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Martin Brest

Martin Brest

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: August 8, 1951 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Bronx, New York, USA Profession: director, screenwriter, producer, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

After enjoying one of the more impressive career ascensions of the 1980s and 1990s, writer-producer-director Martin Brest crashed in spectacular fashion with a film almost universally derided as the worst of the year, if not the decade. Having established his pedigree with film projects at New York University's School of the Arts and Los Angeles' American Film Institute Conservatory, Brest earned his stripes as the director of the modest comedy-drama "Going In Style" (1979). He found unexpected studio success with the Eddie Murphy blockbuster "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984), a project he had nearly turned down. The Robert De Niro-Charles Gordon action-comedy "Midnight Run" (1988) kept the winning streak going, while the critically-acclaimed "Scent of a Woman" (1992) proved the director just as capable of delivering affecting drama as gunfights and belly laughs. The first chink in Brest's armor came with the Brad Pitt vehicle "Meet Joe Black" (1998), a beautifully filmed, yet ponderous drama that failed to connect with its anticipated audience. If "Scent" and "Joe Black" represented the crest, then the Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez romantic-drama "Gigli" (2003) epitomized the crash. A critical and commercial...

After enjoying one of the more impressive career ascensions of the 1980s and 1990s, writer-producer-director Martin Brest crashed in spectacular fashion with a film almost universally derided as the worst of the year, if not the decade. Having established his pedigree with film projects at New York University's School of the Arts and Los Angeles' American Film Institute Conservatory, Brest earned his stripes as the director of the modest comedy-drama "Going In Style" (1979). He found unexpected studio success with the Eddie Murphy blockbuster "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984), a project he had nearly turned down. The Robert De Niro-Charles Gordon action-comedy "Midnight Run" (1988) kept the winning streak going, while the critically-acclaimed "Scent of a Woman" (1992) proved the director just as capable of delivering affecting drama as gunfights and belly laughs. The first chink in Brest's armor came with the Brad Pitt vehicle "Meet Joe Black" (1998), a beautifully filmed, yet ponderous drama that failed to connect with its anticipated audience. If "Scent" and "Joe Black" represented the crest, then the Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez romantic-drama "Gigli" (2003) epitomized the crash. A critical and commercial disaster of career-destroying proportions, "Gigli" loomed like an epitaph over a body of work that boasted some of the most successful films of the decade, made all the more ominous by Brest's cinematic inactivity in the years that followed.

Martin Brest was born into a Jewish family on Aug. 8, 1951 in the borough of the Bronx, NY. Upon graduating from Stuyvesant High School in 1969, he enrolled in New York University's School of the Arts. It was there that he wrote and directed the short film "Hot Dogs for Gauguin" (1972), a dark comedy notable for the fact that the 21-year-old film student engaged the services of future comedy stars Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman. NYU degree in hand, Brest soon made the move to the West Coast, where he enrolled in the Directing MFA program at the prestigious American Film Institute Conservatory. Once again utilizing his powers of persuasion, Brest enlisted an eclectic cast that included Ray Sharkey, Hervé Villechaize, Oingo Boingo front man Danny Elfman, and even the voice of Orson Welles, for his feature film debut "Hot Tomorrows" (1977), a comedy-drama that he wrote, produced and directed. Although the film was seen only briefly on the festival circuit, its reception and Brest's growing reputation won the 28-year-old the chance to direct his first studio feature film. Serving as screenwriter and director, Brest delivered "Going in Style" (1979), another comedy-drama about three aging retirees (George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg) who embark on one last grand adventure with a scheme to rob a local bank.

By all accounts a young Hollywood up-and-comer, Brest amused himself with a small acting role in the definitive teen sex-comedy "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982), prior to taking on his next and, at the time, biggest directorial project. That film was "War Games" (1983), an exceptionally prescient techno-thriller starring Matthew Broderick as a teenage hacker who unwittingly nearly instigates World War III. The film, however, would not belong to Brest, whose heated on-set argument with the movie's producers led to his being fired and replaced by director John Badham. Reportedly, a few early scenes initially shot by Brest were left intact in the final cut of "War Games," which went on to become one of the most successful films of 1983. Brest's rebound effort came about as a combination of indifference and luck. Turned down by several other directors - including Martin Scorsese and David Cronenberg - legend had it that Brest agreed to direct "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984) only after flipping a coin. Based on an oft-revised script, completely rewritten for its star, actor-comedian Eddie Murphy, Brest later described the production of the film as being incredibly chaotic and marveled at the effectiveness of the finished product. "Beverly Hills Cop" became one of the biggest box-office sensations of the decade, placed Murphy at the top of the Hollywood heap and turned Brest - unemployed just months prior - into one of the hottest young movie directors in the business.

