what you want to be like.” If you ask guys what they want to be like, a typical guy would be happy to be you.

Norton: I thought that was a great perversion of Bradley’s baggage.

Pitt: Yeah. Perverting the baggage. That was dealing more with the projection and the image, y’know, that’s out there. Good and bad. Myself, I’ve certainly never felt a part of that.

You talk about good-looking guys in the movies, a few names come up: Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt…

Norton: Edward Norton.

Pitt: Edward Norton. You sexy fool!

Norton: He never hurts my feelings.

There’s a lot of yelling in the movie, it seems cathartic, especially in the bedroom scenes with Helena.

Pitt. [whispers] Sex. You look through the crack and you just see all these crazy gymnastics going. Doing gymnastics. Yeah, we’re just jumping on the bed.

You’ve worked with David Fincher before…

Pitt: He’s one of the guys leading the pack. There are a lot of interesting guys out there, who are pushing the medium, but I’ve said this before, I think Finch is picking up where Kubrick left off.

Norton: If anyone can do it, he can.

Pitt: This thing he created here is extraordinary. It’s beyond all our hopes and he always set out with an image of what this thing could be. This thing just roars.

Norton: I don’t feel like I’ve seen a film—

Pitt: It’s a monster.

Norton: —That’s that far out there in terms of its technique, its use of style to enhance the emotional themes of a narrative. When you work with Fincher, you slowly absorb that he is the complete filmmaker. He is the most comprehensive modern filmmaker. He has a complete command of all the tools that are available to a filmmaker now. He’s as good a DP as his DP, he’s as good at sound—

Pitt: —all his tweaking—

Norton: —his technical tweaking as the guys who work for him. He’s an excellent script doctor—

Pitt:—A storyteller.

Norton: He’ll even come in and give you a good line reading at times. And yet he’s dealing in f/stops. He knows more about CGI as anyone.

Pitt: And not only that, ideas. He takes whatever groundbreaking technology is available, like the Rolling Stones video in Central Park where they’re giants. There was this technique meant for something else, and Fincher goes, “Can’t I take this and actually make them people?” He’s inventive that way. But on a directorial level, this thing is one to be studied. There are so many things that are fine-tuned, from sound on. All the way from opening up coming out of a brain to the product placement. Any product placement you see, like Pepsi machines, it’s always put in a somewhat violent scene. It’s just these little, little comments that are more subliminal than anything.

Read the full interview

Fight Club Turns 20: Interview with the Film’s Screenwriter Jim Uhls

The fight cannot be a lie.

October 7, 2019
Storius Magazine

This month, Fight Club turns twenty. David Fincher’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, written for the screen by Jim Uhls and starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter, became a movie classic that has generated every form of cultural reference, from memes to research papers. Ranking #10 on IMDb’s Top 250 best-movie list and lending “The first rule of Fight Club” catchphrase to teen chats and corporate meetings alike, the film has come to occupy a unique niche in modern culture.

On the anniversary of the movie’s release, Fight Club’s screenwriter Jim Uhls spoke with Storius, reflecting on the film’s journey and lasting influence, adaptation challenges, fan theories, and his screenwriting techniques.

STORIUS: Today, twenty years after its release, Fight Club seems surprisingly contemporary, especially considering how many changes our society has gone through since 1999. It has entered the cultural lexicon, is often referenced even by people who haven’t seen it, and doesn’t seem to age much. What do you attribute the movie’s endurance to?

It hits a nerve with each generation that discovers it, seemingly because the basic life circumstances of the viewer, whether in 1999 or 2019, are the same. Part of that nerve is the idea of how self-worth is defined — both by society and in one’s mind — which are usually the same.

But, in this film, they become different. Men in their twenties, still puzzled about what they should do with their lives, are discovering a different way to define self-worth. A group of them meet to experience something that is outside the parameters of civilization. Each fight is one-on-one violence between two men who have no animosity towards each other, might not even know each other. They’re doing it because it’s a ritual, a primal ritual, in which they take part both by doing it and by watching others do it. It’s physical combat, wordless, and true — i.e., the fights are actually happening, so they are true. Other things all around these men can be lies, with or without words, but the fight cannot be a lie.

Another part of that nerve is Tyler Durden’s contempt for materialism, consumerism, the impossible ideals invented by advertising, and in effect — everything that is fake, or a lie, or a pathway to soullessness — all constantly bombarding us, in our “civilized” world. I’ve been repeatedly surprised by females, from teenage to senior citizens, telling me they love the film. It’s clearly aimed at a form of emancipation for young men, but part of the nerve it hits must resonate for women.

STORIUS: It’s hard to believe now that the movie was considered a failure when it was released, and that it took a few years and a DVD release to turn it into a financial success and a cultural phenomenon. Why do you think the film had such a bumpy road to recognition?

The bumpy road, the period of initial domestic release, was largely due to the vexing challenge of how to make a trailer for the film that promotes what the film is. It wasn’t an easy task. And it wasn’t achieved.

I ran into a friend about two weeks after the initial release, and he said he hadn’t gotten to the film yet, but he would; he just wasn’t a big fan of boxing movies.

“Boxing movies.” That’s a solid example of someone not having any idea of what the film was about during the time when it was vital to get that across to the public.

