Study Guide

12 Monkeys Director

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Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam began his behind-the-camera career co-directing Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Need we go on?

If he'd had stopped right there, he'd have lived on in the hearts of cinema, comedy, and opening credit fans everywhere. But that was only the beginning for Gilliam. (Okay, technically his short film "Storytime" was the beginning, but you get what we're saying.)

Gilliam went on to solo direct Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, more Python, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and The Fisher King. All of these films have in common that signature Gilliam style. They have tremendously intricate, handcrafted sets for the actors to work on, and the camera work rocks a style all its own. Brazil, arguably Gilliam's best, "garnered Oscar nominations for Best Screenplay and Art Direction and earned Gilliam Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association" (source).

After Brazil and The Fisher King, Gilliam accepted the director's seat for 12 Monkeys. In many ways, he was able to fit the film comfortably in his wheelhouse. Gilliam and his crew crafted intricate sets using many of the abandoned areas of Philadelphia and Baltimore. And the story revolved around concepts such as science and subjective reality, themes Gilliam had used before and would return to in later films too, such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Zero Theorem.

12 Monkeys is also a departure for the director in some ways. For starters, Gilliam likes to direct from screenplays he wrote, but David and Janet Peoples took over writing duties for this film (not that he or anyone is complaining). He also fought desperately hard for the rights to have final edit of the film, something he didn't secure for Brazil, which led to studio tampering after focus groups came back with a negative review of that film's ending.

Ever outside the Hollywood system and always willing to go his own way, Gilliam creates films that are appreciated by his fans and lovers of unique movies. Still, they have never really entered the mainstream. 12 Monkeys is his highest-grossing film to date, enjoying a worldwide box office of $168 million. (Source)

But Gilliam's true value isn't seen in money but in the filmmakers he's inspired, such as Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame. Speaking of which, we wonder if he ever got his mother back.

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