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When it comes to the musical version of Fight Club, the first two rules have been broken repeatedly, by Chuck Palahniuk as early as 2004, and by David Fincher since 2008. Fans aren't sure if the idea is genius, terrible, or merely a prank (I am Jack's running gag). Over the years the concept would occasionally pop up in interviews, but it never went further. Most recently during the San Diego comic-con in July, Chuck Palahniuk tweeted that Fincher and Julie Taymor (of The Lion King and Spiderman Turn Off the Dark) are actually working on the project right now. As much as various publications would like to see this as an official greenlight, a single tweet ending with "you didn't hear it from me" isn't exactly a binding contract. Yet within the past six months Palahniuk has spoken about the project with a certain consistent clarity which suggests that he and David Fincher may actually be serious this time. As we approach the 16th anniversary of the film's release on September 21st 1999, I ask: Could Fight Club possibly ever work in a stage environment? Why won't this rumor die? Would the original brilliance of the book and film be forever tainted by a broadway iteration? Should we be excited or afraid of the possibility?
First, if Fight Club is brought to the live stage it must be a rock opera and not just another traditional "musical". Thankfully the creative team has already made that distinction among themselves. If you spend ten minutes checking out the offerings of youtube using the search phrase "Fight Club musical", you will know why. Fight Club is not a ballet, it is not related to West Side Story in any way. Fight Club is a challenging, disturbing, and thought-provoking journey of hard questions and questionable decisions. Despite the trend of some people not looking beyond the violent aspects of the story, true fans love it for the philosophy and dilemma of determining what level of involvement is actually a catalyst for positive change, and what level is merely a vent for the universal frustration underlying modern existence.
Thankfully, David Fincher and Chuck Palahniuk are referencing the likes of Tommy and The Wall as comparison points for what they hope to produce. The best details about this project were conveyed in an April 2015 MTV interview with Palahnuik, in support of the Fight Club 2 comic book (which is outstanding so far). When you factor in not just the violence, but the general rebellious and subversive nature of the source material, Fight Club as a traditional musical would be, well, ridiculous. However, a proper rock opera version could be revolutionary.
One of the main issues in Fight Club is the lack of coming-of-age rituals in the modern era, which is an issue that has only festered since the book was published. It seems that according to Fincher, both Tommy and The Wall weren't just works of art, they were expressions of the hopes, dreams, struggles and doubts of their respective decades. They both helped, in a way, to fill in the gap left behind by the absence of shared rite-of-passage experiences in our consumer-driven time. With that in mind, the presentation of Fight Club as the rock opera for the millennial generation fits perfectly with one of the main philosophical issues of this story.
Trent Reznor was first named as the musical talent for this project by Palahniuk back in 2004. Since then, Reznor and David Fincher have become inseparable collaborators. According to the Palahniuk MTV interview (and the above video), Fincher has given Reznor the next year to put together the songs for this project. This is a really exciting piece of the puzzle, since Reznor has quite a lot to offer in terms of stage effects knowledge, style, and most importantly inspiration for the original story. I know this might disappoint the Dust Brothers fans out there, so before proceeding, I'd like to go on record to say that the music they made for the film was perfect, and I can't imagine anyone else doing that music. It was like fate, but also like fate, the Dust Brothers have seemingly scattered into nothingness. Their latest Wikipedia coverage is "the 2000s", and it looks like the last time they updated their website was a few months after Fight Club first hit theaters. If you don't believe me, go ahead and click on the link. Bathe in that late 90's online presence sensibility. The Dust Brothers were great, but I don't think they could mount the task of transforming the story into a rock opera as well as Trent Reznor can.