12 Essential Facts About Planet of the Apes

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

The late ‘60s were a turning point for sci-fi cinema. Though the occasional triumph like 1956’s Forbidden Planet would slip through the cracks, the genre was mostly a dumping ground for low-budget schlock fests throughout the ‘50s and early ‘60s. That started to change with the release of 1968's Planet of the Apes. The movie, starring Charlton Heston and directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, proved that science fiction was something that could be thought-provoking, transcendent, and (most importantly) massively profitable.

Along with 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes changed the perception of what sci-fi was capable of and opened the door for everything from Star Wars (1977) to Blade Runner (1982) in the decades since. As a new segment in the Planet of the Apes saga, Matt Reeves's War for the Planet of the Apes, prepares to hit theaters in July, here are some fascinating facts about the movie that started it all.

1. MOST STUDIOS, AND THE BOOK’S AUTHOR, THOUGHT IT WOULD MAKE A TERRIBLE MOVIE.

Apes, especially talking ones, were the stuff of B-movies back in the 1960s, so nobody took them seriously. That’s exactly the mantra producer Arthur P. Jacobs ran into when he was shopping Planet of the Apes around Hollywood. Jacobs’s pitch was soundly rejected everywhere he went; even Pierre Boulle—author of the source material, La Planète des Singes—agreed. In the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes, it’s revealed that Boulle considered the book one of his lesser works and never imagined that it would ever make it into theaters.

2. A MAKEUP TEST HELPED CONVINCE 20TH CENTURY FOX TO PRODUCE THE MOVIE.

Jacobs’s Planet of the Apes pitch did manage to catch the attention of one executive: former vice president of 20th Century Fox Richard Zanuck. But Zanuck had one reservation: What if people laughed at the makeup? Up until that point, onscreen apes had either been real monkeys or people in flimsy costumes—and if the makeup didn’t hit the mark, the movie wouldn't work.

To convince Zanuck, Jacobs shot a makeup test, complete with star Charlton Heston as George Taylor and Edward G. Robinson (who later dropped out of the film) as Dr. Zaius in full ape getup. A young James Brolin and Linda Harrison (who would be cast in the full movie as Nova) played the two chimps—Cornelius and Zira. Though it cost a mere $5000 to shoot, the test impressed Zanuck enough to quell fears over the ape makeup, and he agreed to give Jacobs and director Frank Schaffner $5 million to get Planet of the Apes off the ground.

3. THE MAN BEHIND THE APE MAKEUP ALSO HELPED DESIGN SPOCK’S EARS.

The man hired to design the increasingly vital ape makeup for the movie was John Chambers, who had made a name for himself by this time as one of the premier creature effects artists in Hollywood. He had experience working on sci-fi and fantasy shows like The Munsters, The Outer Limits, and Lost in Space. But his biggest contribution to the genre was his makeup design for Spock’s pointy ears on the original Star Trek TV series.

Chambers’s background was unique in Hollywood at the time: In his younger days, he worked at a veterans' hospital after World War II, where he helped design prosthetics and facial restorations for soldiers wounded in combat.

4. ROD SERLING WROTE AN INITIAL DRAFT THAT FEATURED A CONTEMPORARY CITY.

The first writer to take a shot at adapting Planet of the Apes was Rod Serling, the man who brought twists, turns, and terror to TV sets across the country with The Twilight Zone. Serling wrote feverishly, producing upwards of 30 drafts of the script in a year [PDF], but one problem kept his vision from reaching screens: money. Serling’s scripts featured ape society as technologically advanced—with apes driving cars, piloting helicopters, and conducting ape-y business in skyscrapers.

Though this was closer to the society depicted in Boulle’s novel, it didn’t fit in with the studio’s $5 million budget. Subsequent drafts placed the apes in a more primitive society where they rode on horseback and lived in cities that could be constructed as less expensive sets.

5. WRITER MICHAEL WILSON BROUGHT MORE HUMOR AND POLITICAL OVERTONES TO THE SCRIPT.

After much of Serling’s script was deemed unusable, writer Michael Wilson was brought onboard to create a filmable version of the movie. Wilson was a victim of Hollywood’s blacklisting in the ‘50s, being forced to go uncredited on some of his most notable works, including the script to 1958's The Bridge on the River Kwai, which was also adapted from a Boulle novel.

Wilson’s Apes work included punching up the dialogue to be more humorous and introducing the idea of the sham of a trial that Heston’s Taylor has to endure (no doubt a callback to Wilson's own experience on the blacklist). These new drafts overhauled much of the existing script, which led Serling to say [PDF], “[It’s] really Mike Wilson’s screenplay, much more than mine.”

