When Fight Club dropped in 1999, the film something of a cult hit that lacked in box office appeal but made up for it in cultural clout. While there are elements in the movie that have aged pretty poorly in the two decades since its release, there’s one line that will forever stand the test of time.
No it’s not the iconic “first rule of Fight Club” line.
I’m talking about the hilariously dark “I haven’t been f**ked like that since grade school” line Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) says to Tyler (Brad Pitt/Edward Norton) after they’ve finished doing the beast with two backs for the first time.
It’s super wrong, horribly disgusting and yet it shows how David Fincher managed to perfectly capture the tone of Chuck Palahniuk’s original novel. But as dark as the line is, the OG line Fincher had in mind for the scene was even worse (or better depending on your mileage).
Author Sharon Waxman revealed in her book, Rebels on the Backlot (via The Wrap), that Fight Club producer Laura Ziskin was a huge supporter of David Fincher’s vision for the film but even she had some lines simply wouldn’t cross.
One of the most notable moments of conflict between the two was the aforementioned “grade school” line. In the book and OG script, Marla was supposed to turn to Tyler and say, “I want to have your abortion.”
Unsurprisingly, Ziskin thought the line went way too far but Fincher held firm. Despite the “abortion” line getting big laughs at the test screening, Ziskin begged Fincher to change it and he ultimately relented on the condition he has final say on whatever the replacement line is and no one is allowed to change it.
Ziskin agreed and said the famous last words: “Anything. Nothing could be worse than ‘I want to have your abortion.’ Go ahead.”
Fincher reshot the scene with the “I haven’t been f**ked like grade school” line and it got an even bigger laugh from test audiences, which Ziskin responded with even more shock and begged Fincher to put the “abortion” line back in. However, this time he refused due to the agreement they had made and it was kept in the final film.
As an extra cherry on top of this story, Helena Bonham Carter later revealed on the Fight Club DVD commentary to Fincher, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton that she didn’t quite get the “grade school” line because it means something different in the UK (where she’s from) and only later found out it meant primary school in America, much to her disgust.
Your mileage may vary on how funny and/or offensive those two post-coital lines are, but there’s no denying the delicious irony of censorship accidentally creating something even worse in a film that can be interpreted as tearing down established norms.