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15 Things You Might Not Know About Fight Club

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

When Fight Club came out on October 15, 1999, it received mixed reviews and was initially seen as a financial disappointment. But after its theatrical run, a large number of DVD viewers discovered a humorous, anti-corporate, modern take on the vintage "coming of age" story that demanded multiple views. Today, we bring you 15 things you may not have known about the cult classic.

1. THE IDEA FOR 'FIGHT CLUB' STARTED WITH AN ACTUAL FIGHT.

Chuck Palahniuk was inspired to write the book Fight Club after a camping incident with his friends. When Palahniuk complained to some other campers that they were playing their radio too loudly, a brawl broke out. Even though Chuck's face was "smashed up," none of his co-workers the Monday after the incident acknowledged that he looked any different.

2. EDWARD NORTON AND DAVID FINCHER COMPARED 'FIGHT CLUB' TO 'THE GRADUATE.'

Norton said that he noticed a parallel between Fight Club and The Graduate after reading the book for the first time, particularly that both are stories of "youthful dislocation" where the protagonist struggles to "figure out the answer to the question of how to be happy." Director David Fincher also found some similarities, but felt that while both involve an "everyman" trying to find the right path, Fight Club is a "Nineties inverse" of the story, where the everyman "does not have a world a possibilities in front of him. He had no possibilities...he literally cannot imagine a way to change his life." Influenced by Norton and Fincher's findings, a producer initially considered The Graduate screenwriter Buck Henry to adapt Palahniuk's book, but Palahniuk disagreed with the idea. Ultimately, Jim Uhls was given the honor.

3. BRAD PITT'S SALARY WAS SEVEN TIMES HIGHER THAN HIS CO-STAR'S.

Russell Crowe was considered to play Tyler Durden and had met with a producer to discuss the part, but it was Brad Pitt who ended up with the role, adding $17.5 million to his bank account in the process. Edward Norton was cast by Fincher because of his performance in The People Vs. Larry Flynt, and took the studio's offer of $2.5 million.

4. DAVID FINCHER MET WITH JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS FOR THE ROLE OF MARLA, AND SHE DIDN'T KNOW WHO HE WAS.

There were a lot of alleged potential Marla Singers. 20th Century Fox wanted Winona Ryder, but it didn't work out. Fincher initially preferred Janeane Garofalo, but the script made her "uncomfortable." Courtney Love wanted the role, but complications stemming from dating Norton at the time muddled things. Reese Witherspoon was deemed too young by the director, and she turned the role down anyway. Fincher also met with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who was still playing Elaine Benes on Seinfeld at the time. Even though he had already directed Se7en and The Game by then, Fincher believed that she didn't know who he was, admitting that he felt like a "fucking loser."

The role ended up going to Helena Bonham Carter, thanks to her performance in The Wings Of The Dove.

5. PITT AND NORTON TOOK BOXING AND SOAP-MAKING CLASSES TO PREPARE.

Knowing that he could afford to get them fixed again, Brad Pitt had his pieces of his front teeth chipped off to play Tyler Durden. According to the DVD commentary featuring the two, Norton and Pitt both took soap-making classes from a boutique company called Auntie Godmother. They also took "basic lessons" in boxing, taekwondo, and grappling, topping it all off with watching hours of mixed martial arts fights.

They weren't the only ones watching mixed martial arts to prepare for the film. Makeup artist Julie Pearce studied the fights to see what kind of makeup effects were going to be necessary. The right-handed Pearce also learned how to do her job with her left hand at the insistence of Bonham Carter, who believed that Marla would not be good at, or care about, putting on makeup.

6. THERE IS A STARBUCKS COFFEE CUP IN NEARLY EVERY SCENE.

David Fincher has said that there is at least one Starbucks cup in every shot. He was inspired by his previous film The Game, where he managed to place a can of haggis in every scene in tribute to his cinematographer Harris "Haggis" Savides. Starbucks was okay with the idea and claimed to get the joke, with one big exception: the scene in the end of the film where a coffee shop gets completely destroyed. As a result, the giant globe crashes into a fictitious shop named "Gratifico Coffee."

