In the cult classic, the Die Hard actor played prisoner James Cole, who is selected to take part in a time travel experiment in an effort to find a cure for a deadly virus that will destroy civilisation.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the movie, Gilliam spoke with Inverse about making the revered sci-fi thriller, alongside casting director Margery Simkin, screenwriters David Peoples and Janet Peoples, and producer Charles Roven.
The Monty Python legend confessed that he wasn’t fond of Willis, pointing out that he was particularly offended by the way the actor’s mouth looked on screen.
“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,’” the 80-year-old shared. “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 a*hole.”
Gilliam said he faced pressure from studio bosses to “get a movie star in”, and said that he turned down Nicolas Cage and Tom Cruise.
“That was at a time when I was still a hot director, so people wanted to come near me and touch me. So they were coming up with all these names. And I just kept saying no,” he recalled.
Gilliam also had concerns about Brad Pitt, who was cast as troubled mental patient Jeffrey Goines after missing out on the role of leading man James.
“Brad came to London, and we had dinner because he was keen to get on board to play the part that I had already given to Bruce,” he explained. “I was actually scared s**tless that Brad might not be able to do the character because up to then we’d never seen him as a motormouth.”
Brad ended up landing a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, his first Academy Awards nod, for the role.