Twelve Monkeys (1995) Poster


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Bruce Willis took a lower salary than his star-status would normally entitle, partly because of budget restrictions, but mostly because he wanted to work with Terry Gilliam. Actually Bruce did the movie for free. It was only after the movie was released that he was paid.
Terry Gilliam was afraid that Brad Pitt wouldn't be able to pull off the nervous, rapid speech. He sent him to a speech coach but in the end he just took away Pitt's cigarettes, and Pitt played the part exactly as Gilliam wanted.
Terry Gilliam gave Bruce Willis a list of "Willis acting clichés" not to be used during the film, including the "steely blue eyes look".
When Cole is drawing blood from himself, the shadow of a hamster in a hamster wheel can be seen on the wall. This scene would normally be shot in 5 minutes, but took a whole day because the hamster would not move, and Terry Gilliam is such a perfectionist, that he insisted that even this detail should work as intended. For the rest of the production, Gilliam's perfectionism was nicknamed "The Hamster Factor".
Although never addressed directly in the film, the script and some promotional material reveal that the future scenes take place in the year 2035.
Toward the end of the film, Cole and Railly are watching Vertigo (1958). The scene that is shown heavily influenced the film La Jetée (1962), which inspired Twelve Monkeys. There is also a version of that same scene shown in La Jetée (1962).
Terry Gilliam's first choice for the lead role was Jeff Bridges, whom he had enjoyed working with on The Fisher King (1991), but the studio wanted a bigger star, so he cast Bruce Willis. Ironically, Willis had originally auditioned for "The Fisher King", but lost out to Bridges.
Director Terry Gilliam first met Bruce Willis while casting his film The Fisher King (1991). He was impressed by the sensitivity shown by Willis in the scene from Die Hard (1988) where McClane (Willis) talks about his wife while pulling glass from his feet. Talking to Willis, Gilliam discovered that this part was ad-libbed by Willis. Gilliam remembered this, and was convinced to cast him in this film.
A tagline originally suggested for this film was: "The future is in the hands of a man who has none." This was considered to be a confusing tagline, as it made it sound as though he had no hands, as opposed to having no future.
Most of the actors took a pay cut just so they could get the chance to work with Terry Gilliam.
Brad Pitt was signed to this movie for a relatively small salary, when he was still an "up and coming" actor. By the time of the movie's release, however, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994), Legends of the Fall (1994), and Se7en (1995) had been released, making Pitt a top-salary actor.
Brad Pitt received his first Golden Globe for his performance as Jeffrey Goines.
Throughout the movie, actual monkeys appear on camera, from the "monkey and a roast beef sandwich" to zoo animals. Some people suggest 12 different monkeys appear in the film.
Artist Lebbeus Woods claimed that the interrogation chair in the movie closely resembled his 1987 illustration "Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber" and managed to get a court to stop the movie 28 days after its release. He eventually settled with Universal for a six-figure sum.
The scenes in the insane asylum were shot in Eastern State Penitentiary, a now-unused prison in Philadelphia.
Terry Gilliam was impressed by the film's screenplay because it touched on some of the themes he'd covered in his previous film Brazil (1985). He was shocked to find out that Universal was interested in making the film, partly because it was the kind of movie that he didn't think major studios would support and partly because he and Universal had clashed violently over "Brazil" a decade earlier. When he learned then-Universal chief Casey Silver was a strong backer of the new project, and that none of the figures who he'd clashed with over "Brazil" were going to block him or torpedo it, he signed up to direct.
The final cut didn't do too well in the test screenings and so those involved discussed making major changes to the movie, but Terry Gilliam eventually decided to keep it as it was. When released, it went on to make over five times its budget.
Right after Dr. Leland Goines gets off the phone with Dr. Railly, Dr. Peters can be seen handling a tray of seven vials filled with a golden liquid. Twice in the movie, a passage of The Book of the Revelation is quoted referring to seven golden vials filled with God's wrath.
The two newscasters shown in the film were actual newscasters on Philadelphia's Channel 10 news at the time of filming.
The Army of the Twelve Monkeys is inspired by a passage in L. Frank Baum's novel, "The Magic of Oz", in which the Nome King and Kiki Aru convince twelve monkeys they will have an endless supply of food if they become human soldiers for them.
The "TV Ball" prop was notoriously problematic, with either the electronics or hydraulics breaking almost every time it was used.