7. TYLER DURDEN BRIEFLY APPEARS IN THE FILM FIVE DIFFERENT TIMES BEFORE HE'S FORMALLY INTRODUCED.

The first time Tyler Durden is explicitly in the movie, we see him on a moving airport walkway. Before this, he pops up for 1/24ths of a second four separate times: near the photocopier at The Narrator's job, in the hallway outside the doctor's office, at the testicular cancer support group meeting, and behind The Narrator when he sees Marla leaving the meeting. He is also the waiter on the far right in the presentation video of the hotel The Narrator checks into.

8. MEAT LOAF WORE A FAT SUIT FILLED WITH BIRD SEED.

Meat Loaf endured a lot to play Bob. The singer/actor required an oxygen mask after every take of the scene when he fights The Narrator, and he had to wear a fat suit that was filled with over 100 pounds worth of bird seed so it resembled sagging flesh. Makeup artist Rob Bottin arguably had it just as bad—he had to build two different fat suits because Fincher and the producers weren't sure if the studio would approve the suit with the nipples, or if they'd insist Meat Loaf wear one without them. Despite this, Bob fought Norton's character with a shirt on, which is in violation of Fight Club's Sixth Rule, "No shirts, no shoes."

Meat Loaf was a good sport about the whole thing, giving Norton a framed photo of Norton’s face pressed against his chest with a note saying “With Hugs, Love Meat."

9. THE DETECTIVES' NAMES ARE ONE DAVID FINCHER EASTER EGG.

The three detectives in the film who try to castrate The Narrator are named Detective Andrew, Detective Kevin, and Detective Walker. If you combine those three last names, you come up with Andrew Kevin Walker, the name of the writer of Fincher's Se7en. He christened those snippy detectives as such to give Walker some acknowledgment for doing an uncredited re-write of Fight Club's screenplay. Cameron Crowe, Fincher, Norton, and Pitt also contributed to the screenplay in an unofficial capacity.

10. CGI From 'Titanic' Was Used For a Scene.

And not where you'd expect. In the scene where Norton's character, at the behest of a support group leader, imagines himself in an ice cave, his foggy breath is partly recycled from the breath effects in Titanic. Visual effects artists "remixed" the cloudy puffs of air to work for the dream-like sequence.

11. WHEN NORTON HITS TYLER DURDEN IN THE EAR, BRAD PITT'S REACTION IS REAL.

In the scene where The Narrator is learning how to fight, Ed Norton was supposed to throw a "relatively meek" punch at Tyler Durden's shoulder. Just before cameras rolled, Fincher whispered in Norton's ear to hit Pitt in the ear. Norton did as he was told, which makes Pitt's reaction—"You hit me in the ear?!"—all the more amusing.

12. ONE CONTROVERSIAL LINE WAS CHANGED TO AN ARGUABLY EVEN MORE CONTROVERSIAL ONE.

In Palahniuk's book, Marla's post-coital words to Tyler were, "Oh, Tyler. I want your abortion," but 20th Century Fox executive Laura Ziskin insisted that Fincher change it. The director agreed on the condition that he would only change the line once. Ziskin said it was a deal, but regretted it when she heard Marla's new line: "I haven't been fucked like that since grade school." Ziskin "begged" Fincher to swap the original line back in, but he refused. Both versions of the scene were shot in a Church Rectory.

13. JARED LETO'S ORIGINAL BEATING HAD TO BE CUT BECAUSE IT WAS TOO GRUESOME.

When we first meet future Oscar winner Jared Leto in Fight Club as "Angel Face," Tyler Durden looks directly at him when he talks about "rock stars," an intentional or unintentional nod at Leto's then year-old stint as frontman for 30 Seconds to Mars. Later on in the film, Angel Face gets a gruesome makeover during a fight, one that was so bad, the studio insisted it was cut—the only notable studio censorship other than the abortion line mentioned above.

In the uncut version, Fincher explains, Angel Face's nose is split open down the center and a "kind of jelly-like bubble of blood gushes out like a volcano." It was apparently so gross, the cast and crew avoided Leto on the day the scene was shot because his prosthetic was so nauseating to look at.

