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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 craft.

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.