In the 24-hour Hitchcock Theater, Kathryn and James are watching Vertigo (1958). She transforms herself with a blonde wig and James sees her emerge within a red light. This mirrors a scene from that movie. The same Bernard Herrmann score can be heard, and Kathryn wears the same coat that Kim Novak wears in the first part of Vertigo.
When James is escaping from the asylum, he runs past a security guard who is reading a tabloid, its cover is the now famous photo of the fictional "batboy" that was supposedly found in a cave in the 1990s. The story, about a society outcast ahead of his time, was made into an off-Broadway hit musical.
When Kathryn Railly first gets a call about Cole, she is attending a poetry recital. The work being read is a quatrain from "The Rubaiyat" by Persian-born poet and astronomer Omar Khayyam. The quatrain being read is: Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare; To-morrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair: Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why: Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.
A quick clip from The Andromeda Strain (1971), featuring a monkey in the throes of death, is seen on the day-room television during a news report about the cruelty of using animal subjects in medical research.
Terry Gilliam admitted he was disappointed with Joseph Melito. He felt he wasn't the right child actor to play Young Cole, and even had a backup on standby if his scenes didn't come off like they should.
Johnny Depp was considered for the role of Jeffrey Goines.
In the asylum, when Bruce Willis is sitting at the little table talking to Jeffrey, he is writing with his left hand. Bruce is pretty strict about being a lefty with his directors, even golfing left-handed in Armageddon.
The film takes place in 1914-1918, 1990, 1996 and 2035.
Some scenes were filmed at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. By some accounts, it was the world's first penitentiary, and it was built in 1829 in an effort to begin treating prisoners more humanely. Despite official good intentions, prisoners were forced to wear hoods whenever they were outside of their cells and all forms of human interactions were forbidden. Silence was absolutely enforced throughout the facility and prisoners were kept completely isolated from the outside world and each other, so naturally many of them came in as delinquents and came out insane (if they came out at all). Unsurprisingly, there are now claims that and even in the 20th century, when the prison became overcrowded and the silence rules were dropped, prisoners couldn't wait to get out of that creepy place.
The title and logo design are inspired by the "Get off the Earth" puzzle created by Sam Loyd in 1898. It consists of 13 characters on two dials, that when twisted, one of them disappears.
Although this was inspired by Chris Marker's classic short, La Jetée (1962), director Terry Gilliam had not seen it when this was made.
Terry Gilliam had a nearly fatal horse riding accident during production. He was worried the accident might upset his creative vision.
In the movie, there is an escape attempt but it ends rather quickly. In real life, Eastern State Penitentiary saw dozens of successful escapes. The biggest one was in 1945 when a dozen inmates successfully dug a tunnel from the prison to the outside. The mastermind was bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and he was caught just two blocks away. Most of the others were recaptured and/or shot and one of them, James Grace, voluntarily surrendered himself a week later. He hadn't been able to feed himself since his escape and wanted to know if his cell was still vacant.
In the 24-hour Hitchcock Theater, Kathryn transforms herself with a blonde wig. Alfred Hitchcock had a notorious obsession with blonde actresses in his films.
The first of three movies in which Bruce Willis travels back in time to meet a younger version of himself. The next two were The Kid (2000) and Looper (2012).
The voice of a reporter on the radio says, "This is Roger Pratt reporting." Roger Pratt was the film's director of photography.
The actual slides during Kathryn Railly's speech were added in post-production. Actors and extras were asked by Terry Gilliam to look at a blank projection screen.
When Cole wakes up in the future to the doctors singing "Blueberry Hill," the painting above him is "Valley of the Yosemite", by Albert Bierstadt.
A statue named "The Kiss", by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin can be seen briefly in the movie. A picture of the same statue was used by director Terry Gilliam in an animation he made for the show Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969).
Director Terry Gilliam tried to persuade the studio to cast Nick Nolte as James Cole and Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey Goines, but was not successful as neither had any big hits since Another 48 Hrs. (1990) and The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989). Nolte and Bridges are in fact close friends, and have tried and failed to team up several times. Cutter's Way (1981) and Tequila Sunrise (1988) were both meant to star the pair. They finally worked together in Simpatico (1999).
Inspired by La Jetée (1962)
The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland was used as the setting for the lecture during which Dr. Railly is introduced. The film opens on a closeup of The Ideal City, one of the Walters' most iconic paintings and one which Terry Gilliam really liked for the film.
