HOLLYWOOD -- "Yes it's true. We are lovers," Brad Pitt says with a straight face, by way of introduction.

No, he's not talking about extant girlfriend Jennifer Aniston, but the guy sitting to his right, his new best friend, Edward Norton, who's wincing good-naturedly.

Pitt loves straight-guy "gay talk," of the sort where grownup boys throw rabbit punches at each other and say things like, "Don't touch me unless you mean it, honey." Ask him how they hit it off when they met and he says "I just found him immediately sexy ..."

The basis of their friendship is Fight Club, David Fincher's dark, trippy, anarchistic satire about a corporate schlub (Norton) who meets a deranged soap salesman (Pitt), who imparts on him wisdom about the emasculation and corporate slavery of North American men. The two characters are such yin/yang opposites, they're almost alter egos.

Eventually, they fight the power in their own way, by creating Fight Club -- a secret place where men can beat the hell out of each other on weekends, wake themselves up from the coma of a spectator society and rediscover their personal power. Soon underground franchises pop up everywhere. From there, things get too weird to describe.


It's been a talked-about, controversial project almost from the first day of filming and they've been doing interviews together for more than a year. They've made a lot of appearances (yes, that was them courtside at the De La Hoya/Trinidad fight a few weeks ago) and, not incidentally, they spent a lot of time on set discussing the philosophical significance of their scenes together. They've also spent a lot of time on camera bruising each other's ribs.

The deep talk is largely left to Norton, who is, in fact, more serious and self-consciously better-educated than Pitt. He also has a serious chip on his shoulder about his generation and the damage done to it by the hated Baby Boomers -- a gripe he shares with ex-girlfriend Courtney Love (Norton is 30, Pitt's 35, by the way). The movie is full of cutting, sly asides about IKEA, Calvin Klein and the new Volkswagen Bug.

"In the movie we smash it (with a sledgehammer)," Norton says of the VW, "because it seemed like the classic example of a Baby Boomer generation marketing plan that sold culture back to us."

Pitt pipes in: "Actually I like the Bug. It has great lines."

Norton shakes his head. "He's sold out, what can I tell you?"

They're both dressed T-shirt casual, out of a Gap ad (though I'm guessing the labels are designer). And I can't help but point out this message about shaking off the slavery of movie magazines and marketing machinery is being delivered by a couple of guys who make millions of dollars a movie and who have sold millions of magazines (particularly Pitt, who's in the $20-million club and who delivers the ironic line in the movie, "Everybody is told they can be a movie star, and they're starting to figure out they can't").

Says Norton, in full speechifying mode: "We've had our values dictated to us by an advertising culture that's essentially said to us, 'These are the external signifiers of happiness you should aspire to.' You're supposed to have the best car, the best clothes, the best girlfriend."

It's suggested to Pitt that he has all those things. "Yeah, and I wish everybody could have them so they could see that that's not all there is in life," Pitt says.


Norton is somewhat offended by this line of questioning. "There's nothing about the fact that Brad or I are actors that makes it invalid for us to discuss these themes," he says. "Everybody's enmeshed in it, that's the point."

Says Pitt: "The movie's not saying that material objects are evil in themselves. It's the chase for them that's the problem. It's about working from the outside in, to achieve some kind of spiritual happiness. It's not that Calvin Klein is evil, he's coming up with great esthetics, doing his own thing. Tommy Hilfiger may be evil, but that's another issue entirely."

"You just can't resist that, can you?" Norton says to Pitt.

"No I can't," Pitt grins. "The guy gives me the creeps."

Chuck Palahniuk is author of the novel The Fight Club, a work deemed "unfilmable" by some. Ironically, Palahniuk had a connection going in. There's a married couple in Seattle who are two of Palahniuk's best friends. The wife turned out to have been Pitt's high school sweetheart, and the husband had been Pitt's college roommate.

'Little-boy charm'

"Brad Pitt is so much like the good-looking blond carpenter friend (Pitt's character Tyler Durden) is based on, a guy I had so many adventures with," Palahniuk says. "He has crazy-little-boy charm, a real up-frontedness and friendliness. And Ed is like the nebbishy character (of Jack) who is so much like me."

But despite the subject and the title, both Pitt and Norton make no claims to macho, and didn't really go out of their way to learn to fight. "I've never understood that (method) stuff, James Dean not knowing who he was at the end of the day. I'm not much of a fighter, and I'm still not."

Adds Norton: "Obviously, we couldn't have the real experience of fighters in the movie. We'd end up in the hospital."

"It is kind of interesting that I wasn't much of a fighter growing up," Pitt goes on. "Because y'know it was the '80s, sensitive guys, thirtysomething. Maybe we skipped a step, going from tough guys to sensitive.

"But personally, it would bother me if people misinterpreted the point of this movie and people started beating each other up because of it. (Fight Club) is about taking a punch, more than dealing a punch. It's about how you survive."

"I would not join a fight club, let me tell you."

So besides being sexually attracted, how did they become friends on this film? "We sat down at the beginning," Pitt says. "Edward called me for a drink and we were immediately on the same page. Considering how close we had to play, it would've definitely gotten in the way if we didn't get along."

"We were lucky," Norton says.

"Yeah, it could have been an ego clash. Luckily, this guy doesn't have an ego," Pitt offers.

"Thanks," Norton says, drily. "It's that collaborative dynamic. You adjust your move to another person's groove."