Study Guide

12 Monkeys Production Studio

Production Studio

Universal Pictures

It all begins with a guy named Bob Kosberg. Known as the king of the pitch, he calls up Universal Studios with an idea: let's turn Chris Maker's French short film La Jetée into a feature-length film. Universal says, "Why, that's a fabulous idea. Onward to art and adventure!"

Next, the studio purchases the rights to Chris Maker's film, hires David and Janet Peoples to write the script, and even gets visionary Terry Gilliam on board to direct. And they all made movies happily ever after.

Ha.

Hollywood is an industry, one that parcels out "far, far away" and sells it to the highest bidder. It doesn't live there.

See 12 Monkeys was in development at the same time Waterworld was in production. You may not remember Waterworld, but it proved to be one of the most expensive movies ever made…at the time. Nowadays, movie studios spend that kind of scratch just to pay the graphic artists to make sure a monster's mucus glistens juuuust right.

Waterworld's director and star, Kevin Costner, went $75 million over budget and used all the steel in Hawaii (no joke) to build a set that was essentially a 1,000-ton, quarter-mile island in the Pacific. (Source)

The movie proved a huge risk on Universal's part, and although it recouped its investment thanks to the international box office, the studio kept it checkbook under maximum-security surveillance until the ink was dry

As a result, 12 Monkeys was only greenlit thanks to some hard negotiating from the filmmakers. Gilliam's projected budget was about $30 million—a.k.a. pocket change Universal found in its couch cushions. Even with this budget, Gilliam had to convince Bruce Willis to take a pay cut. But Willis wanted to work with Gilliam so badly that the star ultimately forewent getting paid until after the movie was released. Lucky for them, the film went on to be a modest hit, raking in about six times its budget between the domestic and international box offices. (Source)

Turns out, there was a bright side to all this bean-counting. During the negotiations, Gilliam fought for and won the right to have final edit of the film. This is hugely important given the relationship between Gilliam and Universal at that time. (Source)

During their previous collaboration on Brazil, Gilliam made the movie he envisioned, but Universal claimed the ending tested poorly with audiences, and they decided recut the film for the U.S. market, adding a happier ending. Things got so heated that Gilliam took out a full-page ad in Variety to argue for his version of the film and even held pirate screenings of his cut. By nabbing the right for final edit, Gilliam avoided a similar fate for 12 Monkeys, and the film was released as he intended. (Source)

And we say, three cheers for all that noise. In this era of home movies and family trivia nights, there's nothing worse than having to keep track of the theatrical, director, studio, fan, and YouTube mashup cuts of a film. One definitive version is fine with us, and with 12 Monkeys, that's exactly what we got.