Brad Pitt has starred in some of the most successful films in Hollywood history. But if you’re going to talk seriously about his career, you can’t ignore Fight Club — a film that was, at least at first, not actually a success at all. These days, he’s happy to look back on the film, and can actually laugh about the fact that a lot of people hated Fight Club at first. In fact, he witnessed the backlash firsthand.
David Fincher’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s controversial novel hit theaters in 1999. But even before it had a wide release, Fight Club’s stars realized that it might not be well received. On Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, Brad Pitt recounted his memory of an early Fight Club screening. According to the actor, the movie’s dark themes and even darker humor didn’t really sit well with the audience:
Then, Brad Pitt continued, the movie started. That's when things started to go wrong for everyone but Pitt and co-star Edward Norton:
They weren't just laughing at their own Fight Club jokes, though. They also laughed at the disgust of the other moviegoers. (If they smoked a joint ahead of time, as Brad Pitt said, they may have laughed at absolutely anything.)
Well, at least they could laugh at themselves. The Venice Film Festival screening was only the beginning of the backlash that originally befell the movie. It ultimately became one of the most controversial films of 1999, due to its excessive violence and wild twist ending. That buzz didn’t even translate into box office success, and it was widely seen as a failure at first.
However, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, David Fincher, and everyone else involved in Fight Club eventually had the last laugh. Over time, it’s become a cult classic, thanks to a devoted fan base. And some film critics have reassessed the film, and praised it for condemning, rather than encouraging, violence and toxic masculinity. To those who love it now, Fight Club was just simply ahead of its time.