Fight Club: David Fincher’s Calculated Gamble On The Plot Twist
If you clicked your way here, we're assuming you already know the twist ending to Fight Club. Either that or you don't mind having it spoiled for you. We can therefore freely recount the film's denouement, which reveals that the narrator and Tyler were on Earth all along, and we can share with you the fears that the production crew had.
They worried that audiences wouldn't accept the twist. And when they expressed their doubts, this is what David Fincher kept declaring in response: "If they accept everything up to this point, they'll accept the plot twist. If they're still in the theater, they'll stay with it." Which sounds a little like he was saying, "Hey, they already paid for the ticket, who cares what they think of the ending," but no. He was really pointing out that the twist is consistent with the rest of the movie—not just logically consistent but par for the course in terms of weirdness. It's not like the movie's gimmick is that everything is pretty normal right up until the twist.
We know of that quote of Fincher's thanks to an interview with Chuck Palahniuk, the book's author. You might think Palahniuk would take it upon himself to shore up everyone's faith in his story, but though they kept him around on the set, he stayed hands-off. And while he ended up surprised by just how closely the reveal mirrored what happened in the book (the movie could have conveyed the same info very differently), other stuff changed quite a bit, and he was fine with that. He actually ended up saying he preferred the movie to his own book.
Palahniuk books tend to go off on tangents, so he liked seeing the way the movie pulled everything together. For example, the book mentions fathers creating “franchises” in starting second families, and fight clubs end up franchising, but the book doesn’t link the two concepts. The film does. And while soap-making plays a memorable part in both book and movie (even appearing on the movie poster, to the bafflement of everyone who doesn't know the story), the movie dispenses with some of the soap plot. In the book, the narrator turns Marla's mother into soap; this was not essential to the story.
Really, Palahniuk offered no suggestions on the adaptation process at all. He was in the room with the screenwriting team, but he says he spent the whole time keeping silent and just jotting down notes ... notes about his next book.
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For more on Fight Club's journey, check out: