What can Brad Pitt and Ed Norton teach us about authenticity?

Written by Stuart Haden on August 25, 2015

Life’s lessons are all around us, many of which are present in the media as long as you are prepared to search for them. I was watching the film Fight Club (1999) the other day, if you are prepared to look beyond some quite gruesome scenes as well as stand out performances from Pitt and Norton then be prepared for a rollercoaster ride of authenticity. A quick recap of the plot reminds us that Norton (an insomniac office worker) is looking for a way to change his life. Then he crosses paths with Pitt a ‘devil-may-care’ soap maker and they form an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more. Here is the authentic calling right in front of us – seeking change, crossing paths with someone (maybe a coach) and forming something new. A simple but understated plot that we can all relate to.


Of course this plot is heightened for Hollywood effect, so very often our authentic characters are bordering on being mavericks and fakes. For those of us who aren’t A grade Hollywood stars we have to be careful we don’t fall into these traps. The maverick who is in tune with his/her values but lacks the skills to apply them to his/her environment. On the other hand the fake who has acquired skills but lacks an appreciation of their values to be truly effective. Together Pitt and Norton work as a team. Pitt the maverick relies on Norton to apply the practicalities of his radical thinking. Meanwhile Norton has been faking it for some time, so Pitt provides the inspiration to allow him to realise his values. You’ll have to get to the end of the film to really appreciate how these two narratives combine. When you do you’ll realise that the power for change is within you, you don’t have to wait for Pitt to come along. Although I appreciate for many of you reading this that would be a dream come true!?

One of the most memorable lines in the film reminds us that being authentic is all about purpose, being on purpose. The character Tyler Durden played by Pitt is constantly challenging what is, anti establishment, “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” In order to remain authentic we just have to check in with ourselves. Whether it be advertising, social pressure or the expected norm ask the question – do I need this? Do I need these new pair of shoes? Do I need to be surrounded by these people? Do I need this job? Unfortunately I see a parallel between authenticity and the first two rules of fight club. The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. Likewise I don’t think we talk enough about who we are being. So can we flip this on its head? The first rule of Authenticity is: You do talk about being authentic. The second rule of Authenticity is: You do talk about being authentic. Sharing this blog on social media would be a great place to start…full circle we are back to the media again!? If you are an aspiring actor then check out my free online course – The Seven Secrets of Authenticity. Or if you want to see me on film then take a look at this 2 minute video that I shot as I take the Fight Club philosophy further…