LAST WEEKEND, I had the opportunity to speak with Chuck Palahniuk about Fight Club, the new film based on his novel of the same name. He was very upbeat, and answered basic questions I had about his book and its four-year transformation (or apotheosis) into a film. Some gossip was shared during the our conversation, but I promised not to divulge any of it in The Stranger. (I will say that, of course, the gossip had to do with Brad Pitt -- the only person worth gossiping about in the film's cast -- and concerned his full and gorgeous lips.)

The Manuscript

Fight Club was optioned while it was still a manuscript [in 1995]. It was optioned with a lot of pressure, by a property scout for 20th Century Fox in New York named Raymond Bongiovanni. He read it right after it arrived in New York, and loved it. He then pressured all of the Fox people to read it, and they did, and also liked it.

"But then Raymond unfortunately died of AIDS, and it was all very sad. I talked to him one afternoon--he had called just to say hi and to find out if I was a maniac or something--and then he was dead. A couple of days later, my agent called me and said that he had just come from Raymond's funeral, and that I got mentioned six times in the eulogy. You can't get better press than that. Even from the grave, Raymond was still working on this movie; so God bless Raymond. And so Fox optioned it 30 days later, sometime in September of '95."

The Pitch

After it was optioned, the studio then assigned it to an independent producer, Ross Bell. Ross put together a presentation that would pitch the whole plot to people. He pitched it to David Fincher, and apparently to Edward Norton also. Soon after the pitch, both were committed to the film project."

The Script

At around the time [that Ross was pitching the plot], the budget was around $20 million, and over the next few months Jim Uhls began working on the screenplay. I went down for some screenplay meetings a year later, in the summer of '96 when the book was coming out. The screenplay went through several rewrites while David Fincher was filming The Game, and throughout this period, the budget for Fight Club kept on escalating. It would go from $20 to $60 to $70 million. I saw an earlier generation of the script that Jim wrote, but never saw the final script until production started. I was impressed with it. I thought they had done a good job."

Brad Pitt?

In the winter of '98, they still hadn't gotten Brad to commit to the film. So David went to New York while Brad was filming Meet Joe Black, sat on Brad's doorstep in the East Village, and waited for five hours. David told him, 'This is the movie we have been waiting for. You have got to read the book.' In the end Brad said, 'If you feel strongly about it, and you think this is it, then I'll trust you and do it.'"

Director

David Fincher comes from commercials and music videos, so [he] is very meticulous. When he films something, he [does] 40 or something takes. Even on the tiniest shot, every moment of the film is as well-planned as it can be, as well-planned as say... a television commercial. With David, every shot is [a] beauty shot.

"When I was on the set, there was a big cake that had David's 1,000th roll of film on it. When I had a chance to talk with him, he told me that most feature films are shot on 100 rolls of film, and I said, 'My God, you're on your 1,000th!' He then leaned over and said, 'No, actually we are at 1,500.' By the time they were done filming, they were [close] to 2,500 rolls. So that is what David Fincher took into the editing room: 2,500 rolls of film."

The Movie

I saw a very rough cut of it two months ago, and thought it was overwhelming. I wished so strongly that I had known nothing about it. Since I knew all the lines and the plot, it didn't have the maximum effect on me, but it is still an amazing movie. All the things David brought to it, Brad Pitt brought to it, Edward [Norton] and Helena [Bonham Carter] brought to it -- these were the things that impressed me. The rest of it, the things I brought to it, I was already familiar with, so I was not as impressed."

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