“Because as colorful as the material was, it had inherent problems. It covered a number of years, it moved from continent to continent. Terribly sprawling. Now, if you’re writing an epic, you can sprawl to your heart’s content, but this was no epic; rather, I thought it was a personal story of these two unusual outlaws. Eventually, I’d done all the research could bear, I hoped I had a story that would prove coherent, so I sat down and wrote the First draft in 1966. It took four weeks.”
“When someone asks how long it takes to write a screenplay, I’m never sure what to answer. Because I don’t think four weeks is what it took to do Butch. For me, eight years is closer to the truth. In any case, before you begin, you must have everything clear in your head and you must be comfortable with the story you’re trying to tell. Once you start writing, go like hell — but don’t fire till you’re ready.” —William Goldman, an excerpt from Goldman’s book Adventures in the Screen Trade
Every movie has its own “making of” story, but, no matter how fascinating the account, it’s unusual for the unexpurgated truth to emerge into the public realm. 1995’s Twelve Monkeys is a rare exception. Director Terry Gilliam, intrigued by the concept of having a record of the creative process (and wanting “witnesses” in case the studio attempted to renege on a deal and wrest away control), hand-picked film makers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe to fashion a behind-the-scenes documentary. The result, The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys, is a fascinating examination of what goes on when the cameras are turned off. And, while The Hamster Factor began as a look at the making of Twelve Monkeys, it quickly became a portrait of the creative genius behind the process: ex-Monty Python member and maverick filmmaker, Gilliam. —James Berardinelli
Former Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam is one of cinema’s premier fantasists, a creator of films notable for their stunning visual style and their iconoclastic sensibility. With Brazil, Gilliam created the ultimate film of bureaucratic hell, and then experienced his own version of the narrative when Universal tried to bury the film’s release. Ironically, the same studio later financed and released Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, which was the number-one film in the country when Gilliam spoke at the Museum. He greeted full-house audiences twice that weekend—with 12 Monkeys and Brazil—the latter on the day of the blizzard of ‘96.
Twelve Monkeys, an original screenplay by David Webb Peoples and Janet Peoples [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)