Universal V/IP’s 12 Monkeys Web Chat LIVE Cyber-Simulcast


Transcript of Universal V/IP’s 12 Monkeys Web Chat LIVE Cyber-Simulcast with Terry Gilliam January 4, 1996, 9:00 pm EST

Moderator: Hello and welcome to Universal V/IP’s Webchat featuring Terry Gilliam, the director of the new film “12 Monkeys.” “12 Monkeys,” which stars Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt, tells the story of a 21st century convict who time travels to the present on a mission to uncover the source of a deadly virus that has wiped out most of civilization and sent the survivors underground. This online conference marks the interactive debut for Gilliam, who was one of the founders of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and has gone on to direct such critically acclaimed films as “Time Bandits,” “Brazil,” “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” and “The Fisher King.” During the conference, each service (the Internet, The Microsoft Network’s Cinemania Forum, CompuServe’s EDRIVE) will take turns posing questions to Terry Gilliam. The answers will then be typed into each service. Let the conference begin…

Compuserve [proxy] asked: Tell us a little bit about “12 Monkeys” and why you chose an obscure French short film as the basis for your next opus.
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: Well interesting they use the word basis. Basis is the wrong word. If you look at the credits it says inspired by and this is a credit we had to fight long and hard with the Writer’s Guild of America to use. I’ve never seen the film “La Jetee.” What interested me was the script written by David and Jan Peoples which is incredibly complex, disturbing and totally unlikely to get through the studio system.

Microsoft [proxy] asked: How does the future in “12 Monkeys” compare with the future in “Brazil?” What drives your vision of the future?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: I think we can say that I was concerned that the future in “12 Monkeys” would be compared to the future in “Brazil.” But luckily “Brazil” didn’t take place in the future. It took place on the other side of now. In fact in “12 Monkeys,” there may not be a future it may be only the constructs of the demented mind of James Cole (Bruce Willis).

Jon [user] asks:: In “La Jette,” the entire film was shot with stills except for 2 or 3 seconds. When thinking about filming and the design of the shots for time displacement, what were you thinking about?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: I was thinking about how I could stretch two short movie shots in to over two hours of movie.

Compuserve [proxy] asked: Your films have such a different look than anyone else’s. Does this come from your work in animation?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: No, I think it’s from the way I view the world. I’ve always seen the world through cartoonist’s eyes and what seems me to be normal appears to other people as distorted. Pity me the victim of genetic mutation.

Microsoft [proxy] asked: How much involvement did you have with the creation of “Monty Python’s Complete Waste of Time?” Any word of a sequel…”Monty Python’s Absolute Waste of Time that’s Wasting Even More Time than the Last Waste of Time You Wasted…”
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: I’m not answering because we have wasted enough time.

Microsoft [proxy] asked: But truly… what about a sequel?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: All of Monty Python is dead now. No sequel. Well, John Cleese died years ago. We’ve been covering it up. (The room erupts in hysteria…) Graham’s death we’ve been covering up for years.

Matthew Cohen [user] asks: Michael Palin and Jonathan Pryce were AMAZING in “Brazil.” You’ve cast both of them several times each. Is there a specific reason you’ve stopped casting them, or were there just no parts for them in the “Fisher King” and “12 Monkeys?”
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answers: The Infinity ads have made Jonathan so expensive and demanding that we can’t afford him for the butch heterosexual kinds of films we make these days. And Michael is currently filming his new TV series where he travels around the edge of the Pacific ocean which I wanted him to call Michael Palin’s Pacific Rim Job.

Compuserve [proxy] asked: I heard that you had the rights to “Watchman,” are you still planning to make it?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: After Baron Munchausen, Joel Silver, the famous producer, claimed to have 40 million dollars to make “Watchman.” Sam Hamm had written a script which Charles McKeown and myself rewrote. I was unhappy trying to condense the War and Peace of comic books into 2 hours. Alan Moore was delighted that I was going to fuck up his masterpiece because he couldn’t see how to condense it either. Luckily, Joel Silver had been lying. He could only russle up 25 million which wasn’t sufficient. At the moment, Joel doesn’t have the rights anymore and I think it should be made as a TV mini-series. The problem in condensing it was that all the detail which separated those characters from cliched superheros got lost. We even had to sacrifice the comedian. I couldn’t have this on my conscience.