6. THE MAKEUP PROCESS REQUIRED A SMALL ARMY OF ARTISTS.

At its height, the movie’s production required around 100 makeup artists, wardrobe workers, and hairstylists to be on set to get all of the apes in costume and ready for shooting. For some of the larger scenes, there were around 200 actors and actresses to get in full ape garb, all of which required hours of work. The whole makeup process was run like a well-oiled machine by Chambers, who taught each of the artists how to mold and apply all of the ape makeup—sometimes having artists working at all times throughout the day and night to craft the individual ape pieces.

In the Behind the Planet of the Apes documentary, it’s noted that the production’s use of so many makeup personnel actually delayed work on other films throughout Hollywood due to a shortage of artists.

7. THE MAKEUP PROCESS IMPROVED AS PRODUCTION MOVED ALONG.


20th Century Fox

When the production started, it took upwards of six hours to put an actor into full ape makeup including the hair, brows, ears, mouth, and hands. This process eventually became more and more streamlined as the work progressed, with Chambers and his team eventually whittling it down to just a bit over three hours. Chambers himself referred to the whole process as an assembly line.

8. LUNCHTIME LED TO SOME UNINTENDED SEGREGATION.

One of the more peculiar side effects of having a cast of humans in ape garb occurred at lunch time on set. Subconsciously, the cast ate divided down species lines: The human actors, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas all fell in line with a sort of self-segregation and ate with their own kind. This wasn’t some brand of method acting, either, as the actors and producers were just as confused by it as anyone, leading Charlton Heston to simply say, “I have no explanation for it whatsoever.”

In Behind the Planet of the Apes, Kim Hunter, who plays Zira in the movie, recalled how she barely spoke to Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius) on set. Despite being friendly with Evans from previous work, Hunter referred to him as one of those "others" because he was an orangutan and she was a chimp.

9. A CHIMP HANDED MAKEUP ARTIST JOHN CHAMBERS HIS HONORARY OSCAR.

In 1969, there wasn’t an Oscar category for achievement in makeup, but John Chambers’s work on Planet of the Apes was so far beyond the industry standard that it had to be recognized in some way. The Academy decided on an honorary Oscar for Outstanding Makeup Achievement and presented it during the 41st Academy Awards. Chambers was introduced to the crowd by Walter Matthau, but the real star was the chimpanzee decked out in a tux that handed Chambers his award.

10. A TRIP TO A DELI INSPIRED THE ENDING.

Early on in the process, producer Arthur P. Jacobs and director Blake Edwards—who was originally attached to direct Planet of the Apes—were having trouble cracking the film's ending. In Boulle’s original novel, the action does take place on a completely different planet. For the movie, though, they wanted something less predictable. While eating at a deli near the Warner Bros. lot, Jacobs brought up the idea of having Taylor stranded on Earth the whole time without the characters or the audience knowing it.

The stage was set, but they needed a hook. As the two men left the deli, they looked at a painting of the Statue of Liberty near the cash register. According to Jacobs [PDF], the men had just found their “Rosebud.” A call soon went out to Serling, who integrated their ideas into the script in what the writer calls a “collaboration” with Jacobs [PDF].

11. THE STATUE OF LIBERTY AT THE END WAS A COMBINATION OF A SCALE MODEL AND MATTE PAINTING.

With budget constraints already bearing down on them, there was no logical way to create an entire full-scale model of the destroyed Statue of Liberty for the film’s twist ending. Instead, the production combined a matte painting by Emil Kosa Jr., the man behind the original 20th Century Fox logo, with a practical model for the statue’s reveal.

The model wasn’t created for the whole statue, though. Instead a half-scale recreation of Lady Liberty’s head and torch were constructed to be shot from a scaffold for the statue’s slow reveal.

12. AN EARLIER DRAFT HAD A MUCH MORE OPTIMISTIC ENDING.

Compared to today’s blockbusters, Planet of the Apes ends on a bit of a downer. We learn that humanity is lost as Earth has been destroyed, with only the crumbling image of the Statue of Liberty left to remind us of our once grand civilization. However, writer Michael Wilson’s earlier draft [PDF] would have left the movie with a single sliver of hope about humanity’s future.

In this draft, it’s learned toward the end of the film that Nova is pregnant with Taylor’s child. Though Taylor is struck down by an ape assassin shortly after laying eyes on the crumbling Lady Liberty, Nova escapes into the Forbidden Zone with her unborn child, setting up a potential sequel and showing that perhaps humanity could live on in some way.

Fox executives nixed the idea, fearing that Nova wouldn’t be perceived as purely human by audiences (Wilson referred to her as “humanoid” in an interview with Cinefantastique), leaving an awkward question about whether there was an interspecies romance between her and Taylor.