Read the full interview

It’s in his blood! Jeff Cronenweth, ASC Tells His Story

Jeff Cronenweth on the set of Gone Girl (2014, Merrick Morton)

Christine Bunish
October 11, 2019
Creative Content Wire

Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC lensed his first feature, “Fight Club,” in 1998.  He earned Best Cinematography nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the American Society of Cinematographers for two more collaborations with director David Fincher, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (2011) and “The Social Network” (2010).  Cronenweth also shot Fincher’s “Gone Girl” (2014), Kathryn Bigelow’s “K-19: The Widowmaker” (2002) and Sasha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” (2012).  He recently completed director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s “A Million Little Pieces,” based on the literary hit.

In addition to his feature career, Cronenweth is known for his stylish and CLIO Award-winning music videos and commercials.  In the last two years he shot music videos for Katie Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Pink, Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift.  A native Angelino, Cronenweth studied filmmaking at the University of Southern California (USC) and began his professional career apprenticing to some of the industry’s greatest cinematographers, including Sven Nykvist, ASC, John Toll, ASC, Conrad Hall, ASC and his father, the late Jordan Cronenweth, ASC.

Cronenweth, behind the camera A on left, and his crew set up double coverage for a scene between Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and the film’s nameless narrator (Edward Norton). On the right, B camera operator (and future Panic Room cinematographer) Conrad W. Hall. (1999, Merrick Morton)

What was your pathway into this field? 

“My great-grandfather owned a photo store in Pennsylvania.  My dad’s dad won the last Oscar given for portrait photography: He was a staff photographer for Columbia [Pictures]. My grandmother was a Ziegfeld Follies dancer.  My dad [Jordan Cronenweth, ASC] won a BAFTA for ‘Blade Runner’ (1983) and got an Oscar nomination for ‘Peggy Sue Go Married’ (1987).  So as a child I often visited sets and went on location for extended stays.  I felt like I wanted to be part of that great experience, that camaraderie.  Each day was like a military unit battling to bring back great images.

“I knew I wanted to do something in the industry: I had been around it all and found it all so exciting.  I made many Super 8 films in high school and decided USC (the University of Southern California) was where I wanted to attend film school.  But two years into school Film Fair, a commercial production company my father had collaborated with, had a position open for a staff loader and that job offered the opportunity to get into the union.  I visited my dad as often as I could when he was shooting ‘Blade Runner’ and assisted him on other movies as a camera operator and on second unit.  A lot of relationships I formed then carried over when my dad retired.

“I met [director] David Fincher on a Madonna video my father photographed and I shot second unit for in the heyday of music videos – it was a very creative and innovative time, and I was grateful to be there.  I was his camera assistant on the documentary ‘U2: Rattle & Hum’ (1988) and the film ‘State of Grace’ (1990), both directed by Phil Joanou, a former USC film school classmate.  Then I got my first feature as a cinematographer, ‘Fight Club,’ with Fincher.  Not a bad credit for the first time out of the gate!”

Read the full interview

Score: The Podcast. Jeff Beal

Robert Kraft & Kenny Holmes
September 10, 2019
Score: The Podcast

Season 2 Episode 16 | Jeff Beal got fired from Monk, then won an Emmy for it

Robert and Kenny begin the show joined by Matt Schrader and Carol Kuswanto for the show’s annual Emmy predictions. The group makes predictions for seven categories: Drama Series, Comedy Series, Limited Series, Original Main Title Theme Music, Music – Limited Series, Music – Documentary Series, Music – Series.

Then 5x Emmy-winning composer and current Emmy nominee Jeff Beal joins the show telling the story of getting fired on his first TV show Monk, winning the Emmy for main title theme, then getting rehired. Jeff also discusses his working relationship with David Fincher on the Netflix hit series House of Cards and exclusively reveals his first sketch of the main title theme.

Lastly, Jeff join the guys for a special round of #NameThatScore with a “westerns” theme.

This episode is presented by Spitfire Audio.

Follow us on Twitter @ScoreThePodcast

Hosts: Robert Kraft & Kenny Holmes
Executive Producer: Matt Schrader
Coordinator: Carol Kuswanto

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Jeff Beal Explains The House of Cards Theme

April 14, 2015
Musicroom UK (YouTube)

Jazz/Classical hybrid composer Jeff Beal speaks to us about the musical inspiration behind his game changing soundtrack/opening to the award winning House of Cards series.

‘Fight Club’ 20th Anniversary: Holt McCallany on Standing Behind Brad Pitt in ‘Iconic’ Photo

The “Mindhunter” star portrayed a fight club member in David Fincher’s 1999 film.

Omar Sanchez
September 10, 2019
The Wrap

Holt McCallany currently stars in Netflix’s “Mindhunter,” but two decades ago, he was an up-and-coming actor who found himself sharing the screen with Brad Pitt in “Fight Club.” As the David Fincher film celebrates the 20th anniversary of its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, McCallany reflects on being part of the “iconic photo” from the set, calling it “one of the really memorable moments of my career.”

The photo of a bloodied Brad Pitt shirtless in a dingy basement, smoking a cigarette and ready to fight is arguably the most famous image from the film. Surrounding Pitt are other fight club members, including McCallany.

“I love that photo,” McCallany told The Wrap. “It’s one of the really memorable moments of my career. There aren’t too many moments along the way that were more special than ‘Fight Club.’”

McCallany was a New York Broadway actor when he landed his role in “Fight Club,” the Edward Norton and Pitt-led action flick about two members of an underground group of brawlers. The still was taken by the set photographer Merrick Morton. McCallany said after the “Fight Club” premiere, strangers would approach him on the street, recognizing him due to the photo’s use during the film’s promotional run.

Read the full profile

Holt McCallany