14. THE BLU-RAY VERSION OF 'FIGHT CLUB' INITIALLY SHOWS THE BLU-RAY MENU FOR 'NEVER BEEN KISSED.'

On the original Fight Club DVD, following the standard piracy warnings, a one-second long subversive message from Tyler Durden appears. On the tenth anniversary Blu-Ray version of the film, the menu for the Drew Barrymore movie Never Been Kissed appears for a good 15 seconds before revealing itself as a prank. (The joke was David Fincher's idea.)

15. ROSIE O'DONNELL SPOILED THE BIG TWIST ON HER TV SHOW.

The day the film was released, Rosie O'Donnell announced on her nationally televised show that she had been to a Fight Club advance screening a few days earlier and was unable to sleep. Not only did O'Donnell implore her audience to not see the movie, she gave away the big twist, an act that Brad Pitt later said was "unforgivable."

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15 Things You Might Not Know About Mystery Science Theater 3000
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Shout! Factory

While the rest of America was slipping into a turkey coma on Thanksgiving Day in 1988, Minneapolis area residents lucky enough to get clear reception of local UHF channel KTMA were getting the first taste of what would soon become a Turkey Day tradition: Mystery Science Theater 3000, the classic cult television show which made a sport out of mocking schlocky movies of the past. The premise was simple: two mad scientists, Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt, launch a janitor (local comedian Joel Hodgson, as Joel Robinson) into space to study the effect bad movies have on the human mind in order to determine the single film that can help them in their efforts toward world domination.

But as it turns out, human beings can withstand a whole lot of bad acting, sloppy pacing, and ridiculous dialogue. Rather than drive them to the brink of insanity, Joel and the robot friends he built while orbiting Earth—Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, Gypsy, and Cambot—found a certain amount of pleasure in having to endure these B-movies, spending the bulk of the show offering their own bitingly funny analyses of the on-screen happenings. It didn’t take long for audiences to catch on, or for MST3K to migrate to a national stage.

1. MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 WAS BORN FROM FINANCIAL RESTRAINTS.

After trying his luck on the grander Hollywood stage for a few years, comedian Joel Hodgson moved back to Minneapolis with the idea of launching his own television show. There was just one problem: he had no budget. “Basically, Mystery Science Theater came from me saying, ‘What’s the cheapest possible show I could create that would still be novel and bring something new, [and] kind of have a new angle of doing something funny?’” Hodgson told Flavorwire of the show’s origins. “It all just came together, basically, at that point when I realized it could be like hosting a movie show, and if I utilized the silhouette thing, the characters will kind of run not only through the host segments, but through the entire movie, and they’ll be, like, companions.” 

2. THE “3000” IN THE TITLE WAS MEANT TO BE CONFOUNDING.

“The 3000 was a joke on all the people that were attaching the year 2000 to various programs,” said Hodgson in a 2011 interview with Art of the Title. “In the late ’80s it was everywhere: ‘America 2000’ was something that George Bush Sr. was talking about a lot so I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I name it 3000 just to confound people?’ But there was a lot of confusion about it. I never meant for the show to take place in the year 3000. That simply makes no sense! If it is the year 3000, then why are all the films and the references about the end of the 20th century? For the concept of the show, it’s just a series number like Galaxie 500 or HAL 9000. Fords aren’t from the year 500 and the HAL wasn’t from the year 9000. In hindsight, I think it’s likely that the Mads were trying to snazz up the name of the show by tacking on the 3000.” 

3. IN ORDER TO GAUGE THE AUDIENCE’S REACTION, THE PRODUCERS SET UP A PHONE LINE.

Even after its initial debut, the creators of MST3K had no idea whether the show had connected with audiences. So writer-producer Jim Mallon (who voiced Gypsy) suggested they set up a viewer hotline and run the number during the next airing. “When we checked the answering machine on Monday, it was full,” Hodgson told Flavorwire. “So people just reacted to it.” This led Hodgson and company to set up a local fan club for the show, which quickly acquired 1000 members.

