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Apes Production Information Guide: Production Information
The following was taken from the shooting May, 1967, shooting script of Planet
of the Apes, by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling.
"Planet Of the Apes" hurtles the viewer into a strange simian
civilization where man is regarded as a brute to be controlled and contained
lest he grow in numbers and strength and ultimately destroy the ape culture and
society. The novel is certainly among the most hypnotically harrowing tales ever
transferred to celluloid, and nobody is more surprised that it has finally
become a major motion picture than the man who wrote it, Pierre Boulle.
Cinematic history is studded with a handful of landmark films which measure
the screen's progress as a medium of entertainment and communication and a major
art form. High on this roster of celluloid classics is "The Bridge Over the
River Kwai," for which Boulle wrote the Academy award-winning screenplay
based upon his own novel. Boulle is a Frenchman, a former guerrilla fighter in
Indo-China. Today he lives and writes in Paris. "Planet of the Apes"
was purchased for the screen by producer Arthur P. Jacobs from the original
French-language galley proofs prior to the novel's publication. The screenplay
is the work of Rod Serling and Michael Wilson.
Boulle's surprise that his novel has been successfully transmuted into
celluloid is understandable on several counts.
In the first place, it calls for all its leading characters but one to appear
as apes -- orangutans, chimpanzees or gorillas -- throughout the entire
unfolding of its story. Moreover, the makeup must be entirely believable:
despite their elaborate disguise the actor's faces must be able to convey even
the subtlest emotional reaction. The audience must accept the ape characters as
intelligent beings, capable of thought, speech, even scientific and artistic
achievement. This is no masquerade party. It is very much for real.
Secondly, Boulle did not write "La Planete des Singes" with the
screen mind. Although well able to stand on its on as an adventure film with
much action, intrigue and suspense, the story is an allegory or our times with
some of the flavor of Jonathan Swift and a dash of Jules Verne. It was Boulle's
hope that readers could recognize the human species reflected in the behavior of
the apes' society, and he dissects with subtle irony the stupidity of some
established authority and vanity of human ambition.
But producer Arthur P. Jacobs saw in Boulle's piece such cinematic
possibilities that he communicated his enthusiasm some three years ago to
Charlton Heston and famed suspense author Rod Serling, whose flair for the
fantastic was a hallmark of his long-running television series, "Twilight
Zone." Serling developed a preliminary screenplay and Heston, who had never
made a screen test in his life, agreed to put several test scenes on film to
determine if the idea was practicable from a cinematic viewpoint. When Richard
Zanuck, vice-president in charge of production for 20th Century-Fox, saw the
tests, his enthusiasm matched Jacobs' and Heston's and a deal was set for
Jacobs' APJAC Productions to film the project for 20th Century-Fox release. With
Serling by that time occupied elsewhere, Michael Wilson was signed to write the
shooting script and Franklin Shaffner to direct.
It is not likely that anyone who sees "Planet of the Apes" will
ever forget the experience, and it will certainly not be forgotten by the actors
who played its principal roles. Charlton Heston portrays the leader of an
American astronaut team catapulted through time and space into captivity in the
simian city. Except for Linda Harrison, a relative newcomer to films who
achieves added thespian stature as Nova, a sub-human girl, Heston is the only
principal performer to work without the elaborate simian facial appliances.
The massive makeup problems invoked the collaboration of chemists as well as
makeup design artists, sculptors and wigmakers. Initial substances employed to
change human features into the likeness of simians stiffened on the actor's
faces so that their features were neither mobile or expressive. Furthermore, the
actors could not chew, and there was the prospect that they might have to
subsist for weeks on a liquid diet. Experimentation with new rubber compounds,
tempered with other chemicals and substances, resulted in the development of
materials which permitted full facial mobility to the actors and allowed their
skin to breathe inside the heavy outer layer of ape makeup.
But in Hollywood, as probably nowhere else, time is of the essence, and at
first this makeup required six to seven hours to apply and three hours to
remove. Obviously, no actor can be asked to show up for work at two in the
morning and work through until ten at night -- nobody could survive such a
schedule for five days a week for several months. Hence, new techniques had to
be invented to speed up application and removal of the disguises. Ultimately, a
small army of specialists was trained to apply the makeup in three to four hours
and to remove it in one to two hours.
For large scale scenes involving as many as 200 or more apes, so many makeup
men and women were employed that production of other films and television shows
in Hollywood was paralyzed by the unavailability of qualified members of the
Scenically, producer Jacobs had to come up with the physical trappings of an
ape culture -- simian architecture, wardrobe design, utensils and so forth.
Since the apes are civilized they wear clothes. Indeed, theirs is a most
conservative society, and their garb reflects this in imaginative designs by
Morton Haack which cover the entire body except for the head and hands. The
simplicity of these designs is such that they are already having an influence
upon commercial clothing -- an impact soon to be reflected in the cover-up look
of 1968 and 1969.
The ape's city and its environs were constructed on the 20th Century-Fox
ranch n San Fernando Valley. Exterior sequences depicting the astronauts' trek
across the unidentified planet were filmed in the magnificent wilderness around
Lake Powell on the Colorado River in Utah and Arizona. Camera craws penetrated
areas seldom if ever trod by man, deep in the badlands interior, carrying camera
and sound equipment by foot or mule pack team. Opening shots of the film
graphically depict the space vehicle's splashdown upon the unfriendly planet,
and the surviving astronauts' escape from the sinking craft which had been their
home in space for 18 calendar months -- but some 2,000 years in terms of the
mathematics of time and space. This footage was lensed at a point on the
Colorado River known as Crossing of the Fathers.