Fifteen years ago tomorrow, everybody’s favorite tutorial in soapmaking was released in theaters. To celebrate, we offer this true-life tale from our New York editor, Danny Agnew, whose personal recollection of the film’s debut involves marijuana, Leonard Maltin and Salma Hayek’s breasts. Enjoy.
So in 1999, I was attending film school at USC (fight on).
One of the best things about said film school was classes like Cinema 466, in which we got to see movies before their theatrical release and, afterward, a big name from the film chatted live with critic Leonard Maltin.
The movies at Cinema 466 were always kept secret, but word got around that week that Fight Club would be screening. And when my buddy and I showed up at the campus theater (first theater ever to have THX!), kids were already buzzing that Ed Norton was in the house. Cool.
We ducked behind the auditorium to smoke a joint (as you do) and went in to watch the movie. Which was great. I remember the collective gasp at the big Tyler Durden reveal. These days, no moviegoer would be delighted at that surprise. People would just be mad.
Afterward, Norton and Maltin started chatting. A minute or two into the Q&A, the doors at the back of the auditorium opened and Salma Hayek walked in.
She took the empty seat at the end of our row and gave Norton a little wave (they were dating at the time).
And a couple minutes later, Maltin made an allusion to the film’s big reveal. At which point Norton stopped him, saying something to the effect of “Hey, listen, I’ve got a friend here who hasn’t seen the film, I’d appreciate if we didn’t ruin the surprise for her.”
Maltin, who had no idea Hayek was in the crowd, said something to the effect of “Oh, well whoever you are, cover your ears.”
And then he proceeded to blow the entire thing.
Now, someone who hasn't seen the film really shouldn't be sitting in on a discussion of that film after a screening. If Norton was being serious, he shouldn’t have invited her. But regardless, Norton made it a point to ask. And Maltin made it a point to be a jerk.
And I remember thinking the funniest part was that Maltin blew it so quickly that Hayek couldn’t have covered her ears anyway.
Norton was flabbergasted.
I looked down to the end of the row just in time to catch Hayek share this classic “WTF?” look with Norton while Maltin just kept blathering on.
So that, friends, is how one of the world’s weirdest critics ruined one of the world’s best movies for one of the world’s hottest women.
I am Jack’s total lack of surprise.