Fight Club Sound Designer Reflects on Film's 10th Anniversary

Ren Klyce breaks the first and second rule of Fight Club by talking about it.




Ren Klyce may not be a household name to most, but for those who are keen on sound design, he's the kind of chap that you might mention alongside Ben Burtt, the legendary creator of the Star Wars soundscapes. Working with David Fincher (almost exclusively) since 1995's Se7en, he has created some of the most memorably unnerving soundscapes ever put to film. One of which was, of course, 1999's iconic Fight Club. With the film's 10-year anniversary a special edition is being released on Blu-ray and DVD, with extras devoted entirely to the sometimes shockingly graphic sounds that underpinned what is still, for many, a confronting film. For others, of course, it's a modern day masterpiece. We spoke with Ren on the Fox Studios Lot in Los Angeles and he gave us the low down on what inspires him in movies, and just what went into the creation of those bone-shattering fight sequences. If you're a vegetarian, or of a squeamish disposition, a warning -- some of the upcoming descriptions may be disturbing!


RT: First up -- from someone who really knows -- what are the best sound-designed movies of all time?

Some of my favourite films are from the '70s. Films like The Conversation are right up there at the top of the list. It's about a sound man. It's a Francis Ford Coppola film. The sound was by Walter Murch, who's an incredible talent, and a huge inspiration to all of us in the sound world. As well, of course, there's the other films he did with Coppola -- The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. THX-1138 was another great film for sound. The Black Stallion, another great film for sound. Those are at the top of the list.

There's a story about the rating of Fight Club that the sound mix was altered or, at least, not quite as 'rich' when presented to the ratings board, so that the visceral fight scenes didn't quite have the same impact they later did -- just because of the sound design. Is this actually true?

Well, David Fincher did do the movie the way he wanted to in the end, but I think a lot of people were afraid of the film, for numerous reasons. I think it really touches on a nerve, and I think that's why we're talking about it 10 years later, because it really touches a nerve in society. But the short answer is 'yes'. We were particularly worried about the Angel Face's (Jared Leto) fight in particular being a little too violent. Ultimately it was David's decision to make it a little less visceral, which, believe it or not, is what we have now. One of the things I would do, which he hated, was whenever there was something visual, like blood, I would put in the sound of the blood. And he would say to me. "You know what -- that's too much". It was always what he wanted, but there was one screening, certainly, where we turned it down a little bit.



When you create a sound like those punches, you're not actually taking the sounds of people getting punched. Did you create these yourselves, or did you use a 'punch' library?

We recorded all original sounds for the film, and we did actually start by recording punching each other. Some of those things are in there because there's a good sound that the chest cavity makes when you punch it [hits himself in the chest] -- it's a thwack like a drum. Then we added chickens, and John and Helda from Foley came up with the great idea of stuffing chickens with things that would make great sounds. Either they would just crunch the chickens by themselves, and the bones would go 'crunch', or they would put things like walnuts inside and be crunching them, or covering them with a wet piece of chamois and then whacking them with a stick, and playing with where the microphone would be and so forth.

We took that and then we layered on top of that. We went to Skywalker Sound and they had this fantastic basement -- where, in addition to kicking bottles and cans and spitting and doing the rest of the sounds that we made in the basement, we went to the butcher shop and got some big slabs of meat and punched them. I still have the tape of Andre, who was punching the meat saying "I just have to stop, I'm done".

We built a whole library of that, and I took all the elements and layered them and stacked them and so forth and that's how we created the sounds in the film.

Was there a particular sound in a particular film that really struck you to the point where you thought, 'Damn, I wish I had done that'?

I started listening very early to sound in film, even before I realised that's what I wanted to do. I was always very excited about it. I remember it was in American Graffiti and they sneak off in the middle of the night and they start talking about a murderer that's lurking around and in the mix, which is predominantly just dialogue and early '50s music; all of a sudden you hear an owl and then a heartbeat -- and I remember thinking 'Oh, someone's adding a heartbeat'.

