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In a December 2019 interview in the New York Times, Brad Pitt says this about "12 Monkeys":

I nailed the first half of “12 Monkeys.” I got the second half all wrong. That performance bothered me because there was a trap in the writing. It’s not the writing’s fault, but it was something that I couldn’t figure out. I knew in the second half of the film I was playing the gimmick of what was real in the first half — until the last scene — and it bugged the [expletive] out of me.

The interview doesn't elaborate further. I can't quite figure out what Pitt is referring to, though; what he means by "trap" or "playing the gimmick". My best guess is that he is talking about Cole's incorrect memory of Jeffrey Goines being at the airport instead of Dr. Peters. But that scene has Brad Pitt in such a short amount of screen time it feels strange that Pitt would be unhappy about his performance there.

Or possibly he is talking about the scene where Jeffrey tells Cole that Cole gave him the idea of releasing a virus and he has no relation with the Army of the 12 Monkeys, when in reality he has nothing to do with the virus and is the founder of the Army? If so, I'm not seeing what Pitt doesn't like about his performance there either.

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    Rarely does the scene order of a movie correlate to the shooting order of the scenes, so I am confused by his statement as well.
    – Yorik
    Jun 22, 2021 at 13:56
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    @Yorik Actually it didn't have to be shoot in order for that to happen since - as he said - he knew the order from the script. Jun 23, 2021 at 13:15

1 Answer 1

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The quote says that he was unhappy with how he played his character in the second half of the movie.

I knew in the second half of the film I was playing the gimmick of what was real in the first half — until the last scene

The "gimmick" of 12 Monkeys is that Pitt's character is a red herring.

Initially Pitt's character is presented as insane. We then learn that he was the leader of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. It is also assumed that the 12 Monkeys released the virus.

The plot turns midway when Railly gives a lecture on the Cassandra complex: it is the doomsayers are sane, and the rest of us are crazy to go along with the gradual destruction of the environment.

Therefore in the second half, Pitt's character can be seen as either a villain or saviour, depending on your point of view.

In the very last scene, we learn that his involvement was minimal - at the level of simply protest or performance art. The audience has been led into a "trap".

Pitt has given no elaboration on his statement, but I guess that he thinks he played the second half with too much gravitas?

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