Flush with success, Brest took on another brief acting cameo in the Dan Aykroyd-Chevy Chase action-comedy "Spies Like Us" (1985) as he contemplated his next cinematic endeavor. After a minor flirtation with the idea of helming "Rain Man" (1988), he settled on a buddy action-comedy starring Robert De Niro titled "Midnight Run" (1988). Early on, the movie studio had urged the director to cast actor Robin Williams in the role opposite De Niro's bounty hunter character. Brest, who was also making his debut as a producer, insisted on the lower-key Charles Grodin, and after Paramount Pictures stepped out and Universal stepped in, Brest got what he wanted. The gamble paid off when "Midnight Run" became one of the better-reviewed genre movies of the year, enjoyed modest box-office success, and remained a fan favorite years after its release. Brest diversified his portfolio by stepping away from action-comedies and embracing his contemplative side with "Scent of a Woman" (1992). Starring Al Pacino as an irascible, blind retired soldier and Chris O'Donnell as the prep school student assigned to watch over him, the feel-good drama garnered several Academy Award nominations, including Best Director and won Pacino the Best Actor Oscar. It was beginning to appear as if Brest could do no wrong.

The year that followed saw Brest serving solely in the role of producer for the adolescent road trip movie "Josh and S.A.M." (1993), which would precede a five-year period of relative inactivity. When he did return, it was to produce and direct "Meet Joe Black" (1998), a fantasy-drama starring Brad Pitt as the ethereally handsome personification of Death and Anthony Perkins as the millionaire who acts as the Grim Reaper's guide on Earth in return for a few more days of life. Despite the film's high-wattage star power and Brest's stellar track record, "Joe Black" met with decidedly mixed reviews and general apathy at the box office. Possibly contributing to its lukewarm reception was the film's daunting 178-minute running time, which prompted the studio to make drastic cuts to the film for network television distribution. Unhappy with the result, Brest officially had his credit removed from that version of the movie. Although "Joe Black" may have been Brest's first real theatrical disappointment, it would it be his worst.

Written, produced and directed by Brest, "Gigli" (2003) was a romantic crime-drama that hoped to benefit from the onscreen pairing of celebrity super-couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, a.k.a. "Bennifer." The result, however, proved to be indisputably disastrous. Odd and uneven, it was savagely panned by critics, many of whom dubbed it the worst film of the year. Some went so far as to call it the worst film ever made. "Gigli" became a certified bomb when it disappeared from theaters within weeks of its release and later won the "Razzie Award Grand Slam" of Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Actress, Worst Director and Worst Screenplay. Whether self-imposed exile or a case of modern-day blacklisting, Brest virtually dropped off the Hollywood map in the years that followed the "Gigli" debacle. Nearly a decade later, he had yet to write, produce or direct another feature film.

By Bryce Coleman

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Gigli (2003) Director
2.
  Meet Joe Black (1998) Director
3.
  Scent Of A Woman (1992) Director
4.
  Midnight Run (1988) Director
5.
  Beverly Hills Cop (1984) Director
6.
  Going in Style (1979) Director
7.
  Hot Tomorrows (1977) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Spies Like Us (1985) Drive-In Security
2.
 Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) Dr Miller
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1977:
Wrote, directed, produced and edited first feature, "Hot Tomorrows"; shown at 1977 New York Film Festival; originated as AFI student project
1979:
Directed and wrote first Hollywood feature, "Going in Style" starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg
:
Formed City Light Films; served as president
1984:
Helmed the popular Eddie Murphy vehicle "Beverly Hills Cop"
1988:
First producing credit, "Midnight Run"; also directed
1992:
Earned Oscar nominations as producer and director of the Americanized remake, "Scent of a Woman"
1993:
First feature as producer only, "Josh and S.A.M."
1998:
Returned to the director's chair with "Meet Joe Black", a loose remake of Mitchell Leisen's 1934 film "Death Takes a Holiday"; also produced
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

AFI Conservatory: Los Angeles , California -
AFI Conservatory: - 1973
New York University: New York , New York -
Stuyvesant High School: New York , New York - 1969
Center For Advanced Film Studies, American Film Institute: - 1973 - 1975

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Lisa Weinstein. Producer.

Family close complete family listing

son:
Isaac Brest.

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