Now, everyone's adding heartbeats to movies, it's one of those things that when it becomes popular, it's almost a cliche. At the time though, it was very inspiring.

So, is it now about adding those sounds to a film that people don't notice, until it's too late?

Yeah. I think sound is a craft that's not supposed to be noticed, which is what's so unusual about this Fight Club Blu-ray -- that we have an entire section devoted to sound. It's not supposed to draw attention to itself, it's supposed to support David Fincher's directing, Chuck Palahniuk's writing, the acting and so forth. It's a supporting character. But because the film has struck such a nerve, I think people want to know more about what went into it, find out the secrets. People seem interested.



The 10th Anniversary edition of Fight Club is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.

Comments

David W.

John Warner

This film had some of the most realistic "punch sound effects" I've ever heard. The sound editing was top-notch and really added a deeper sense of realism. Terrific film.

Nov 15 - 06:47 PM

Mark W.

Mark Watson

Happy 10th anniversary, Fight Club!

Dec 6 - 01:41 PM

Smartest Person Here

Greg Bonnette

My favorite movie. Hands down, end of story.

Nov 15 - 07:17 PM

anna s.

anna smith

She was brilliant, humorous, generous, and crack a smile sometimes. This image of abundant emotions, absoulutely outpace her "HR manager, Monthly income over $10,000 " life tag image. Express your emotion, let youself, life change to a poetic picture. A woman%u2014S%u2605uga%u2605rloves%u2605 c %u2605om***like that always reversed all sentient beings, get the love of whole world man.

Nov 15 - 07:52 PM

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Nov 15 - 07:56 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Two of you? TWO!? *runs away*

Anyway, "Fight Club" remains pretty much the coolest thing of all time.

Nov 15 - 10:34 PM

Matanuki

Matanuki .

What we need is a vigilante solely devoted to fighting spammers and junk mailers. For serious, man.

Anyway, "Fight Club" is definitely one of my favorite movies. And probably always will be. Funny thing is, it's not my favorite Palahniuk book. So far it's "Haunted" that does it to me the most.

What's great about "Fight Club" though, both versions, is the allegory. Like "The Prisoner", you have this interesting piece of entertainment that's enhanced in every which way by a strong subtext and powerful message that'll likely be missed (and yet subconsciously appreciated) by a great many of its fans.

Truly great stuff.

Nov 16 - 05:17 AM

Escapefromalcatraz

william thresher

Holy cow. Two spammers in a row. I bet they didn't even notice each other.

Anyway - The famous chase scene in Bullitt is incredibly visceral not just because of the action of the two muscle cars flying through the streets of San Fran but because of the incredible change in sound (and level of sound) of the motors from calm and collected moments before the chase to screaming like a banshee. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-y1VUdnQXo

Nov 15 - 09:24 PM

AntonChigurh

Chris Scharlau

I always thought FC had the best sound F/X ever in a movie, and this article proves that I am not the only one who thinks so.

Nov 15 - 09:52 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Two of you? TWO!? *runs away*

Anyway, "Fight Club" remains pretty much the coolest thing of all time.

Nov 15 - 10:34 PM

Matanuki

Matanuki .

What we need is a vigilante solely devoted to fighting spammers and junk mailers. For serious, man.

Anyway, "Fight Club" is definitely one of my favorite movies. And probably always will be. Funny thing is, it's not my favorite Palahniuk book. So far it's "Haunted" that does it to me the most.

What's great about "Fight Club" though, both versions, is the allegory. Like "The Prisoner", you have this interesting piece of entertainment that's enhanced in every which way by a strong subtext and powerful message that'll likely be missed (and yet subconsciously appreciated) by a great many of its fans.

Truly great stuff.

Nov 16 - 05:17 AM

Matanuki

Matanuki .

What we need is a vigilante solely devoted to fighting spammers and junk mailers. For serious, man.

Anyway, "Fight Club" is definitely one of my favorite movies. And probably always will be. Funny thing is, it's not my favorite Palahniuk book. So far it's "Haunted" that does it to me the most.

