Janeane Garofalo says Edward Norton lost her a starring role in 'Fight Club'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

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 cinemas 20 years ago, and 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.)

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.

Read more: Brad Pitt recalls ‘stoned’ Fight Club premiere

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.

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)

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 apologised 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!”

Janeane Garofalo holds an orb in a scene from the film 'Mystery Men', 1999. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

But she also makes it clear she doesn’t harbour 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.

Read more: Helena Bonham Carter used medium to ‘speak’ to Princess Margaret

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.”

Come as You Are does not yet have a UK release date.