In a new oral history on the making of the 1996 sci-fi classic 12 Monkeys, director Terry Gilliam had some interesting words to say about working with Bruce Willis, particularly the shape of his mouth. While revealing that he chose Willis after shooting down A-list stars like Tom Cruise and Nicolas Cage, who were at the top of their game during the mid-’90s, Gilliam described his one major issue with the Die Hard actor: he thinks Willis’ mouth looks like a butt.
“I had never been a great fan of Bruce’s before,” Gilliam told Inverse. “But I liked talking to him, and I thought, OK, this guy’s smart, he’s funny. 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.”
Did he truly say “rectal” to Bruce Willis’ face? Gillaim doesn’t clarify, but Willis’ mouth wasn’t the only problem Gilliam ended up having with the actor, who had developed a reputation for being difficult on set. Despite assurances that he would “leave his entourage behind” and agreeing to work on 12 Monkeys for a fraction of usual salary for a chance to “stretch” as an actor, Gilliam said that Willis began to revert back to his old ways during the 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. 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.
Despite the difficulties with Willis’ mouth and demeanor, 12 Monkeys went on to become a commercial and critical success, earning over $180 million on a $30 million budget.