David Fincher Talks About Paul Thomas Anderson Wishing Cancer On Him After Seeing ‘Fight Club’: “I Get It”

There’s no doubt that “Fight Club” is probably one of the more misunderstood films of the past 25 years. What is clear to people who have read the novel on which the film is based, “Fight Club” is a satire that has somehow been treated as some sort of manifesto by people with a misguided view of the world. Is part of that problem the source material, with its pitch-black comedy, or is it the fault of filmmaker David Fincher not being able to easily convey the tone and message? Well, if you ask David Fincher, he understands why people reacted to the film the way they did, especially when Paul Thomas Anderson wished cancer upon him after seeing a bit of the film.

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Yes, there was a point in time when Paul Thomas Anderson was asked about “Fight Club” and went on a tirade about how terrible it is and how David Fincher should get cancer. The comments in question came during a 2000 Rolling Stone interview (which you can read an archived version here), where Anderson was asked about “Fight Club.”

“I saw thirty minutes of it only because our trailer is playing in front of it,” Anderson said. “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.”

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As you might expect, this is a comment that inevitably made it back to Fincher. And during a recent Rolling Stone interview, the filmmaker was asked about the 20-year-old comment from PTA.

“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,” explained Fincher. “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. 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.”

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It appears that the issue that PTA had with the film, especially after only watching 30 minutes of it after its initial release, is that the film does seem to be taking a darkly comedic look at group therapy and one person’s attempt to take advantage of that support network. And if you see that bit out of context, it would look, well, mean-spirited, maybe. And apparently, Fincher totally understands that reading of it.

Of course, if you watch the entire film, in context, whether you enjoy it or hate it, you can probably see what Fincher and his actors and filmmakers were trying to do is something completely different. It definitely makes you wonder what David Fincher’s dad had to say about “Fight Club” if he didn’t even like it as much as PTA, right?