Robert M. 'Bobby' Porter is an American actor and stuntman from Long Beach, California. His first film role, during a summer off from his studies, was as the diminutive stunt double for young actor Eric Shea in Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies. There, he first encountered makeup artists Dan Striepeke and John Chambers. On returning to his University he discovered many of the same crew filming Conquest of the Planet of the Apes on location at the campus, and made contacts that would lead to his next role. In 1973 he played the role of Cornelius - the son of Caesar in Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Porter has happy memories of his first movie acting role: “I was still in college, and fondly remember skipping class to go monkey around. 'Battle' was the first film I did as an actor rather than a stuntman. The Apes films had gotten down to very slim budgets by this time. I was hired after the stunt coordinator, Paul Stader, introduced me to the director, J. Lee Thompson, one of Hollywood’s true gentlemen. Roddy [McDowall] was a legend. I couldn’t have had a better mentor. The 4 a.m. makeup calls and miserably long days were quickly forgotten when he stepped on the set and began his magic. I asked my makeup artist to find out how Roddy - who had his makeup applied in a separate room, because he loved to listen to opera - was able to be so expressive. And I was allowed to have my makeup altered to mimic Roddy’s, but only after I swore not to reveal the secret, and convinced Roddy that Cornelius should have the same range of expressions as his father, the great Caesar. 'Battle' was an amazing summer job that changed my life.” Porter's makeup guy for the film was Jim Philips, later killed in the same plane crash as Janos and Robert Prohaska.
Bobby wore the ape make-up again in 1974 when he played the part of young Arno in the pilot episode of the Planet of the Apes television series, "Escape from Tomorrow". “We shot those scenes in the blazing heat of summer, in ape makeup and wardrobe, and in front of brutally hot nine lights. It was a nightmare. We had some guest actors who had never experienced appliance makeup before, and they suffered dearly.”
Porter returned to the TV cast for "The Good Seeds" where he played the young ape, Remus. “I was still paying my way through college, and that check paid for my next semester’s books. I had no idea this acting gig would end up turning into a 37-year career. ‘The Good Seeds’ was well-written, and it may have contributed to my desire to write. I later co-authored an episode of 'Land of the Lost' (the Saturday morning dinosaur series starring Ron Harper) of which I’m quite proud.”
In all three contributions that Bobby Porter made to the POTA mythos, he played young chimpanzees. “Contrary to the features, the series - as with all of television - had to be shot fast and furiously. We had little time or money to be cinematically creative, and the audience may have been disappointed in that. I’m proud to have been a small piece of something that is unique and timeless. I was at the right place at the right time, and I’ll be forever grateful to those who took a chance on a college kid who worked cheap!”
- Spirit Gum, Acetone and Landing on your head: Bobby Porter interview, by Dean Preston - 'Simian Scrolls' #18 (2015)
- Secrets of the Planet of the Apes, By Mark Phillips - Starlog #371 (December 2008)
- Interview: Bobby Porter - 'Apesfan' Special Edition (1999)