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SYFY WIRE 12 Monkeys

One of the wild animals used for the climax of '12 Monkeys’ caused a teenager to pee their pants

The human body has three responses when posed with mortal danger: fight, flight, and pee your pants.

By Josh Weiss
A bear in 12 Monkeys (1995)

The human body has three responses when posed with mortal danger: fight, flight, and pee your pants.

You'd probably soak your trousers too if you came face-to-fang with a fully-grown Siberian tiger named Sasha. That's exactly what happened when a pair of wayward teenagers made the unfortunate mistake of breaking into a trailer housing the big cat used for the zoological climax of 12 Monkeys (now streaming on Peacock).

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For an extensive oral history celebrating the film's 25th anniversary in 2021, Inverse spoke to the film's location manager, Scott Elias, who recounted the following story:

"Sasha the Siberian tiger was a particular favorite because we housed her at the armory where our office was located. It had huge walls everywhere. And don't you know, a couple of teenage gang members decided that that was a good night to climb over the walls with ladders. So they crept up to this fancy-looking trailer that housed Sasha and they broke into it. And they were stealing a radio out of the cab of the truck, and the window was open between the cab of the truck and the trailer. I get a call from the security people, saying, 'You need to come down to the armory, there's been a break-in.' So I just throw on some clothes and run down there as fast as I can to find these two 15/16-year-old kids literally weeping, one having wet himself — no kidding. What I discovered was, as they were breaking into the cab and they were stealing this radio, Sasha's paw comes through and she growls at them, and it scared them out of their wits."

Based on Chris Marker's 1962 French film La Jetée and directed by Monty Python alumnus Terry Gilliam, 12 Monkeys stars Bruce Willis as James Cole, a convict sent back in time to gather intelligence on a mysterious pathogen that wiped out most of humanity (and drove the survivors underground) decades before. He's not meant to stop the disease from spreading, but discover its origin and collect a sample of its pre-mutated form, which would allow for a vaccine to be developed.

For most of the runtime, Cole suspects the virus was released into the world by a revolutionary group calling itself "The Army of the 12 Monkeys" (led by Brad Pitt's fast-talking Jeffrey Goines, a role for which Pitt was nominated for an Oscar).

In the end, however, we learn that this so-called Army was only responsible for breaking into a zoo and releasing the animals — like Sasha — into the streets of Philadelphia. The true culprit behind the deadly pandemic is Dr. Peters (David Morse), an eccentric, apocalypse-obsessed lab assistant working for Jeffrey's virologist father (Christopher Plummer).

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"It did come to us that people hadn't been doing a lot of stuff with the threat of germs — man-made germs or germs from nature. We had an image of a city with no people and just animals roaming around, totally out of place," co-writer David Peoples explained to Inverse. "Chris [Marker] hadn't said it was OK to make a movie out of his movie. He hated all Hollywood movies except Vertigo."

Marker ended up giving the project his blessing over a spot of lunch with Francis Ford Coppola, whom he knew and trusted. "We all met at a Chinese restaurant — writers and a couple of directors; no producers, no suits — and Chris Marker at one end of the table and Francis at the other," recalled co-writer Janet Peoples. "Francis looks up and says, 'Chris!?' and Chris says, 'Yes, Francis?' and Francis says, 'Jan and Dave want to make this movie. They're good people; I think you oughta let them do it.' And Chris says, 'Oh, OK, Francis.'"

12 Monkeys is now streaming on Peacock.