Sunday, September 27, 2009

1966 "Planet of the Apes" Studio Pitch

The original 1968 film "Planet of the Apes" starring Charlton Heston is one of my all-time favorite favorite movies, and has been since I first saw it on television as a child in the mid-1970s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Charlton Heston and the film's producers actually had a very hard time getting that movie made in the 1960s. Among other things, studio executives were apparently very wary that audiences would find the ape make-ups unconvincing and that actors on screen in "ape suits" would be unintentionally funny.

Ultimately, Fox agreed to fund a short screen test, giving the producers the chance to prove that the ape make-ups really could work on film. Embedded below is the 8 minute filmed pitch that resulted. The make-up test begins at the 2:50 mark. Interestingly, in addition to Charlton Heston, this test also features the legendary Edward G. Robinson as Dr. Zaius and a young James Brolin (now Mr. Barbara Streisand) as Cornelius. After the film was green-lit based on this test footage, Robinson backed out of participating in the actual movie itself, claiming that his ill health prevented him from undergoing the extensive make-up process for days on end. And the role of Cornelius was played memorably in the real movie by Roddy McDowall instead of James Brolin.
If you're also a fan of the film like me, you may notice a few other interesting things about this pitch. The production art featured in the first three minutes envisions a more technologically advanced ape world than appeared in the final film. Apes fly helicopters and wear suits for example. (That was closer to the original Pierre Boule novel, but was abandoned in the final film because it was thought to be too costly.) Also, Charlton Heston's character is named "Thomas" in this pitch, as opposed to "Taylor" in the final film. It's also noteworthy how similar much of Dr. Zaius' dialogue (by Edward G. Robinson) in this make-up test is to that in the final film, albeit delivered very differently in the movie by Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans. You may also note in the end credits to this pitch that the script for this make-up test was based on a full movie treatment written by Rod Serling (of "Twilight Zone" fame), on which the final film script was based as well. It was Rod Serling's script that originally conceived of the "twist ending" involving the Statue of Liberty.

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