Study Guide

12 Monkeys Screenwriter

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David and Janet Peoples

A cursory scroll through the writing credits of David and Janet can attest to the fact that they know their way around a screenplay. David wrote the screenplays for Hero, Blade Runner, Unforgiven, and Soldier. (Source)

Yes, one of these things is not like the other; Soldier is an objectively painful movie to watch, but that's because of direction. We'll go to the mat that the film's script is solid.

Janet has assisted her husband in writing several episodes for the 12 Monkeys TV series as well as Mandrake the Magician.

12 Monkeys fits well within their wheelhouse. Like Blade Runner, it is an adaptation of another story—Blade Runner being adapted from Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, while 12 Monkeys is based on La Jetée, a short film directed by Chris Maker. In both scripts, the Peoples kept some elements from the original while adding significant characters, themes, and plot points.

12 Monkeys keeps, for example, the time-traveling love story from La Jetée, as well as the tragic ending where the protagonist's dream turns out to be a memory of his actual death. But the virus, the character of Jeffery Goines, the theme of madness, and the subplot of animal rights are all original entries in the Peoples' script.

Like Unforgiven, the Peoples toy with genre standards in 12 Monkeys, resulting in a story that is unconventional by any standard of convention. Science isn't the hero in their script; if anything, it's the villain. The protagonist isn't a hero either. He isn't an anti-hero like in Unforgiven, but his relationship to the cause of stopping the virus isn't the selfless act of, say, a Jedi.

And like all of their scripts, 12 Monkeys deserves to be better recognized in our cultural consciousness than it is. Well, except for Soldier. Honestly, you can skip that one.

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