In the future scene where Cole is in a hospital with a picture on the ceiling, the blankets on his bed feature a scene from the children's book Fourteen Bears In Summer And Winter by Evelyn Scott written in 1963.
Features a fresnel (flat) lens, as did Brazil (1985), also directed by Terry Gilliam.
When Cole and the doctor are in the movie theater they are watching Vertigo (1958). When Cole wakes up, The Birds (1963) is playing. As Cole leaves the theater, the marquee says Hitchcock Marathon and lists all the movies, but does not include The Birds (1963).
In the 24 hour Alfred Hitchcock theater, James Cole Madeleine Stowe's character watches a scene from Vertigo (1958) which features James Stewart and a character named "Madeleine".
The montage of animals roaming loose in Philadelphia contains a shot of elephants running along the concourse of Franklin Field, the same location of several scenes from Unbreakable (2000) where Bruce Willis's character works as a security guard.
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Director Trademark 

Terry Gilliam: [bookends] begins and ends with young Cole's eyes.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

It was Terry Gilliam's intention to make the film's plot ambiguous and that there are many theories that suggest Cole is simply mad and that none of the events in the future actually happen.
There are many parallels between the future world and the present day asylum where Cole is locked:
  • The obvious is that Cole is incarcerated in both times; in the future he is trapped in an underground jail and in the present he is locked in a mental clinic.
  • In the future scenes there are 5 scientists behind a table trying to decide if Cole is the proper man for the mission. In the present day there are also 5 scientists behind a table to figure out if Cole is sane or not (essentially the scientists in the asylum are six if it takes into account Dr Kathryn Railly who is present during the interview. In the final future scenes there is a sixth scientist appearing who, according to the credits, is a mechanic).
  • Right before he time travels, Cole is decontaminated in the showers. After he is apprehended in 1990 and taken into custody he is also forced to shower. In both circumstances he is supervised by two guards, one black and one white (in the future the white guard is thin and the black guard is obese whereas in the present it is vice versa).
In 1990 Cole tries to escape from the asylum. As he is roaming in the corridors in a drugged and dizzy state of mind he accidentally enters a room where a cat scanning is conducted. The cat scanner is strongly reminiscent of the time traveling device in the future.
Director Terry Gilliam and producer Charles Roven had several arguments about how the film should end. Gilliam wanted to finish on the shot of Railly looking at young Cole while Roven preferred the scripted final scene in the parking lot outside the airport. In an attempt to dissuade Roven, Gilliam proposed an immensely complex setup involving two cranes on top of one another and a vast sea of cars in the hope that Roven would veto it as being too expensive. Roven not only okayed the shot but Gilliam so loved the result that he used it to end the film.
For the first time in his career, Terry Gilliam had "final cut" on the finished film. It was all the more surprising to him after the notorious tug of war he had with Universal over Brazil (1985). "Twelve Monkeys" has a similarly fatalistic ending, but Universal didn't interfere this time.
According to a newspaper that is vaguely visible in the final airport scene, the date during which the events of the finale take place (and therefore the date of the virus outbreak) is Friday, December 13, 1996.
The airport scene at the end of the movie, was filmed at the Philadelphia Convention Center. However, the exterior shot of Cole and Dr. Railly walking into the airport, was filmed at BWI Airport in Baltimore, Maryland.
The revolver that Cole is handed at the end is a Cavalry Model Le Mat, as used by the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
Despite the efforts to prevent Peters from releasing the virus he did so at the airport when the security agent (pre-TSA) demanded the container holding virus vial be opened. Peters opened the vial and waved it underneath the guards nose exposing the agent, himself, & everyone nearby.
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The picture that proves that James Cole was in the First World War also depicts Jose, his friend from the future who gives him the gun in the final airport scenes.
In Twelve Monkeys, Bruce Willis' character, James Cole, says, "All I see are dead people," which echoes the words said by Haley Joel Osment's character Cole Sear: "I see dead people," in The Sixth Sense (1999). Both movies are set in Philadelphia and star Bruce Willis.
David Morse also plays Bruce Willis nemesis in 16 Blocks (2006).
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Pennsylvania requires only a rear license plate, the shot of the car at the Goines party, where James Cole is underneath, has a front license plate. In 1996 they still only required the rear plate.
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