While David Fincher’s “Fight Club” polarized critics and audiences upon release in 1999, few people were as publicly incensed over the film as Paul Thomas Anderson, whose “Magnolia” opened the same year. In a 2000 interview with Rolling Stone, Anderson gave a scathing takedown of Fincher’s movie, going so far as to wish cancer on Fincher due to the storyline in “Fight Club” in which the Narrator (Edward Norton) visits a testicular cancer support group despite not suffering from the illness.
“I saw 30 minutes of it only because our trailer is playing in front of it,” Anderson said of “Fight Club” at the time. “And I would love to go on railing about the movie, but I’m just going to pretend as if I haven’t seen it. It’s just unbearable. I wish David Fincher testicular cancer, for all of his jokes about it, I wish him testicular fucking cancer.”
Cut to 20 years later, and Fincher understands where Anderson’s anger was coming from. In a new Rolling Stone interview published this week in support of the director’s most recent Netflix release “Mank,” Fincher looked back on Anderson’s heated words about “Fight Club.”
“Yeah. Look, I’ve been through cancer with somebody that I love, and I can understand if somebody thought…I didn’t think that we were making fun of cancer survivors or victims,” Fincher said. “I thought what Chuck [Palahniuk, on whose book the film was based] was doing was talking about a therapeutic environment that could be infiltrated or abused. We were talking about empathy vampirism.”
Fincher continued, “Cancer’s rough. It’s a fucking horrible thing. As far as Paul’s quote, I get it. If you’re in a rough emotional state and you’ve just been through something major…My dad died, and it certainly made me feel different about death and suffering [pauses]. And my dad probably liked ‘Fight Club’ even less than Paul did.”
Despite being considered a financial disappointment upon release, “Fight Club” emerged as a cult classic over the next decade and is often regarded as one of Fincher’s most popular movies. The director’s latest release, “Mank,” is now streaming on Netflix. Anderson is set to return later this year with his new directorial project starring Bradley Cooper.