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Fight Club Premiere Audience Hated The Film (& Even Booed)

"Fight Club" is easily one of the most iconic films of its era. While David Fincher's cult classic may have underwhelmed at the box office when it was initially released, strong DVD sales and lasting word of mouth about its insane plot twist helped to give the film a second life and a lasting cinematic legacy.

Still, this doesn't mean that even industry veterans necessarily appreciated Fincher's adaptation when it was first screened at the Venice Film Festival. According to an excerpt from the book "Best. Movie. Year. Ever.," the film was incredibly divisive. In fact, "Fight Club" stars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton recalled being the only ones laughing at that first high-profile screening.

"It gets to one of Helena's scandalous lines — 'I haven't been f***ed like that since grade school!' — and literally, the guy running the festival got up and left," Pitt remembered. Meanwhile, as the audience descended into boos around them, the actors themselves were having the time of their lives. "Edward and I were still the only ones laughing," Pitt said. "You could hear two idiots up in the balcony cackling through the whole thing."

Despite initial pushback from audiences and critics, fans powered Fight Club to become a cult hit

Like "The Thing" and "The Shining" before it, despite the pop cultural cache that "Fight Club" wields today, it was also lambasted by critics. Still, that didn't stop legions of hardcore fans from helping to make it the cult classic that it is today.

To wit, Edward Norton recalled that fans began referring to him as "Sir" in public, the moniker his "Fight Club" alter ego, Tyler Durden, shares with his Project Mayhem followers. "These young guys walked over, and they were like, 'Good to see you out, sir!'" Norton recalled. "I was like, 'Whoa! People are having fun with this one.'"

Ultimately, it's no big surprise that "Fight Club" divided viewers upon its initial release. Anyone who has read any of Chuck Palahniuk's novels will know that, like Bret Easton Ellis, the writer is known for shocking scenes of sex, violence, dark humor, and depravity. However, it also tracks that these elements would appeal to a certain subset of viewers, like the readers that helped to make many of the author's books bestsellers.

Still, David Fincher was cagey about being around people like this who acclimated to the film for the wrong reasons. "When my daughter was about 9 years old, I went to a school function," the director recalled. "And she said, 'Oh, I want you to meet my friend Max. 'Fight Club' is his favorite movie.' I took her aside and said, 'You are no longer to hang out with Max.'"