Janeane Garofalo reveals how she almost starred in 'Fight Club' — until Edward Norton had his say (updated)

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

UPDATE: Edward Norton has responded to Janeane Garfalo’s recent comments on Yahoo’s Build Series about losing the role of Marla Singer in the 1999 favorite, Fight Club, after Norton vetoed her casting. In a statement provided to CNN, the actor said: "I'm sorry Janeane is under that impression, but if she was serious, she's really mistaken. David Fincher does exactly what he wants. He makes the call on every dimension of his films, top to bottom. I don't recall him ever even raising the subject of who he was considering for most other roles. The one suggestion I made, he shot down. I was a big fan of Janeane's so I'd have loved to do a reading with her! And if she sees me in the neighborhood I hope she'd come say hi!”

Original story continues below:

Never mind what Tyler Durden said: the first (and second) rule of Fight Club is that you do talk about Fight Club. David Fincher’s darkly brutal comedy has been a steady source of conversation since it hit theaters 20 years ago. Fight Club star Brad Pitt joked about the movie recently while accepting an award — presented to him by Fincher, appropriately enough — at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival: “I’ve been around a while and I’ve been doing this for a bit. ... I can’t do night shoots anymore, and I’ll gladly hand a stunt over to a stunt man. I no longer remember the first rule of Fight Club. But it’s also nights like this where I get to look back and feel really, really blessed.”

Janeane Garofalo has her own Fight Club memory to share. In a recent interview with Yahoo’s Build Series promoting her latest film, Come as You Are, the actress and comedian revealed that she was originally going to play the part of Marla Singer, which eventually went to Helena Bonham Carter. “I was in Fight Club until I wasn’t,” Garofalo says, reflecting on her late-’90s career surge when directors were offering her roles left and right. “I met with David Fincher, who handed me the script and said, ‘If you like it, the part is yours.’” (Watch our interview above.)

Helena Bonham Carter and Ed Norton in 'Fight Club'; Janeane Garofalo revealed that she was originally going to play Carter's role in the film. (Photo: 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)

Garofalo wasted little time in cracking open the Fight Club script, which already had Pitt and Edward Norton — who plays the unnamed narrator that falls for the deeply cynical Marla — on board. “I called him and said, ‘I would like to do it,’” Garofalo remembers. Fast-forward a few months later, though, and her agent discovered that Carter had landed the part, despite Fincher’s promise that Garofalo was his first choice.

So what happened? According to the actress, Norton was the reason why she lost the role. “[He] felt I didn’t have the chops to do it,” Garofalo says now. “I was like, ‘Can I audition with him or for him?’ and I was told that he would like Courtney Love to do it, because he was dating her. But Brad Pitt said, ‘I’m not going to sign off on that.” So they agreed on Helena Bonham Carter, who was probably much better than I would have been.”

Pitt may not remember the first rule of Fight Club, but he hasn’t forgotten how Garofalo lost the role. Approaching her at an event years ago, the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star apologized for what went down behind the scenes. “He very kindly said, ‘I’m sorry about what happened with that,’ and he had nothing to do with it!’” Norton hasn’t been similarly contrite. “I live right near Ed Norton and I see him all the time, and he’s never said anything,” Garofalo says, laughing. “In fact, he pretends he doesn’t know who I am every time I see him!”

But she also makes it clear she doesn’t harbor any grudges against her almost co-star who she describes as a “wonderful, wonderful actor.” “I do respect that he through that about me. I agree with him! Maybe it was a miscommunication. ... Perhaps he wasn’t told that David Fincher did that.” This is why it’s so important to talk about Fight Club.

Come as You Are opens in theaters Feb. 14. Fight Club is currently streaming on Hulu with a Cinemax add-on.

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