10 Things You Might Not Know About PLANET OF THE APES (1968) - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

Geek Dave gets his stinking paws on 10 things you might not know about the original 1968 Planet of the Apes.


1. The original 1968 movie Planet of the Apes is based on the 1963 satirical novel 'La Plan├Ęte des singes' by Pierre Boulle. The screen rights were obtained by producer Arthur Jacobs who hired The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling to write the screenplay. Serling introduced cold war and nuclear war themes, and came up with the concept of the famous final Statue of Liberty scene.

However, Boulle didn't like the new proposed ending, in his novel the Taylor character (called Ulysse) leaves the planet with Nova and their child, flies back to Earth and discovers it being ruled by apes (an ending which many complained about when Tim Burton incorporated it into his 2001 version). Boulle had been given certain reassurances of script approval, but when the movie was pitched to Charlton Heston, he loved Serling's new ending. And that sealed it.
2. Having a big name like Charlton Heston on board would surely mean Hollywood movie studios would be all over Planet of the Apes, right? Well, notsomuch. The movie was repeatedly pitched to all the major studios, but no-one was interested in making it. Finally, in March 1966, the then head of 20th Century Fox, Richard Zanuck, agreed to finance a make-up test to see if talking apes could be taken seriously, which seemed to be the main concern for many of the studios. The test was filmed with Heston (whose charater was named Thomas at this time, not Taylor), Edward G. Robinson as Dr. Zaius, James Brolin as Cornelius and Linda Harrison as Zira. You, Zira...



The former Miss Maryland, Linda Harrison was romatically linked to Zanuck at the time, and it was he who bought her in for the make-up test. However she had to later audition for director Franklin J Schaffner to get the part of Nova. Though the make-up test was considered successful, 20th Century Fox didn't initially green light the project, until the movie Fantastic Voyage was released and became a huge success. Jacobs petitioned real hard, with the argument that science fiction was the big thing right now and they needed to move on this project quickly. And they did.

3. However, Serling's script was quickly deemed too expensive to film, so Michael Wilson (It's a Wonderful Life, The Bridge on the River Kwai) was brought in to perform a rewrite. If you watch the make-up test above you'll see that it depicts/hints at a more modern ape civilization, which was the cause of the inflated budget. Wilson's finished screenplay would eventually represent a more rudimentary ape society.

The new screenwriter Michael Wilson had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era and so during that time he wrote scripts under the pen name of John Michael. Fifteen years earlier he'd provided the screenplay for another Pierre Boulle novel to film adaptation; The Bridge on the River Kwai. That movie was nominated for and won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Boulle received the award because of Wilson's then-blacklisting. It wasn't until after Wilson's death that he was posthumously awarded the Oscar in 1984.


4. One thing that wasn't in any of the scripts, but rather came from the star himself, was the idea for the crew to have beards. Charlton Heston surmised that hair would continue to grow while a person was in suspended animation. And who's to say he's not wrong?

5. As seen in the film, none of Taylor's fellow astronauts survived the movie. In real life Jeff Burton (Dodge) was a Los Angeles probation officer who'd acted in several television shows. Robert Gunner (Landon) only appeared in a handful of films and television shows, and Planet of the Apes proved to be his last film. The third astronaut, Stewart, was written as a male character but was actually portrayed on screen by Dianne Stanley, an elderly woman made up to look dead.


6. When Planet of the Apes was released in 1968, many reviewers lauded the parables and philosophical undertones within the movie, but for the public it was the amazing ape prosthetics that really helped to make the film so popular. But those prosthetics didn't come cheap!

Planet of the Apes still holds the world record for the highest percentage of budget spent on make-up for any motion picture. 17% of the total budget went into the ape prosthetics, which in 1967 (at the time of production) cost £345,542. In 2021 that's just short of £3 million. Money well spent, methinks.

7. Just as Charlton Heston had come-up with the idea of the beards on the astronauts, another cast member added an important final aspect of the finished movie for the apes. The great Roddy McDowall, who played Cornelius here, Caesar in the sequels and Galen in the eventual spin-off television series, recommended to his fellow ape actors that they should frequently add tics, blinks and assorted facial gestures to add a sense of realism and keep the makeup from appearing "mask-like".



McDowall reportedly loved being in character so much during the early part of the shoot that he would leave the ape make-up on and drive home, starring out his car window to shock the other drivers on the freeway.

8. Not everyone was so keen on the expensive facial prosthetic though. Kim Hunter (Zira) reportedly found it so claustrophobic that she resorted to taken a Valium each morning before the make-up was applied.


9. Hunter's claustrophobia was hardly surprising as all of the Ape actors and extras were required to wear their masks during breaks and in between shots because it took so much time to make them up. Because of this, meals were liquefied and drunk through straws.

Something quite strange began to happen during those breaks - the actors made up as different ape species tended to hang out together, gorillas with gorillas, orangutans with orangutans, chimps with chimps. It wasn't required, the cast just slowly segregated themselves.

10. Taking $26million on initial release in the US alone (over $33 million with US re-release, adjusted for inflation equaling $258 million in 2021) and spawning one hell of a legacy - 4 sequels, a TV show, an animated series, comic books and 2 remakes - it was that final scene which left such a lasting impression on audiences, sealing a thirst for a return to the Ape world (which came in 1970 with Beneath the Planet of the Apes).

The remains of the Statue of Liberty were shot in a secluded cove on the far eastern end of Westward Beach, between Zuma Beach and Point Dume in Malibu. As noted in the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes, the special effect shot of the half-buried statue was achieved by seamlessly blending a matte painting with existing cliffs.  
However, if you're feeling a little cheated that the filmmakers didn't actually bury the real Statue of Liberty (!) then take comfort that an actual prop was indeed built, albeit a smaller plywood/styrofoam/papier-mache one, and was utilised for the shot looking down at Taylor through the crown of Lady Liberty.

For filming, the prop was hoisted on top of scaffolding erected at the same Malibu beach, which you can see being installed in the image below...
Over the years, the maniacs didn't actually blow it up but the prop did need some serious restoring. Eventually, in 2007, returned to it's original glory, the Planet of the Apes Statue of Liberty head went to auction with a guide price of approx $40,000...
Imagine the fun you could have with that half-buried in a sandpit out in the garden?

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