"Gigli" Director Reveals His "Eternal Regret" About "Ghastly" Bennifer Flop
Martin Brest's 2003 film starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez bombed at the box office.
In 2003, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, who were one of the hottest celebrity couples of the time, co-starred in a movie called Gigli. Despite the public's interest in their real-life romance, the mob-themed romantic comedy was not well received. Gigli got viciously negative reviews from critics and was a box office bomb, making only $7 million on a $75 million budget. It became something of a cautionary tale, since its failure might have gone relatively unnoticed if it wasn't led by an A-list pair in a high-profile relationship. Gigli would also be the last movie made by its director and writer, Martin Brest, who retired from Hollywood after the experience.
In a new interview with Variety, Brest opened up about his career, including revealing what he believes went wrong with Gigli. It's the first time the 71-year-old filmmaker has spoken about it publicly in 20 years. Read on to see what he had to say about what he called "a ghastly cadaver of a movie."
Brest made several celebrated films.
Brest might be forever linked to Gigli, but, before that, he had made several films that were much more successful. His five other feature films are 1979's Going in Style, 1984's Beverly Hills Cop, 1988's Midnight Run, 1992's Scent of a Woman, and 1998's Meet Joe Black.
Both Beverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run were nominated at the Golden Globe Awards for Best Musical or Comedy. Scent of a Woman was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Star Al Pacino won the Best Actor race for the film.
Brest said Gigli started as a totally different movie.
Brest told Variety that Gigli—though he refuses to even say its title out loud—changed dramatically from the movie he initially intended to make.
"Of all the movies that I've worked on, I know them inside and out," he said. "I don't even know what that movie looks like, frankly, because of the manner in which it took shape. Even the name… I refer to it as 'the G movie.' Probably the less said about it the better."
Brest went on to explain that the movie was changed "so radically" that he "wonder[s] if ever a movie had been changed that much."
He continued, "The themes of the movie were radically different. The plot was different. The purpose of the movie was different. But I can't escape blame. [But] it's so weird—I literally don't remember the movie that was released, because I wasn't underneath it in the way I was under the hood of all my other movies. So it's really a bloody mess that deserved its excoriation."
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He had intense disagreements with the studio.
Brest said that his conflicts with the studio were so "extensive" that "post-production was shut down for eight months while we battled it out." (Brest doesn't name the studio, but the production companies behind Gigli included Columbia Pictures and Revolution Studios.)
"In the end I was left with two choices: quit or be complicit in the mangling of the movie. To my eternal regret I didn't quit, so I bear responsibility for a ghastly cadaver of a movie," Brest told Variety.
He added that the movie "became like a joke with its punchline removed" and said that reshoots and editing were a "futile attempt to make the increasing mess resemble a movie."
"For the first time in my career I had become a true collaborator—not in the benign, creative sense, but rather that of one who, in violation of their true allegiances, cooperates with occupying forces," Brest said. "And for that kind of compromise, self-castigations far exceed any possible public ones."
Affleck and Lopez have also spoken out.
Affleck and Lopez began dating after working on Gigli. They split up in 2004, but rekindled their romance years later and got married in 2022. Both actors have commented on the backlash to the movie and how it impacted their careers.
"I was eviscerated," Lopez told Vanity Fair of the media reaction to Gigli in 2017. "I lost my sense of self, questioned if I belonged in this business, thought maybe I did suck at everything. And my relationship [with Affleck] self-destructed in front of the entire world. It was a two-year thing for me until I picked myself up again."
Affleck looked back on Gigli during a 2022 interview for Entertainment Weekly conducted by his friend Matt Damon. He said that the studio latched onto the idea of it being a romantic comedy due to his and Lopez's relationship.
"[Gigli] didn't work and we did five weeks of reshoots, which we knew were not gonna work. It was a movie that didn't work," Affleck said. He also explained that he was excited to work with Brest, who he called "enormously gifted." The actor shared that despite the "depressing" situation, he thinks Gigli was a "gift," because it led to a career shift—directing movies himself—and introduced him to Lopez.
Brest decided to retire after the disappointment of Gigli.
Brest explained why he retired in his Variety interview. He said that he knew his career wouldn't be the same after Gigli, because he didn't believe he'd regain the amount of creative control he used to have. So, he decided to call it quits.
"I had a good run, and I enjoyed success and freedom, and that was fantastic," he said. "I would've liked it to go on longer, but everybody likes everything to go on longer. But I feel very grateful for what I experienced." He added that he wrote a couple of scripts following Gigli's release but doesn't see them getting made.
Of being hesitant to talk about his work, he said, "Given the nature of the flameout that terminated my career, I just felt like it was better for my mood to just put all this behind me and let the movies speak for themselves."