The novel Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk was published in 1996. Before its publication, a 20th Century Fox book scout sent a galley proof of the novel to creative executive Kevin McCormick. The executive assigned a studio reader to review the proof as a candidate for a film adaptation, but the reader discouraged it. McCormick then forwarded the proof to producers Lawrence Bender and Art Linson, who also rejected it. Producers Josh Donen and Ross Bell saw potential and expressed interest. They arranged unpaid screen readings with actors to determine the script's length, and an initial reading lasted six hours. The producers cut out sections to reduce the running time, and they used the shorter script to record its dialogue. Bell sent the recording to Laura Ziskin, head of the division Fox 2000, who listened to the tape and purchased the rights to Fight Club from Palahniuk for $10,000.
When Fight Club premiered at the 56th Venice International Film Festival, the film was fiercely debated by critics. A newspaper reported, "Many loved and hated it in equal measures." Some critics expressed concern that the film would incite copycat behavior, such as that seen after A Clockwork Orange debuted in Britain nearly three decades previously. Upon the film's theatrical release, The Times reported the reaction: "It touched a nerve in the male psyche that was debated in newspapers across the world. "Although the film's makers called Fight Club" an accurate portrayal of men in the 1990s, some critics called it irresponsible and appalling. Writing for the Australian newspaper, Christopher Goodwin stated: "Fight Club is shaping up to be the most contentious mainstream Hollywood meditation on violence since Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange."