Marvin Paige was a casting director whose credits include the Planet of the Apes TV series. He cast all the simian stars for use as extras and recurring role players on the series, as well as auditioning "humans" for roles as astronauts on the show.

Paige's first work as a casting director was the film Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961, directed by Blake Edwards), and later work included such films as The Devil's Brigade (1968), Harlow, The Honkers (1972), the Woody Allen pictures Take the Money and Run (1969) and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (1972, featuring Jay Robinson), Grand Jury (1976), Day of the Animals (1977) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). In addition to his film credits, Paige has cast a number of television series, including Combat!, Garrison's Gorillas (starring Ron Harper), Lassie, Charlie's Angels and General Hospital, in addition to the Apes TV series which ran in late 1974.

A Planet of the Apes television series was planned by producer Arthur P. Jacobs as early as 1971 but was delayed until after the fifth movie. An undated concept for a TV series outlined two human astronaut characters - Alan Virdon and Stan Kovak - who crash-land on the Planet of Apes while on a routine flight. Their personalities were already set out as they would be seen in the filmed series. Their adversaries were Ursus the gorilla, who wanted the astronauts killed, and Zaius who wanted to question them and learn from them. Galen the chimpanzee was their only ape friend as they tried to evade capture. When Jacobs suddenly died in June 1973 at age 51, shortly after the release of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the small-screen project went to 20th Century Fox. Marvin Paige was involved in a stalled attempt to create an Apes series around this time: "I was brought in as an independent. I was I was out at Fox the previous year [1973] - they'd made a deal with me to cast pilots and a couple of 'Movies of the Week'. As a matter of fact, we started on a presentation for 'Planet of the Apes' at this point. And then the network, I think, had to decide whether they were going to put 'Planet of the Apes' on that season or 'Perry Mason' ['The New Adventures of Perry Mason' - September 1973 to January 1974]. They decided to go ahead with Perry Mason, which unfortunately didn't make it. Or fortunately, depending on how you look at it. Then they ran the five features on television to see what the ratings would be. And the ratings were so tremendous that they decided to go for the series. And that was the beginning of Planet of the Apes."[1] CBS secured the TV rights in 1974 and started production, filming at Fox studios and ranch, produced by Herbert Hirschman and Stan Hough, and starring Roddy McDowall as Galen, Ron Harper as Alan Virdon and James Naughton as Peter Burke.

Marvin Paige explained the process of casting the stars of the new show: "It's amazing what we look for. There are certain restrictions we have to adhere to in all the primate characters: the orangutans, the chimpanzees, the gorillas. There are more gorillas on the series really, than chimps, the gorillas being the military, the police, the heavies. One pre-requisite - we must have brown-eyed, not blue-eyed, apes and chimps. Then it’s difficult to use an actor who’s 6'4" because some of the costumes won’t fit him. So we try to gauge them. The chimps run between 5'7" and 5'8", that area or a little smaller. The orangutans, which are the council members, are about 5'10" and the gorillas about 5'11" or 6'1". We'll even stretch to 6'2" if we have to, because the actors portraying those things have to, in those characters, develop almost a slouch. There's a specific walk, and I run a piece of film for the actors we hire. There is a certain movement. Now, the characters do not move their hips technically. They walk from the bottom right up - if they turn, the whole body turns. There‘s a certain way they turn the head and tweak the nose."[1]

"People say it certainly should be an easy show to cast because you don’t have to worry about what anybody looks like to play an ape. It’s a more difficult show to cast, because what comes through in the eyes and what comes though vocally is all you have to work with. You really need super-extra-good actors. And most of them have to be able to ride. The humans do not have horses, but the gorillas do. The gorillas and chimps do have horses. And if the actor does not make that mask come alive, the whole characterization falls apart. Sex matters, even with monkeys. That is, a man cannot play a lady ape, nor can an actress, buried beneath mounds of costuming, be a believable male gorilla. The gorilla ladies are shorter than the males, but the main difference is that the walks and the bone structures of the faces have to be correct. The faces on the females are different from the males. Another problem in casting this show is that every once in a while you‘ll find an actor who has claustrophobic problems with wearing the mask. And that has to be determined before you can bring them in. We‘re trying to keep tabs on actors that work well under those conditions, and sometimes we can repeat an actor in one of those roles."[1] Jacqueline Scott was one such actress invited back for a second episode: "It was definitely a challenge, but as an actress, I loved that. You had to find different ways of moving and expressing yourself. Marvin told me that the two actresses who dealt with the makeup best were Beverly Garland and me."[2]

"Now, as far as the chimp, we had begun looking at actors for that role, never feeling that Roddy would be interested at that point or that a feasible situation could be worked out. Then Roddy, kind of through his representatives, approached us and indicated that he would certainly be interested in discussing the situation, and we finally did get it all worked out."[1]

"In the beginning, casting of the major astronaut roles was one of the biggest decisions. The network had certain specifications as to what they thought these guys should be. And with anything, you want to make sure that your people are going to be fellows who catch on. It's very difficult when you take a series, when you're trying to build a series, and you have a prototype of say, a Charlton Heston kind of guy. You've got a lot of looking to do. I'm not trying to say we want to find a copy of Charlton Heston - we want the actor's own identity. We tested something like 53 actors for the astronauts, for the two main roles. Then for Ron Harper, we flew him in to test (from New York City). This was on a Thursday; he flew back on Friday; was getting married on Saturday and going to Ireland for his honeymoon. The network felt there were certain things in the test that they hadn't captured and wanted to retest him with other people and try him with Jim Naughton to see how that combination was. So I had to get hold of him - I think I was up half the night tracking down Harper's agent in New York, tracing him in Ireland, getting everything coordinated and eventually having to bring him back from Ireland right in the middle of his honeymoon!"[1]

In later years Marvin Paige was the founder, owner and curator of the Motion Picture & Television Research Archive housing a wealth of footage, photos and memorabilia. In November 2013, he succumbed to injuries a month after a car crash in Los Angeles.

External LinksEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Exclusive Interview with Marvin Paige, by Susan Munshower - 'Planet of the Apes' UK #29 (10 May 1975)
  2. Secrets of the Planet of the Apes, By Mark Phillips - Starlog #371 (December 2008)
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