You won't get to see the most controversial scene from Fight Club, the edgy, ultra-violent fantasy that teams Brad Pitt and Edward Norton as founders of an underground neo-fascist movement.
What could be more offensive than the film's already notorious bloody fights, antiestablishment tone, and darkness of its character's souls? A line about a woman wanting an abortion.
As Chuck Palahniuk, whose debut novel is the basis for David Fincher's R-rated film, explains, "There was a line from the book where Helena [Bonham Carter] says [to Brad Pitt], 'I want to have your abortion.' It was on the birthday cake they had on the set and everything. David fought so hard to keep it in the film, but even Brad asked David to take that line out. He said, 'My mother is going to see this!' So he changed it to, 'I haven't been f--ked like this since grade school.'"
While the ratings board didn't have to censor that particular scene, a shot of male genitalia might have been cause enough for an NC-17 rating. But since it's a photo that's being flashed, it apparently was passed. So far no one involved in making the film has claimed that sizable equipment as their own cameo. "The rumor I heard," says Palahniuk, "was it had to have very dark pubic hair so nobody would think it was Brad's."
Althought Palahniuk didn't adapt his own novel for the screen Jim Uhls did screenplay honors the author's doing press interviews for the film and was even welcomed on the set. Look for more Palahniuk film projects soon; he's sold his second novel, Survivors, to the movies and is on a book tour for his third, Invisible Monster.
Palahniuk was originally moved to write the bestselling Fight Club by what he saw around him: "I wanted to acknowledge what my friends were complaining about, being failed by their fathers, and document what's going on in our lives."
The novelist has repeatedly laughed off the notion that his imaginary fight clubs really exist despite persistent reports to the contrary in the media. "I created the idea of a fight club and it's been a pain in the ass ever since," he says, hardly pained but smiling. "Editors call, even TV people, and they say, 'We want to send a journalist to the fight club in our area. Where do they meet?' I say, 'I made it up,' and they say, 'We realize it's a secret. You can tell us.' They think I'm hiding it."
Ironically, Palahniuk partly intended Fight Club as an anti-cult cautionary tale, a sort of reminder that Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy could happen again. "So many people are desperate for a cause larger than themselves," he says. "I'm nervous over what will crop up to fulfill that need. It breaks my heart, because I sense it's something people want to express. If it's sexy enough, people will rush to it and I wanted to make that clear. It's an anti-fascist cautionary tale. I say, Go to a Pentecostal church revival and throw yourself on the floor or a mosh pit."
As for the casting, Palahniuk, who visited the set for several days, compared Pitt's Tyler to one of Hollywood's unsung heroes of yesteryear. "Remember how Bruce Dern was the charismatic psycho of the '60s? Those are the points Brad excels at, the good-looking psychotic. Brad's got a real intense energy and always up for things, for golfing and playing games. Little kid energy sort of."
As for the film's vaunted homoerotic content, which plays with but never brings Pitt and Norton into each other's arms except for another pummeling, Palahniuk concedes he knew what he was doing. "On some level I'm playing with that and it was always fun to see how people would be relieved when they [discovered as the book progressed the two guys] weren't in love with each other. 'Thank God it wasn't homo!' Narcissistic is so much better."
But Palahniuk says that director Fincher intentionally emphasized scenes like the one where Pitt's Tyler puts a gun barrel down the narrator's mouth. "David played it up for effect. One time he laughed and said, 'This is the most homo movie ever! Even more than that vampire movie [Interview With the Vampire which also starred Pitt],'" says Palahniuk.
Fight Club opens Oct. 15.