What's great about "Fight Club" though, both versions, is the allegory. Like "The Prisoner", you have this interesting piece of entertainment that's enhanced in every which way by a strong subtext and powerful message that'll likely be missed (and yet subconsciously appreciated) by a great many of its fans.

Truly great stuff.

Nov 16 - 05:17 AM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

I've never seen FIGHT CLUB; Fight Club seems like an angry film where angry-people with a bunch of pent-up hostility watch for "spiritual"-release.

If FIGHT CLUB comes on Comcast "On-Demmand/free movies," anytime soon I'll see it.

Nov 16 - 06:17 AM

AniMill

Curtis Sponsler

I have to tell you - this is one of those gems that you have to force yourself to watch because of all the preconceived ideas the title presents.

I had to be practically tied down and eyes taped open to see this - the movie had me at the first 10 seconds! And it never let go. Yes it's disturbing, but it's not disturbing just to disgust and appall its audience for "art's" sake. It truly has an incredible story, brilliant cast and production. And the EFX are outstanding - perfect in that they subtly enhance the emotion and highlight key sub-scripts.

I can't wait for the Blu-ray! P.S. Congrats Ren on such an outstanding contribution!

Nov 16 - 11:26 AM

D34DGh0sT

Dudley Heffington

...

Dec 23 - 07:18 PM

Escapefromalcatraz

william thresher

Gordo - It's hard to tell if you'd like Fight Club or not based on your reviews. Frankly I am very surprised you haven't seen it. It's a polarizing film to be sure, but it's a damn good one.

Nov 16 - 06:34 AM

CFM

'schak Attack

I think Mr. Gordo will love Fight Club, and its many statements on society and our lives in today's world.

Nov 16 - 07:24 AM

Gimy

Gimy Moo

fight club...frickin' classic. thank god it's past the stage where its years after and people don't qoute it every 2 seconds though. that got to be annoying cuz i remember elderly news anchors qouting it at one point. its a must see for anybody w/ testees. and for the chics...it has brad pitt in his prime, its a win win for everybody

Nov 16 - 07:58 AM

Bloody Mathias

Mathias N/A

One of the greatest mind-bending movies of all time.

Forget Sixth Sense, this film's twist had my brain doing cartwheels.

Nov 16 - 08:48 AM

AniMill

Curtis Sponsler

I have to tell you - this is one of those gems that you have to force yourself to watch because of all the preconceived ideas the title presents.

I had to be practically tied down and eyes taped open to see this - the movie had me at the first 10 seconds! And it never let go. Yes it's disturbing, but it's not disturbing just to disgust and appall its audience for "art's" sake. It truly has an incredible story, brilliant cast and production. And the EFX are outstanding - perfect in that they subtly enhance the emotion and highlight key sub-scripts.

I can't wait for the Blu-ray! P.S. Congrats Ren on such an outstanding contribution!

Nov 16 - 11:26 AM

Dave J

Dave J

"Fight Club" which ends with a twist is not too relevant in today's standards since we got the UFC.

Nov 16 - 01:55 PM

Whitney M.

Whitney McKechnie

too bad the movie isn't about fighting...it's about nihilism. go watch the movie again...

Dec 5 - 01:28 AM

Pseudonym

Pseudonym Psychology

Finally, I HAVE to buy a Blu-Ray Player.

Nov 16 - 02:57 PM

Hamboner

Brian Lorenzen

I think the turning point in my life came when I realized Fight Club was a comedy. A coffee-black comedy.

As for the sound... yes absolutely well done. I know very little about that aspect of film making but still appreciated the sonic component of all the fighting.

Nov 16 - 03:22 PM

Keyser Soze

Sam Padgett

The most enduring legacy of Fight Club is my nicotine addiction. Yes, Tyler Durdin is the reason I started smoking. THAT is how influential this movie is.

Nov 16 - 04:48 PM

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Nov 26 - 06:14 AM

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