4. MST3K’S (FIRST) CANCELLATION WAS ALSO BORN FROM FINANCIAL RESTRAINTS.

As MST3K’s popularity was rising, the fortunes of its broadcaster—KTMA—were moving in the opposite direction, which led to the show’s (first) cancellation in May of 1989. As a thank you to the many local fans who had tuned in religiously, the cast put on a live version of the show at the Comedy Gallery, which attracted an audience of more than 600.

As MST3K neared the end of its run on KTMA, the producers put together a short “best of” reel in order to pitch it to other networks. The show caught the attention of executives at The Comedy Channel, a brand-new, 24-hour comedy network owned by HBO, which premiered on November 15, 1989. Three days later, Mystery Science Theater 3000 made its national debut as one of the channel’s anchor programs.

5. AS PART OF THE COMEDY CHANNEL DEAL, HODGSON AND MALLON INSISTED ON KEEPING ITS PRODUCTION IN MINNEAPOLIS.

While the bulk of The Comedy Channel’s programming was produced on site in New York City, the channel agreed to let Hodgson and Mallon continue shooting in Minneapolis. They did, however, spruce up the look of the show with new sets, revamped robots, and a new opening title sequence. 

6. THE BIGGEST CHANGE TO THE MST3K FORMULA WAS IN TURNING TO A SCRIPTED FORMAT.


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The early episodes of MST3K were ad-libbed, but in 1989, Hodgson decided that the show should take a turn for the scripted. As part of this change, Hodgson hired writer (and future host) Michael J. Nelson. “I hired Mike based on his act at an open mic and a recommendation from Josh [Weinstein],” Hodgson told Mental Floss. “Also writing the eps was my call.”

7. IN 1991, MST3K BEGAN A NEW THANKSGIVING DAY TRADITION.

MST3K became Comedy Central’s signature series, with executives nearly doubling its run from 13 to 24 episodes per year in 1991. On Thanksgiving of the same year it launched what would become an annual event: a 30-hour MST3K marathon that came to be known as “Turkey Day,” featuring back-to-back episodes plus behind-the-scenes spots and interviews. In the four years it ran, several of the stars of the films the series mocked—including Adam West (star of Zombie Nightmare), Robert Vaughn (of Teenage Cave Man), and Mamie van Doren (of Untamed Youth and Girls Town)—hosted “Turkey Day.” In honor of the show’s 25th anniversary, Hodgson brought back “Turkey Day” in 2013. For 2017, the marathon will stream via Shout! Factory, beginning at 12 p.m. ET.

8. JOEL’S DEPARTURE IN 1993 WAS THE RESULT OF CREATIVE DIFFERENCES.

After sitting through his final test of cinematic endurance (Mitchell, starring Joe Don Baker—a skewering that led Baker to claim that if he ever met anyone from the show he would “kick their asses”), Joel managed to escape the Satellite of Love with the help of an office temp, Mike Nelson, who the Mads then captured in place of Joel. In a 1999 interview with The A.V. Club, Hodgson admitted that his decision to leave the show was because of disagreements with Jim Mallon. “You can't really be fighting with someone and doing all the stuff you have to do,” said Hodgson. “I think what made the show work for me was that I really loved it. I really liked the audience, and the whole process was ... I was really happy doing it, and I realized that I'd turn into Jerry Lewis or something if I started to kind of hate it. And that was starting to happen, just because of these conflicts I was having internally with Jim … The thing would have blown up if we both would have stayed there. I like to look at it like the story of King Solomon, when the baby was brought before him.”

9. WHEN COMEDY CENTRAL CANCELLED MST3K IN 1996, FANS (A.K.A. MSTIES) TOOK IT UPON THEMSELVES TO RESURRECT THE SERIES.

Viewers put pen to paper and began a massive letter-writing campaign to save the series. The fan outburst didn’t change Comedy Central’s mind, but executives at the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) understood their plight. And so on February 1, 1997, MST3K began its eighth season on its third network. The episode introduced audiences to Professor Bobo, an ape from the year 2525.

