"It's like I'm looking at somebody's a-hole," says Terry Gilliam, as the filmmaker also spilled on some tension on set.
"12 Monkeys" director Terry Gilliam turned down Tom Cruise and Nicolas Cage to headline the sci-fi film -- and had some strong reservations about casting eventual star Bruce Willis, too.
In a new interview with Inverse celebrating the film's 25th anniversary, Gilliam revealed the totally insane reason why he had hesitations about having Willis appear in the film at the height of his "Die Hard" success.
"The pressure was to get a movie star in. That was at a time when I was still a hot director, so people wanted to come near me and touch me," he recalled. "So they were coming up with all these names. And I just kept saying no. Tom Cruise, Nic Cage, they were all being thrown at me."
"I had never been a great fan of Bruce's before, but I liked talking to him, and I thought, 'OK, this guy's smart; he's funny,'" he said of Willis. "I explained to him my concerns about him as an actor. I hated the Trumpian mouth he does in films. Rectal. It's like I'm looking at somebody's asshole."
Sadly, we have no idea how Willis reacted to that feedback, but Bruce did go on to star in the film alongside Brad Pitt. Gilliam said Pitt itinitially hoped to land the part of James Cole, which went to Willis.
"We had dinner because he was keen to get on board to play the part that I had already given to Bruce," said the director. "I was actually scared shitless that Brad might not be able to do the character because up to then we'd never seen him as a motormouth."
Saying Pitt "liked pot too much" and had a "lazy tongue" at the time, Gilliam explained that the actor worked with acting coach Stephen Bridgewater to nail the role of Jeffrey Goines. "[Pitt] worked his ass off; he really did."
The director also said there was some tension on set, as Willis allegedly got a big head during production.
"Bruce was trying incredibly hard to just be an actor at work, but he had been spoiled by success for so long. So he was in many ways like a kid who was pushing the limits constantly and then coming up with stupid excuses for being late on the set," said Gilliam. "There was one point he had something that looked like a note from his mother. We let Bruce go away for a long weekend and he came back and suddenly he was Bruce Willis Superstar again."
Added editor Mick Audsley, "He became the 'Die Hard'man with his pouty mouth. Then we decided to see if we could rescue our Bruce, which we couldn't. He got re-molded back to the character."
"Ultimately it all worked out, clearly," added Charles Roven.
The movie went on to become a critical and financial success, with Pitt nabbing an Oscar nomination and winning the Golden Globe for Supporting Actor. "12 Monkeys" also spawned a TV spinoff of the same name, which aired from 2015-2018 on SyFy.