- Fight Club faced numerous obstacles, including a budget that got out of control and studio executives refusing to market it properly.
- Brad Pitt and Edward Norton decided to show up high at the film’s premiere, which made it a memorable experience for them but not for the audience.
- The film initially struggled at the box office, grossing just $37 million domestically, but eventually found its audience and became a hit after its DVD release.
When it comes to cult classics, they do not get much bigger than Fight Club. With big-name stars like Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, an original budget of $23 million, and David Fincher, known for his Se7en success at the helm of the film, Fight Club had all the makings to be a classic film. But, with issues plaguing the film, a budget that got out of control, and studio executives refusing to market the film the way it was intended to be, Fight Club had a staggering number of obstacles to overcome were it to be a box-office success.
Even Pitt’s premiere of Fight Club did not go the way he expected. While it was an entertaining experience for the Bullet Train star, it was clear that the message of the film was being lost on the audience — a preview of what was to come with mainstream audiences upon the movie’s release.
Brad Pitt Got High With Edward Norton Before The ‘Fight Club’ Premiere
Film premieres are a way for actors to speak with the press to garner interest in their projects. Everyone from executives to crew and even critics and fans may be in attendance. This is why actors tend to be on their best behavior as the more buzz a film gets, the better it is for the box office gross.
But on the day of the Fight Club premiere, Norton and Pitt decided to go off script and showed up high, showing just how close Pitt and Norton had gotten while making the film. This made a positive memorable experience for the two but proved to be anything but for those in attendance.
“I remember when we first aired it at the Venice Film Festival, we had the best screening ever,” Pitt explained. “They do this midnight screening. It was Edward and I. For some reason, we thought it’d be a good idea to smoke a joint beforehand.”
Pitt went on to say, “We sat next to the guy who was the head of the festival. The movie starts and it’s dead silent. And I see the festival head and I see him go, ‘uhhh’ with bits I think are really funny. Edward and I are laughing out loud. We’re like the obnoxious Americans laughing at our own movie.”
“It was dead silent and we proceeded to howl even louder,” Pitt said of the experience. “We had a great experience. We thought we were on to something.”
The audience did not boo Fight Club like they did Pitt’s Tree Of Life film at the Cannes Film Festival. However, it was clear that the audience was not on the same page as Pitt and Norton were at the film festival. Perhaps that is because of the age of the audience versus the demographic Fight Club was geared toward.
Fight Club was geared toward “young males in their teens and 20s.” As such, the audience that was in attendance at the Venice Film Festival was completely outside the demographic trying to be reached.
The audience members at the Fight Club premiere were all middle-aged or older, a fact that Fincher had a hard time wrapping his head around as he saw the crowd mill into the theater.
“I came here with a little film called ‘Fight Club […],” Fincher explained. “I looked down and the youngest person in our row was Giorgio Armani. I was like, ‘I’m not sure the guest list is the right guest list for this […]’ We were fairly run out of town for being fascists.”
Fincher went on to explain via YouTube, “I thought these were going to be rabid cinephiles, and I think the median age of the audience was 73.”
“This woman looked up and she saw me there and she recognized me and she looked at me and just went [scowling on face]. I remember, it always reminds me of Rocky Horror Picture Show where Susan Sarandon says, ‘His muscles are too big’ and he says, ‘We didn’t make it for you.'”
Perhaps, it was because the audience was not the right age that they did not understand what the theme of Fight Club was, which contributed to poor reviews — reviews that did not help the box-office gross of the film, which would eventually be considered a flop when Fight Club’s run at theaters ended.
‘Fight Club’ Was A Box Office Flop
The original budget for Fight Club was $23 million. However, the budget would grow to $65 million by the time shooting came to an end. The budget did not include one of Pitt’s higher-paid movies. While the budget is not huge by Hollywood standards, going over by nearly three times the original amount meant that there was pressure to perform at the box office, a pressure that Fight Club was not able to stand up to, given that it only grossed $37 million domestically.
While the international audiences were more receptive to the film, the final gross was just over $100 million.
It was believed that the point of Fight Club was getting lost and instead, the film was being seen as nothing but glorified violence. But even after explanations were made about the message of the film, audiences did not fill theaters.
“There are ideas in the movie that are scary, but the film isn’t about violence, the glorification of violence, or the embracing of violence,” Fincher explained. “In the movie, violence is a metaphor for feeling. It’s a film about the problems or requirements involved with being masculine in today’s society.”
It was not until Fight Club was released to DVD that an underground audience saw the film for what it was. Fight Club was a metaphor for what young men felt about their lives in the late 1990s. The theme was hard for older generations to understand.
“I think the Fight Club is kind of metaphoric for the fight against your own impulses to get cocooned in things,” Norton said. “Which is why, when the guys fight, they get up and hug each other at the end and thank each other for the experience. It’s the gesture that’s helping them strip away the fears; the fears of pain and the reliance on the material signifiers of their self-worth.”
Once younger audiences got their hands on the film after being released on DVD, Fight Club became a hit. It made back the money spent on it and then some. Fight Club even became known as having one of the most quotable movie lines of all time.
Not bad for a film that started off with more issues than it could count and was premiered in front of an audience who understood nothing of what they were seeing. All the film needed was to find its audience to become a hit and in the end, that is exactly what happened.