The Difficult History of David Fincher’s Fight Club

Merrick Morton

David Fincher’s Fight Club is now considered a classic, but it had trouble getting off the ground.

Ryan Lambie
October 15, 2018
Den of Geek! (US)

What the hell is Fight Club anyway? A horror film about a Jekyll-and-Hyde office worker who becomes a terrorist? A drama about late 20th century masculinity in crisis? A warped romance about a man trying to change himself into someone as interesting as the woman he loves? A thriller about a decadent generation goading itself into extremism?

Executives at 20th Century Fox certainly struggled with Fight Club. Unsure how to market a film in which young men beat one another to a pulp and stole bags of fat from the bins of liposuction clinics, the studio placed ads for it during World Wrestling Federation matches. Meanwhile, Fight Club‘s posters, dreamed up by an expensive design firm, featured a pink bar of soap with the title incised into its waxy surface. It certainly looked unlike anything else stuck up outside a movie theater in 1999, even if most people walking past wouldn’t have had a clue as to what it meant – the soap being a wry reference to a key scene in the film.

The bewildering split between TV ads during wrestling matches, which emphasized the film’s bruising bare-knuckle scenes, and the artistic posters with their pink bars of soap, were an indication, perhaps, of Fight Club‘s slippery quality. How do you get people to go and see a film like this, Brad Pitt or no Brad Pitt?

In retrospect, it’s little surprise that some of Fox’s higher-ups didn’t like Fight Club – least of all one Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul whose News Corporation had acquired Fox in 1985. Here, after all, was a film which openly attacked corporations, advertisers and the entire capitalist system.

One of Fight Club‘s producers, Art Linson, recalled the first screening of the film for Fox’s executives; they were, he said, “flopping around like acid-crazed carp wondering how such a thing could even have happened.”

There was one executive who did believe in Fight Club: Fox’s studio head Bill Mechanic. In the mid-90s, Chuck Palahniuk‘s Fight Club novel was doing the rounds at Fox before it had even been published, and was originally envisioned as a low-budget movie to be made through the studio’s Fox 2000 division, which specialized in independent film. Along with production executives Laura Ziskin and Kevin McCormick, Mechanic was an enthusiastic champion of Fight Club‘s spiky humor and unpredictable plot.

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“Heavy Metal” R-rated animated anthology might finally be happening as a series on Netflix

Last March, during several promotional interviews for his new film Prodigy (1, 23), veteran actor and voice actor Richard Neil talked about one his recent projects:

I just voiced one of the lead roles in a graphic anthology series directed by Tim Miller, who directed Deadpool. That’s being produced by David Fincher and is supposed to debut on Netflix later this year or early next year.

I cannot even say the name of the series at this time.

In that, I took on a kind of Nick Nolte meets Tom Waits voice. You just have to make sure you can sustain it and not hurt yourself!

According to Longmire TV series actor Adam Bartley, David Fincher might be directing one episode:

This year, since I’ve finished Longmire I’ve done two films and a motion-capture job, a David Fincher – Netflix untitled short.

For details on the history of the Heavy Metal anthology project and his development (hell):

Details and Artwork From Tim Miller’s Unmade ‘Heavy Metal’ Reboot

Christopher Marc
December 10, 2016
Omega Underground

Tim Miller Hints ‘Terminator’ Shoots In 2018; ‘Goon’ and ‘Heavy Metal’ Announcements Soon?

Christopher Marc
July 26, 2017
Omega Underground

How David Fincher Nailed ‘Mindhunter,’ from Charlize Theron to Jonathan Groff

Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Erik Messerschmidt (Director of Photography), Laray Mayfield (Casting Director), Cameron Britton, Jonathan Groff, Jennifer Starzyk (Costume Designer), Steve Arnold (Production Designer), David Fincher (Director/Executive Producer). (Patrick Lewis/Starpix for Netflix/REX/Shutterstock/IndieWire)

Take some people obsessed with serial killers, and a detail freak like David Fincher, and the alchemy is undeniably compelling.

Anne Thompson
June 4, 2018
IndieWire, Thompson on Hollywood

There are manifold reasons why Netflix’s chilling series “Mindhunter” breaks the mold, from David Fincher to the bromantic chemistry between boyish FBI agent Holden Ford (“Hamilton” star Jonathan Groff) and gruff, chain-smoking G-man Bill Tench (Fincher veteran Holt McCallany). Here are a few factors that pushed this series to the top of the competitive drama Emmy contenders.

1. Charlize Theron

The series may never have existed if executive producer Charlize Theron hadn’t recognized a fellow serial killer buff in Fincher. When the actress was researching her Oscar-winning role as sociopath Aileen Wuornos in Patty Jenkins’ “Monster,” she read John Douglas’s “Mindhunter,” about the groundbreaking ’70s FBI unit that pioneered research into serial killers.

“This guy had an incredible life,” she said. “What he does is so rare and mind-blowing. I’m fascinated by books on neurology and brain development and why people are sociopaths: They cut off all emotion in order to do horrible things. I bought the rights to his book. I thought about Fincher, who loved ‘Zodiac’ and ‘Seven’ [and thought] ‘He must be obsessed with this stuff too; he must know who John Douglas is.’ People said, ‘You have never produced television.’ I asked David to lunch and he knew about Douglas and was on board: ‘Let’s make it into a series.’ Dream big, motherfuckers!”

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Charlize Theron craves Sushi
Fincher and Theron, after their meeting in 2012 (Bauer-Griffin, AKM-GSI)

Asif Kapadia on the music of Mindhunter, Amy and Senna

2018-02-09 Soundtracking with Edith Bowman (Audioboom) - Episode 76. Asif Kapadia on The Music of Mindhunter, Amy and Senna

Edith Bowman
February 9, 2018
Soundtracking with Edith Bowman (Audioboom)

Another week, another Oscar winner chats to Soundtracking in partnership with the EE BAFTAs.

These days, the quality and quantity of original programming on streaming services is quite astounding – with A-list talent delivering high-class drama time and time again.

One of Netflix‘s standout series of 2017 was Mindhunter. Overseen by David Fincher, it tells the story of how the FBI’s profiling unit came into being in the 1970s. By turns dark, funny, moving, cool and brutal, it also makes great use of contemporary pop & rock.

So it’s with great pleasure that we welcome Asif Kapadia to the show, who directed two episodes of the first season.

Asif has won numerous awards for The Warrior, Senna and Amy, with the latter scooping the Oscar for Best Documentary. There will, of course, be plenty of examples of Amy Winehouse‘s music throughout the course of the conversation, as well as composer Antonio Pinto‘s work on both Amy and Senna.

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