Fight Club: Edward Norton Knows Why His Cult Hit Choked at the Box Office

American History X and The Incredible Hulk actor Edward Norton has been out and about promoting his new neo-noir crime film Motherless Brooklyn which he wrote, produced and directed. And as you might imagine, it was only a matter of time before someone brought up his role in director David Fincher’s 1999 adaptation of author Chuck Palahniuk’s seminal novel Fight Club, co-starring Brad Pitt as the (seemingly) one and only Tyler Durden. It seems that, after all these years, Norton has finally figured out why the classic originally stumbled at the box-office.

Norton reveals this about Fight Club and its less than savory plight at the box office before becoming a huge cult hit on home video.

“I think there was a reluctance on the part of some of the people who were actually marketing it, to embrace the idea that it was funny, and honestly, I think they felt indicted by it. I think if you felt more like the guy who plays my boss in the film, then you tended to not like the film. But also, it just was a tough one to distill.”

Fair enough. But how did the film’s (initial) failure affect the cast and crew? Norton says this.

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“It was an interesting experience because we all loved it and we were very confident about it. We were a little stung. You can never completely detach your ego to how does it do when it first opens, but then we all had the very special experience of realizing that the relationship it formed with people was everything you dream of when you get into films.”

And finally he added:

“It wasn’t financially successful at first, it never was even in conversation about awards and all that crap. But it became that, and that’s better.”

I agree, Ed. And as someone who was a bit on the punk-rock side of the coin in high school – and thus a born and loyal Fight Club fan, I can’t imagine a better fate for the film in hindsight. I mean think about it, after all, what is Fight Club other than a movie about sneaking unsuspectingly into the mainstream spotlight only to be rejected and then storming another backdoor into the American Dream – only to nuke it back to Hell? Exactly. The fact that Fight Club was rejected by society at large and then turned into a cult classic God by the underground is the most fitting fate for the film that not even Palahniuk could have devised.

But, yes, by the numbers, Fight Club was a bomb when it was first released. The film only managed to gather a paultry opening weekend tally of $11M before going on to accumulate a domestic total of a mere $37M. Sure the flick added an international total of $63.8M to its bankroll for a worldwide total of $100.8M, but that was all on a reported budget of over $60M. Those aren’t great numbers. But then came the DVD and the rest is history. But, obviously, we don’t talk about that. This story comes to us from an interview Edward Norton just held over at PeopleTV.

Mike Sprague at Movieweb