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Chris Columbus Remembers His Unfilmed ‘Planet of the Apes’

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Back in the 1980s and 1990s, there were numerous attempts to reboot Planet of the Apes before Tim Burton did so in 2001. One of them was to be directed by Harry Potter‘s Chris Columbus with a screenplay by Sam Hamm (Batman 89) and ape makeup created by Stan Winston.

“I was the guy who was originally going to do it,” reflects Columbus. “Sam Hamm wrote a script and we did a test that was extremely expensive. I mean, one of the most expensive screentests ever. Stan Winston actually created technology where the lips of the apes would move. So Stan put himself in the makeup and he did this extraordinary Planet of the Apes test which essentially crated a mask where all the features moved. It was astounding. Now, of course, you can do that with CGI, but that had to be 10 or 12 years earlier. But then I realized in seeing the technology, and how expensive it was, that I didn’t think I could do this movie.”

Said Hamm of the proposed film’s scenario, “We tried to do a story that was simultaneously an homage to the elements we liked from the five films, and would also incorporate a lot of material from Pierre Boulle’s novel that had been jettisoned from the early production. The first half of the script bore resemblance to the book, but a lot of the stuff in the second half comes directly from it, or directly inspired by it.”

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Chris Columbus, Daniel Radcliffe, 2002, (c) Warner Brothers
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Chris Columbus, Daniel Radcliffe, 2002, (c) Warner Brothers

After Columbus dropped out, James Cameron came aboard for a time with Arnold Schwarzenegger attached to star. Joining them was 2010 and TimeCop writer/director Peter Hyams, who told Daily Dead, “I got involved with Jim on Planet of the Apes some time around 1998. I was going to write and produce and Jim was going to direct. He asked me if I wanted to do the project with him and I said, ‘Well, duh,’ because that was a dream project for many of us from that generation of filmmakers. I told Jim, though, that my only condition about the project was that I would only do it if he could find a way to make sure that the apes could talk — and look like they were really talking — not just guys behind a mask. A few weeks later, this mysterious VHS tape shows up at my office. I start playing it and sitting in front of me, in two director’s chairs, are Stan and his son Matt. They’re dressed normally from the neck down, but they were both made up like apes. And as I watched this tape, which was like 10 minutes or something, here’s Stan and Matt fully made up to look like real apes, having conversations, laughing and everything. It was absolute perfection; I couldn’t believe that Stan actually cracked it. I even asked Stan about how he managed to pull it off, but he wouldn’t tell me. It was a real shame that fans never got to see Stan’s vision for these apes come to life.”

Check out 45 seconds of that footage below

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