In 1999, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was cancelled again, and fans once again launched a campaign to see the show resurrected, with Entertainment Weekly reporting that “efforts to save the show include more than a dozen ‘Save MST3K’ websites, a letter-writing push, and a pledge drive for ‘Save MST3K’ print ads.” The campaign led to a full-page ad in Daily Variety, but Sci-Fi Channel decision-makers remained unmoved, with then-VP of programming Bonnie Hammer citing low ratings coupled with the rising costs of securing film rights (for movies to be ridiculed by the cast) as the problem. Sensing the end was truly near, Nelson admitted: “I'm hoping to find a rich guy to just keep me in his living room and heckle live.” 

10. KURT VONNEGUT, JR. WASN’T A FAN.

In 1996, Jim Mallon and writers Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy released the ultimate fan guide, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. In it, Murphy shares the story about meeting his literary hero, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and telling him about the show and its premise. Vonnegut was not impressed, telling Murphy that every artist deserves respect, even those who produce a bad movie. Still, Murphy couldn’t resist the opportunity to invite Vonnegut out to dinner, which the author politely declined, stating he had other plans. At dinner that night, Murphy and Vonnegut ended up dining at the same restaurant—except Vonnegut was alone, prompting Murphy to admit that he had been “faced ... but nicely faced.”

11. FRANK ZAPPA WAS A FAN.

Frank Zappa was an admitted monster movie fanatic, and wasn’t shy about his love of Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its run. A 1997 article in Total TV Online noted: “MST3K … made the late Frank Zappa an instant convert when he channel surfed into ‘this guy wearing a clown nose and a beanie copter roasting a puppet over an open fire.’ The clown was now-departed (and much beloved) Founding Father Joel Hodgson; the roasted puppet was plucky Tom Servo; and Zappa was equally bemused by the cinematic turkeys being roasted for the main course. ‘He just loved crummy old science fiction movies,’ says writer and voice of Servo Kevin Murphy, who thought ‘Frank Zappa on line one’ was a joke until he picked up the phone.” The show’s producers and Zappa had even discussed plans to collaborate on a giant spider movie; episode 523 was dedicated to Zappa following his passing. 

12. A HUMAN-LESS MST3K WEB SERIES DEBUTED IN 2007.

On November 5, 2007, Mallon debuted an animated Web series, The Bots Are Back!, which followed Tom Servo, Crow and Gypsy’s adventures in space. Fan response was not positive, and only four episodes were ever released.

13. THE WORLD HAS MST3K TO THANK FOR HOBGOBLINS 2.

While not every filmmaker whose worked featured on the series was happy about the development, Hobgoblins director Rick Sloane came to see the positive side of the skewering. "I met Mary Jo Pehl a number of years later and she said I was the only director who ever liked the MST3K treatment of their own film," Sloane told Esquire. "They improved the film dramatically. It was barely watchable in its original version. While I enjoyed every joke that was at an actor's expense, I was seriously horrified when they did the fake interview with me over the end credits. It's become a fan-favorite joke and is constantly quoted on the Internet." But there was an upside to the notoriety: Hobgoblins became so widely known, that it led to the opportunity for a sequel. "I admitted from day one that Hobgoblins 2 was only possible because of the success of MST3K's revival of the original," said Sloane. "I submitted Hobgoblins 2 to both Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax, but they both thought it was too easy of a target."

14. THE SHOW'S TITLE SPAWNED A VERB.

MSTing” is a practice that exists in the fan fiction universe, typically written in a transcript format, in which the characters of one piece of fic (or MST3K’s own characters) commentate another piece of fic. The process is also referred to as sporking.

15. THE RIFFING LIVES ON.

When new episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 stopped being produced, the original cast kept riffing. In 2006, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett introduced a Web series called RiffTrax, which allows customers to download commentary tracks to sync with a movie. Throughout the year, the group also presents several RiffTrax Live performances at cinemas around the country. In 2007, Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl launched Cinematic Titanic, offering a selection of riffed DVDs and a series of live events.

In 2017, a new generation of fans were introduced to Mystery Science Theater 3000 when—after a successful Kickstarter campaign to bring the series back—Netflix debuted Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return, with Jonah Ray hosting.

An earlier version of this post originally appeared in 2013.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
TAKWest, Youtube
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Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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