4.29.2007

I am Jack's special
screening of "Fight Club"

The Blog got a special treat upon touching down in the Arizona desert Friday night en route to the SND Quick Course in Tucson: A special screening of the David Fincher-directed movie "Fight Club" followed by a Q&A session with screenplay writer Jim Uhls.

The screening, put together by the University of Arizona's English Department, took place at The Loft Cinema in Tucson and was attended by approximately 150 people.

Uhls, who wrote the screen adaptation of the "Fight Club" novel by Chuck Palahniuk, told the audience Friday that if it weren't for Brad Pitt, the movie would likely still be sitting on a shelf somewhere.

"None of the studios wanted it (initially)," Uhls said. "Then Fox 2000 got involved. ... And when it got to the point of casting, they basically said, 'If you can get Brad Pitt, then you can do whatever you want with this thing.' "

Uhls said Pitt took roughly three months to decide whether or not to come on board, saying the actor really wanted to understand the precise motivation of his character, Tyler Durden.

Those who know Fincher's directorial work know it's typically a visual feast. "Se7en," "Fight Club," "The Game," "Panic Room," the sort-of newspaper movie "Zodiac." All delights from a visual standpoint.

But with "Fight Club," those wonderful visual moments -- remember the camera backing you out of the garbage can so you can see the Krispy Kreme doughnut box, the Starbucks coffee cup and other stereotypes of consumerism? -- are aided by the narrator, Jack, as played by Edward Norton. Without Uhls' script, without the witty narration of Jack, it's an entirely different movie. Reportedly, Fox wanted the Jack voice over left out. But Uhls and Fincher fought to have it maintained, and thankfully that happened. The result is a great lesson in how media of all kinds must use words and visuals working in harmony.

Uhls said apart from the Pitt casting decision, the other two leads were key casting moves. Norton, Uhls said, caught Fincher's attention with his turn as Larry Flynt's lawyer in "The People vs. Larry Flynt." Uhls also said the role of Marla Singer, played by Helena Bonham-Carter, was one of contention between him, Fincher and Fox 2000. Uhls' first choice, upon confirmation she could deliver an American accent, was Bonham-Carter. But Fincher and the studio had other ideas, and although he wouldn't reveal who other contenders were, published reports for years have said Courtney Love and Winona Ryder were up for consideration.

"Fight Club" was Uhls' first script seen to fruition. What's next for the writer? He co-wrote the screenplay for "Jumper," starring Hayden Christensen, Samuel Jackson and Diane Lane, due out next year. And he's also working on a screen adapation of "Rex Mundi," the graphic novel put out by Dark Horse Comics. The Los Angeles Times says that will be produced by and star Johnny Depp -- who was considered for the Brad Pitt role in "Fight Club."

The Blog says this: "I am Jack's ultra-sick love of 'Fight Club' for its black comedy, its insanely dry-but-witty script and its visual mastery." Who's ready for a movie night?

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