The first rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club.
That rule immediately was broken on Wednesday when Bill Mechanic, an MSU alumnus and the CEO and chairman of Fox Studios at the time of the movie’s release in 1999, spoke at the third installment of the MSU College of Arts and Letters’ 50th Anniversary Film Series.
The series brings back alumni from the college who have become successful in the film industry. “Fight Club” was the featured film at the event.
While on campus, Mechanic spoke to students about his career as the head of studios and described how to tell a story through writing and film, said Gary Hoppenstand, a professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures.
“There were a number of students in my class that might have their eyes set on a film career in some capacity, and they picked up a lot of (really) important information,” Hoppenstand said.
When Mechanic pushed the movie to be made, he received criticism from his bosses, one of whom called him “sick” for allowing such a movie be released.
Mechanic knew the movie had a story to tell and decided to offer an ultimatum: Either let him make the movie or fire him.
“I thought it was a generational film,” Mechanic said. “I thought it had something that spoke to what was going on in society 10 years ago.”
Mechanic eventually was allowed to release the movie, but it did not do well in theaters in the U.S. because of the title, he said.
“It was the year of (the Columbine High School massacre),” he said. “The press killed the movie, described it as ultraviolent, and I think (what) they were judging was less the movie than the environment.”
After the film was released on DVD, Mechanic said people realized the movie had a message to send other than violence, and it became a “cult classic.”
Hoppenstand said the film takes a look at serious issues in our society and the human condition, even though it’s an extremely violent film.
“It talks about the disenfranchisement of our daily lives and having real, meaningful experiences where we can touch life,” Hoppenstand said.
Mechanic said he saw his visit as not only an opportunity to discuss his movie, but a chance to see the campus where he spent his college years.
“The thing I think about is (that) I started with no more or no less than anybody else here and made my way,” Mechanic said. “(It) is kind of one of those classic American dream stories.”
During his time at MSU, Mechanic also was a film critic for The State News, according to the MSU Alumni Association’s website.
Horticulture senior Daphney McCristal said she was surprised an MSU alumnus helped make “Fight Club.”
“It’s (my) favorite movie,” McCristal said. “It’s a really cool thing to have at (MSU).”