Microsoft [proxy] asked: When you make films, what do you want the audience to take away?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: A full stomach? I like the idea of leaving explosive shards somewhere in their brains. Things that they can’t forget that will stay with them for years. All the films I have enjoyed have done this to me. For example: “Thief of Bahgdad” left me with nightmares of being trapped in a spiderweb from which I would wake up with all the sheets and blankets swirled around me and damp. The answer is very long because there are so many films. So many films stick. “Singing in the Rain,” “Funny Face,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” These were all films that presented a wonderful romantic, innocent world. Where people fell in love and danced their way into the future. I’d forgotten how much those films had had an effect on me, and I told Stanley Donnovan that if I had seen those clips at the Sundance Institute before I had released “Fisher King,” I would have dedicated that movie to him. For a long time I thought that’s what love was about, but I grew out of it. Stanley told me his life [wife] was still being ruined by these fantasies.

Microsoft [proxy] asked: Could you give us one or 2 examples of those kinds of moments we can expect from “12 Monkeys?”
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answers: One of the great moments in “12 Monkeys” similar to this is when Bruce Willis hears Fats Domino singing “On Blueberry Hill” on the radio. The expression on his face of shear childlike joy is one of the high points for me.

Microsoft [proxy] asked: Why did you choose Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis for 12 Monkeys?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: They are both great in bed. (The room’s erupting again in laughter…) In “Die Hard” when Bruce is picking glass out of his feet and talking to his wife on the telephone and crying, was one of the best moments in the film for me. I’d met Bruce when I was casting “Fisher King” and talked with him about the scene. He explained that the crying part was his idea and I thought there was a lot more to Bruce than what was seen on the screen and I thought that if he could divest himself of his smart-ass tricks and clever attitudes he might be able to find the lonely lost but extremely dangerous style deep inside him that was James Cole. Bruce asked me whether I was worried about the “baggage” that he would bring to the film. I was impressed by his concern to make a good film and not a Bruce Willis vehicle. Also, I like the idea of altering the public’s perception of both Bruce and Brad. It was potentially dangerous and even disastrous if they had failed. But they didn’t.

Compuserve [proxy] asked: From the EDRIVE host — For those of you who have not seen the film, especially the Bruce and Brad fans out there… You MUST see it. Because Terry does in fact accomplish said disruption of those 2 images.

Jason Tolbert [user] asks: Are Bandits, Brazil and Baron linked conceptually? I’ve noticed that the first movie was about a boy in the near future… and the second about a middle-aged man in the present… the third about an old man in the past. Was this intentional?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answers: Nice try. You were right about the boy, man and old man part. But the boy is in the present, the man is in the near present and it’s all autobiographical.

Compuserve [proxy] asked: From the EDRIVE host — “Brazil” was autobiographical?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: About an ad agency with my friend who grew up to be the famous film critic Joel Siegel. My last job at the agency was doing advertisements for Universal Pictures… All of this took place 15 years before Universal finally released the film.

Compuserve [proxy] asked: How do you go about planning or visualizing your films, do you storyboard a lot?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: What kind of lot, a back lot, a sand lot? I used to completely storyboard my films, but with “Fisher King” and “12 Monkeys” I stopped doing that to see if I knew how to make films without that sort of support. The visualization of the films is a very collaborative operation. I work with good designers and although I start with very specific ideas, if a better idea comes up I go with it. But everything filters through my sensibility. In many ways, half of the ideas are other people’s, but I take credit for them. [Giggles insanely and falls off chair and suffers another famous heart attack]

Microsoft [proxy] asked: Is there a place for the fantasies of the past such as “Sabrina” and the new Jane Austen films.
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: If they’re done well there is always a place for them. Sorry, I haven’t seen either recent adaptations nor does it seem that many other people.

Compuserve [proxy] asked: On Letterman, you mentioned difficulties with people when working on “Brazil.”..Any difficulties with this project? And, do you find there is a difference between American and British actors?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: This has been the smoothest relationship I’ve had with a studio ever probably because the first time around with Universal was very difficult. So we knew each other well when we recommenced our relationship. British actors are seldom over four feet tall. That’s the main difference.

Microsoft [proxy] asked: Will Universal finally allow Criterion to re-reiease “Brazil,” now that you’ve made another film for them?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: I can’t answer that question.

Roger Paz [user] asks: In “Fisher King,” the professor escapes a hellish reality into a mythical hell. In “Brazil,” Jonathan Pryce’s character “escapes” into Brazil….What is the “there is no escape” message in “12 Monkeys” mean to you?
Terry Gilliam [moderator] answered: I’ve grown up at last. There’s no fighting fate. Can I go now?… If you like “12 Monkeys” please write Sid Sheinberg, formerly head of Universal, now head of the Bubble Factory, and thank him for giving me my big break. Good night world. Thanks for the sexy questions. Where are you all writing in from?6


More to explore

Films in depth

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
The Zero Theorem
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
The Brothers Grimm
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
12 Monkeys
The Fisher King
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Time Bandits