He was originally going to direct Rain Man (1988) but abruptly bailed when production was due to start due to "creative differences". Steven Spielberg stepped in but left after a few months, followed by Sydney Pollack who eventually left as well, leaving the project without a director until Barry Levinson signed on.
Brest named Chaplin's City Lights (1931) as his all-time favorite film in an AFI-sponsored poll.
Personal Quotes (11)
I think people who make movies start out with kind of lofty ideals. But it's work that conspires to put you into a cold, clinical professional mode very quickly. What I keep telling myself is that in making any movie, I've got to reflect and convey to the people I work with the reasons why I wanted to get into the business in the first place.
[after being fired from WarGames (1983)] ...suddenly everybody said there must be something wrong with me. 'The wunderkind had fallen.' I was scared. My next film could have been my last. I wanted to make sure that the next job I took would be absolutely brilliant.
I feel in a peculiar way like an astronaut when I'm making a film. I shed all my humanistic characteristics when I'm working. I don't eat a lot, don't sleep much and, other than what I'm addressing in the film, don't carry on too many conversations. I'd like to be able to do other things, to contemplate what I'll do next, after we've finished shooting for the day, but I can't.
[after his Midnight Run (1988) crew quit after 5 weeks] My job is to create an environment where people can do their best work. Therefore, it's essential you share a common attitude with your collaborators. Generally, my instincts about who I'm compatible with are pretty good. This time, I made a mistake.
I pursued film because I thought this was the coolest job. I loved the idea of working with writers and musicians and photographers and actors at the same time. It sounds corny but the opportunity to work with Robert De Niro was a dream come true for me. I truly am happiest in a working environment where I can encourage and create surprises.
[on the character of 'Brian' in Gigli (2003)] I love the idea of a character being challenged in some way. But somehow, he feels he is missing out on something that others in the real world enjoy, a vague desire for something he doesn't fully understand. That's there in Justin's [Justin Bartha] portrayal of Brian....all Brian really wants is to get to this imaginary place where life will be perfect - a kind of hallucinatory state based on what he's seen over the years on television. He refers to it as 'The Baywatch,' but it's not the TV series he's talking about. In essence, it's really about all that he lacks in his life - normality, sexuality, being attractive, having a date. But it all gets jumbled up in his head and he thinks if he could just get to that place, he would be normal and maybe even have a girlfriend.[Production Notes,2003]
[on casting Gigli (2003)] I thought of Ben for a couple of reasons. He has the physical presence to make Gigli intimidating, but he also possesses a wonderful vulnerability. He has a very outgoing nature that, simultaneously, reveals a certain amount of self-doubt. Ben understands the character's contradictions, his bullying, thug-like behavior and that layer of sensitivity. It was fascinating to watch him juggle those emotions. He kept both elements going at all times, balancing them effortlessly.[Production Notes,2003]
[on directing Gigli (2003)] There was an atmosphere on the set that encouraged us to explore the funny side of Gigli's dilemma. Not so much the joke-funny side, but the serious-funny side. There are moments when the characters are flipped out about some horrible thing that's happened to them, which turns funny when a certain insight emerges. That's the kind of observation we were always looking for.[Production Notes,2003]
[on Larry Gigli's apartment in Gigli (2003)] The character doesn't read, so there were no books. They couldn't hang things on the walls because Gigli has no art. Every day they'd make a suggestion and I'd say 'no, you can't put that in.' It's much easier to dress a set with lots of things than a set that has nothing, but they did a magnificent job. One of my favorite subtle details is a little wall between the dining room and the living room. It's in the background in practically every shot and we had discussions about putting a picture on it. We tried all kinds of prints and photographs and nothing really worked. Finally we decided it was best left empty. All that's there is a painted nail, as though there had been something hanging there at one time. To me it perfectly captured the atmosphere.[Production Notes, 2003]
[on the locations of Gigli (2003)] I've been living in Los Angeles for a long time, but because I'm one of those displaced New Yorkers who love New York, I've always set my movies there. Before I started writing "Gigli"(2003), I found myself exploring Los Angeles in a way I had never done before, gravitating towards downtown L.A., an area that people in the movie industry rarely have occasion to visit. And I became fascinated by the fact that within the city I live there's this entirely different city with its own aesthetic. (...) There's something fascinating about the slight state of disrepair it's in and the almost negligible architecture. I wanted to show a very particular personality of the city, a uniquely transient, depressing side.[Production Notes, 2003]
I first saw the original film over 20 years ago, and it intrigued me; haunted me, really. There was a suggestion in the old movie of what might be a great story, but it was a story that had yet to be discovered. We had to start from scratch because rather than do a remake I wanted to explore an element that sparked my interest.