13 Great Rockumentaries Every Music (and Movie) Fan Should See

The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

More people are watching documentaries these days, which likely means that more people are rocking their faces off with nonfiction. Far from Ken Burns’s soothing tones, these music-filled films demand amplification and an unseemly amount of perspiration.

Rock documentaries are tricky beasts. Though they often have the built-in advantage of following around famous people, they aren’t immune to boredom and eye-rolling faux depth. Keeping it simple by showcasing the music can be good, but it’s no way to be great. The best of the best manage to deliver a stellar soundscape, offer a backstage pass to the real humans who make it, and hold our ears even if we aren’t already devoted fans. If a little history gets made in the process, even better.

Grab a seat next to Penny Lane on the bus. Here are 13 of the best documentaries that every music—and film—fan should add to their Must Watch list.

1. WHAT’S HAPPENING! THE BEATLES IN THE U.S.A. (1964)

A singular piece of filmmaking where nonfiction talent met transcendent musical genius on the threshold of gargantuan stardom, this is the best Beatles documentary ever produced. Directed by legendary documentarians Albert and David Maysles, the film captures the band’s first frivolous jaunt through America, where they raised the screaming decibel level in The Ed Sullivan Show theater and goofed off in hotel rooms. It’s an explosion of youth before they changed music forever.

2. DON’T LOOK BACK (1967)

Another marriage of style, skill, and subject, Don't Look Back helped shape how the rockumentary genre could provide insights into the people who shape our popular culture. That so many iconic moments emerged from D.A. Pennebaker’s watershed work, which strolled with Bob Dylan through England in 1965, is a testament to the legendary musician's infinite magnetism. The cue cards, singing with Joan Baez in a hotel room on the edge of breaking up, the Mississippi voter registration rally, and on and on. Since it portrayed fame’s effect on the artist, the art, and the audience, most every other rock doc has been chasing its brilliance.

3. GIMME SHELTER (1970)

The rockumentary has evolved to be as diverse as the sonic landscape itself, which is why Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping can send up the current scene just like This Is Spinal Tap! did in the 1980s. Still, 1970 feels like the year that defined the rockumentary. Another Maysles joint, this profound doc captured The Rolling Stones touring at a time when they were one of the biggest bands in the world and only getting bigger. The music is powerful and immediate, and the film closes with their appearance at the Altamont Free Concert, which turned deadly when—after a day of skirmishes between concertgoers and the Hell’s Angels acting as security—a fan with a gun was stabbed to death when he tried to get on stage during “Under My Thumb.”

4. WOODSTOCK (1970)

The other 1970 film that helped define the genre allowed thousands to claim they’d been to the biggest concert event of the generation without actually going. If rock ‘n’ roll emerged from unruly teenage years into conflicted young adulthood in the 1960s, nothing stamped that image in henna ink better than Woodstock and the documentary that accompanied it. The bands that appear are legendary: Crosby, Stills & Nash; The Who; Joe Cocker singing The Beatles; Janis Joplin; Jimi Hendrix; and many more. It’s a fly-by of the three days of peace and music that you could play on repeat with summery ease.

5. ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1973)

Rock doc royalty D.A. Pennebaker captured David Bowie’s final performance in his red-domed sci-fi persona at London's Hammersmith Odeon with a flair that captures the frenetic energy of the room. The crowd is as much a part of the moment as the band is, as the camera places you in the middle of a transitional moment in music history. To see Bowie that close up now is a wonder. And, naturally, the music is out of this world.

6. THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (1981)

Instead of following the famous, Penelope Spheeris’s debut dug its nails deep into the Los Angeles punk scene at the turn of the decade. Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and other bands your parents have never heard of perform mosh pit-sparking anthems and show off their living conditions like a grungy proto-version of MTV Cribs. There’s a purity here missing from most music docs—a chronicle of people whose passion far, far outweighs their paychecks, and a screening that led the LAPD to request that the movie never be shown in LA again.

7. SIGN "☮" THE TIMES (1987)

Having Prince at the center of your concert doc is a shortcut to ensuring it’s one of the best of all time. There’s the music, of course. Hits like “Little Red Corvette” and “U Got the Look,” and Sheila E. beating the hell out of her drum kit. There’s also The Purple One's inexhaustible energy and stage presence. As a bonus, the film jumps between concert footage and (instead of candid hotel conversations) a sci-fi narrative where we get to go to Prince Planet. It’s a rocky, disorienting experience that could have only been held so tightly together by a master showman.

8. MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE (1991)

It might be hard to explain to a younger audience just how dominant Madonna was as an artist coming out of the 1980s or the kind of landmark event this film represented because of her status. The travelogue of her Blonde Ambition Tour was like peeking into the insane world of the ultra-famous—not least because Madonna was dating Warren Beatty at the time and part of the film involves her hanging out with Al Pacino, Lionel Richie, and more. There are threats that the Canadian police will arrest her for simulating masturbation in her show, the Pope trying to get the tour canceled in Italy, and a slightly awkward return home to see family. All par for the course for someone whose personal life was carved up for public consumption.

9. RHYME & REASON (1997)

An unparalleled look into the lyricism and lifestyle of rap musicians from the genre’s rise through its global domination of the 1990s, the concert and party footage is fantastic, and the number of interviews is staggering. Peter Spirer spoke with more than 80 rap and hip-hop artists to craft a snapshot of what life was like for a group of musicians who discovered their voices could echo across the world as well as those who followed after to even greater success. Instead of going deep on one person behind the music, it’s a historical document of the culture itself as seen through the eyes of those at its very center.

10. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON (2005)

For those who don’t know Daniel Johnston’s music, this doc is a crash course not only in its stripped-down, anti-folk vibes but the head it all comes spilling out of. Instead of romanticizing or ignoring his bipolar disorder, Jeff Feuerzeig’s movie engages with it directly, drawing beautiful gems from a troubled mind. An absolute masterpiece, it’s less a vision of a musician giving glimpses into his real life than it is a vision of a human being who makes music.

11. AWESOME; I F*CKIN’ SHOT THAT! (2006)

Rockumentaries follow two major formats: the raw concert doc that’s like a ticket to a show you couldn’t attend, and the profile where artists drop quotables in between performances. They’re safe and familiar, which is probably why the Beastie Boys gave both styles the middle finger in favor of a grand experiment. A year before YouTube launched, the rap trio gave 50 fans in their Madison Square Garden audience camcorders to capture the concert. The result is a genuine, fans’-eye-view of the experience, and a chaotic mashup of perspectives.

12. THE PUNK SINGER (2013)

It’s astonishing how much time and ground Sini Anderson’s portrait of Bikini Kill leader Kathleen Hanna covers. It’s so much that labeling her Bikini Kill’s leader is woefully reductive. Artist, pioneer, feminist, activist, and a dozen other titles swirl around Hanna’s sweat-covered brow as we get to know her both as an artist and as a person. It’s also a punk fever dream of riot grrrl greatness, featuring incendiary archival footage and excellent talks with members of Le Tigre, Bikini Kill, and Julie Ruin, as well as Carrie Brownstein and the Beastie Boys’s Adam Horovitz (who is also Hanna’s husband).

13. JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (2015)

A fairly recent addition to the pantheon, Amy J. Berg’s doc is a stirring tour of archival footage of the gravel-throated songstress. Narrated by musician Cat Power, instead of losing perspective to the fog of history, a blend of modern conversations and ghosts from the past offer fresh eyes and ears to create a heartsick celebration of one of music history's most beloved artists, whose career was cut woefully short.

20 Memorable Elvis Presley Quotes

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

More than 40 years after his death, Elvis Presley remains a rock ‘n' roll icon and has yet to be ousted from his position as “The King.” Yet the Tupelo, Mississippi-born, Memphis, Tennessee-raised superstar never took his fame for granted, nor did he forget his roots. Here are 20 memorable quotes about Elvis’s life and legacy.

ON AMBITION

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.”

ON MAINTAINING YOUR VALUES

“It's not how much you have that makes people look up to you, it's who you are.”

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do.”

ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

“I happened to come along in the music business when there was no trend.”

“I've never written a song in my life. It's all a big hoax.”

“I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.”

ON THE ARMY

“After a hard day of basic training, you could eat a rattlesnake.”

“The army teaches boys to think like men.”

ON TRUTH

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.”

ON THOSE LEGENDARY DANCE MOVES

“Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can't help but move to it. That's what happens to me. I can't help it.”

“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do 'em all together, I guess.”

ON KEEPING POSITIVE

“When things go wrong, don't go with them.”

ON STARDOM

“If you let your head get too big, it'll break your neck.”

“I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants.”

“The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.”

“The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep next year.”

ON LOVE

“Sad thing is, you can still love someone and be wrong for them.”

ON THE PITFALLS OF HOLLYWOOD

“I sure lost my musical direction in Hollywood. My songs were the same conveyer belt mass production, just like most of my movies were.”

ON GETTING OLDER

“Every time I think that I'm getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.”

ON LEAVING A LEGACY

“Do something worth remembering.”

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