Syfy Channel greenlights 12 Monkeys TV series pilot

Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys

Count it among the best performances of both  Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, the 1995 Terry Gilliam modern sci-fi 12 Monkeys is the kind of brilliantly written, post-apocalyptic science fiction movie that would receive a best picture Oscar nod today with the Academy’s pool of 10 potential nominees.  It’s serious, dramatic science fiction, not the typical stuff of your average Syfy Channel made for TV movie.  But today the Syfy Channel announced it has ordered a pilot for a TV series based on the movie.

The movie 12 Monkeys followed an unstuck-in-time convict in the year 2035 named James Cole, played by Willis, who is repeatedly sent back into the past to uncover the source of a plague reputed to be spread by an “Army of the Twelve Monkeys”–a plague that will one day kill most of the population of Earth unless the scientists can stop the virus in its inception before it mutates.  Unfortunately the future’s time travel technology is flawed, and Cole is shot farther back in time than planned, to 1990, where he is arrested and kept in a mental institution.  Madeleine Stowe played a psychiatrist in the film and Brad Pitt a patient with Cole, making a sort of odd coupling like Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in Papillon. 

Willis and Pitt in 12 Monkeys

Even without a best picture nomination, the Academy gave 12 Monkeys a serious look.  Pitt was nominated for best supporting actor for his frenzied characterization and Julie Weiss was nominated for best costume design.

The writers for the new TV series will need to fiddle with the dates a bit, as the original story had James Cole transport back to the then-future date of 1996.

Madeleine Stowe in 12 Monkeys

Production for the Syfy series is scheduled for November 2013, with Star Trek Voyager and Enterprise production writer Terry Matalas and Terra Nova and Nikita writer Travis Fickett slated to write the script. readers will be familiar with the writing team, who created the successful IDW Publishing comic book mini-series Star Trek: The Next Generation “Hive” reviewed here earlier this year.

Casting decisions should be released in the coming months.

C.J. Bunce

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