Ben Affleck is sharing some reflections on his iconic box office flop, Gigli, and how it led him to ultimately start directing films. The actor graces the cover of the new issue of Entertainment Weekly and was subjected to a hard-hitting interview with his best friend Matt Damon.
Affleck explained that he signed on to Gigli, which cost an estimated $75 million and made $7 million, because he loved and respected director Martin Brest’s previous work. “There was wonderful stuff in there,” he said of the movie, which costarred his then- and now-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez.
“There are things where my daughter will be like, ‘This is ableist and disgusting,’ and okay. The way we see stuff has changed a little bit, or a lot in some cases. And there are things that seemed they could work at the time and don’t in retrospect,” he said. Though Affleck and Damon touch on the film’s treatment of the developmentally disabled character played by Justin Bartha, they did not address the fact that Gigli was the second movie in his career in which a lesbian fell in love with him. (The first being Chasing Amy.)
But Affleck said the biggest lesson of Gigli was realizing how real life—namely his blockbuster relationship with J. Lo—would affect how people saw what happened on screen. “But for being a movie that’s such a famous bomb and a disaster, very few people actually saw the movie,” he said, noting that he’d been in “five movies—at least!” that lost more money than Gigli. Affleck also said the studio demanded reshoots to make the movie seem more like a romantic comedy because of interest in the couples’ relationship, which didn’t help.
Affleck explained the biggest benefit of doing the film was watching Brest work. “Interestingly, I learned more about directing on that movie than anything else because Marty is a brilliant director, really gifted,” he said.
He explained, “I thought my job was to be a cipher. I can see now how people looked at me and thought of this person as some callow frat guy who’s cavalier, or has too much. It engendered a lot of negative feelings in people about me. There’s that aspect of people that I got to see that was sad and hard, it was depressing and really made me question things and feel disappointed and have a lot of self-doubt.”
“But if the reaction to Gigli hadn’t happened, I probably wouldn’t have ultimately decided, ‘I don’t really have any other avenue but to direct movies,’ which has turned out to be the real love of my professional life,” Affleck said. “So in those ways, it’s a gift. And I did get to meet Jennifer, the relationship with whom has been really meaningful to me in my life.”
Affleck starred in 2021’s The Last Duel, which was also a box office flop, despite warm critical reception. He was just nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for his role in The Tender Bar, directed by George Clooney.