Courtney Love Blames Brad Pitt For Getting Her Fired Off Fight Club, And The Reasons Involve Kurt Cobain

Courtney Love in The People vs. Larry Flynt
(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

David Fincher’s Fight Club is a seminal film for movie lovers of a certain generation. If you were of a very impressionable age when Fincher’s adaptation came out in 1999, there’s a good chance you were influenced by Tyler Durden, the uber-cool anti-hero portrayed by Brad Pitt. As we pointed out in our rundown of behind-the-scenes Fight Club facts, several actresses were up for the unconventional love-interest role of Marla, who eventually was played by Helena Bonham Carter. Now Courtney Love explains that the role was all hers, until she lost it. And she blames Pitt. 

According to Courtney Love, the infamous musician who had a solid run as an actress, she wanted to adapt Chuck Palahniuk’s debut novel Fight Club into a feature film, mainly because the book had ties back to the Portland community. While appearing as a guest on the WTF Podcast with Marc Maron, Love claims she brought the project to Fincher, and had secured the role of Marla – even though Love says that she and Fincher are innately “terrified” of each other. Understandable, based on what other directors have said about working with Love. Still, she really thought that the two creatives were breaking new ground with their Fight Club collaboration. She was fired up. 

Around 1999, Courtney Love tells Marc Maron she received a phone call from film director Gus Van Sant, who was having lunch with Brad Pitt when he made the call. The two of them allegedly were mulling over the screenplay that eventually would become Brokeback Mountain, but Van Sant pivoted quickly once they got Courtney on the phone. Van Sant told Love that Pitt was heavily pursuing a movie about music. As she continued to relay the events of this call, Love elaborated:

And then they both get on the phone, and it was like the hellmouth opened. Oh my God. ‘We want to do it about Kurt (Cobain)!’ This is like 2000. No one’s ever done this. And 22 years later, I still kick myself for not having the shark instinct to be like, ‘Sure,’ and fuck them later. I went nuclear. ‘You mother(fuckers), I don’t do Faust to the… fuck you…(scream noise)’

So yeah, it didn’t go well. And part of me is disappointed, because a Kurt Cobain biopic starring 1999-era Brad Pitt might have been incredible. Cobain was the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter of Nirvana, and was married to Courtney Love from 1992 until he took his own life in 1994 at the age of 27. His story was told, sort of, by Gus Vant Sant in an abstract feature film, and in documentary form, which Love supported. Love says in the Marc Maron interview that she still plans to do a traditional Cobain biopic, but gave no other details.

Back to Fight Club. Courtney Love, at the time of filming this movie, was dating Brad Pitt’s Fight Club co-star, Edward Norton. Some have accused Norton of stepping in to get Love the part of Marla. But Love now flips the script and says, at the very least, it was Pitt who lost the part for Love. She explained:  

Edward gets home. He starts sobbing. … and my landline rang. And it was David Fincher. And I knew it was going to be him. I’m like, ‘Don’t. Don’t!’ By the way, God bless Helena Bonham Carter. She’s a genius. I’ve never seen that film. And yeah, (Fincher) fired me because I wouldn’t let Brad play Kurt.

And so, we add a Kurt Cobain biopic starring Brad Pitt to the long list of movies that might have been, but now never will be. That doesn’t stop Courtney Love from continuing to share her opinions, whether she’s claiming that Scarlett Johansson should play her in a movie, to criticizing poor Olivia Rodrigo’s album covers. Love tells Maron she’s working on her first album in years. We’ll see if it helps her back into the entertainment spotlight. 

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.