Planet of the Apes Wiki

Peter Jackson is a New Zealand film director, producer, actor, and screenwriter, best known for The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003) and his 2005 remake of King Kong. He was formerly known for his horror-comedy films and his breakthrough hit Heavenly Creatures (1994). In 1992, Jackson's agent Ken Kamins floated the idea of a new Planet of the Apes movie, and Jackson immediately started putting together a script concept with his writing partner and wife Fran Walsh, which became a three- or four-page treatment. Kamins set up a meeting in October '92 with producer Harry J. Ufland (whose films included Michael Jackson's Bad, The Last Temptation of Christ and Night and the City) so that Jackson could pitch his Apes proposal - an original story rather than a remake of the first film. “Fran and I had devised a storyline that continued the ape’s saga from where it left off in the fifth movie. We imagined their world being in the midst of an artistic renaissance, which made the ape government very nervous. It was a time of amazing art and we wanted Roddy McDowall to play an elderly chimpanzee that we based a little on Leonardo da Vinci. The plot involved the humans rising in revolt and a half human, half ape central character that was sheltered by the liberal apes, but hunted down by the gorillas.”[1] Ufland, in turn, held very encouraging discussions about the Apes project with his good friend Joe Roth, Chairman of 20th Century Fox who owned the film franchise.

Jackson, Walsh and Ufland met with Roddy McDowall, who “warmed to the fact that they had created a new chimpanzee character with him in mind and which felt like a comfortable grey-haired version of his first ape, Cornelius. He said 'I had never wanted to be in a Planet of the Apes film again, but I love your idea and I'd love you guys to make it. We should do it.'”[2] Jackson also spoke to makeup wizard Rick Baker - previously involved in an aborted Adam Rifkin-scripted Apes relaunch, 'Return to the Planet of the Apes', a few years earlier - who also offered his support. However, Joe Roth left Fox in November 1992, and when Peter Jackson and Harry Ufland subsequently spoke to Head of Production Tom Jacobson, they found he was not a fan of their film proposal and was seemingly unaware of McDowall's involvement in the original series. “It went incredibly badly... Tom Jacobson was not committed to any previous discussions that may have taken place. So, when Harry made remarks about Joe having said this or that, he simply looked up and said 'Joe is not here anymore...!' And at this point we realised, okay, there are no allies! No matter what Fox think about a Planet of the Apes movie, they are not interested in Harry Ufland being Joe Roth’s old buddy and they don’t care about Roddy McDowall. So we walked out and somehow, at that meeting, the project died.”[3] Jackson turned his attention to other projects.

In early 1994, with James Cameron in talks to executive produce a new Apes movie, following Jackson's breakthrough film Heavenly Creatures and learning about his previous Apes concept, Fox’s Chairman Peter Chernin and new Head of Production Tom Rothman met with Jackson, who “re-pitched exactly the same idea to these two high-powered Fox executives who’d never heard it before. Once again it was met with a lot of enthusiasm... they’d spent a lot of money developing a potential Planet of the Apes film and they already had one or two failed screenplays. We heard of various versions including one by Terry Hayes, who wrote 'Mad Max' 2 and 3 and went on to write 'Vertical Limit'. Anyway, at the end of this preamble, they said that they’d like to use our story, and have Fran and I write the script and me direct but they also wanted James Cameron to produce it and for Arnold Schwarzenegger to star in it. 'We have a real commitment' they said, 'for this to be a vehicle for Schwarzenegger, why not meet with James Cameron before you leave town and pitch him your ideas? We think as a group you’ll make a great team'.”[4] Jackson turned down the idea of making a film with Cameron and Schwarzenegger, recognizing that they would possibly disagree over the movie's direction. “We thought that if we had James Cameron as the producer and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the star, I would have absolutely no power, and if, for example, there were a conflict with Schwarzenegger then Cameron would be likely to back him rather than me. I didn’t know for certain, it was just assumptions, but it didn’t feel like a work situation that we should put ourselves into. So we declined to take the meeting and, this time round, it was us who passed on the project.”[5] Around April 1996, on hearing about his extensive negotiations with Universal Studios and Miramax about King Kong and The Lord of the Rings (respectively), Fox offered Jackson complete creative control over a new Planet of the Apes movie. Schwarzenegger had withdrawn from the project and Cameron was busy filming his massive hit Titanic. However, Fox were unable to match the budgets planned for the other two projects, and Jackson eventually lost his enthusiasm for his concept following Roddy McDowall's 1998 death. The tortuous development process eventually led to the 2001 Planet of the Apes "re-imagining" directed by Tim Burton.

With the attempt at another re-launch of the Apes franchise, it was decided that digitally-rendered simians would be preferred over the makeup appliance method used in all previous Apes movies. No doubt inspired significantly by King Kong and The Lord of the Rings, 20th Century Fox asked Peter Jackson's New Zealand-based Weta Digital studio - responsible for the acclaimed special effects seen in all his movies from Heavenly Creatures onward - to create the ape characters for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, due to be released in 2011. Andy Serkis, who provided the real-life movement and voice for the digitally-rendered 'Kong' and 'Gollum', performed the same function for the film's central character, 'Caesar'.

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  1. Peter Jackson: A Film-maker's Journey, by Brian Sibley - p237
  2. Peter Jackson: A Film-maker's Journey, by Brian Sibley - p238
  3. Peter Jackson: A Film-maker's Journey, by Brian Sibley - p240
  4. Peter Jackson: A Film-maker's Journey, by Brian Sibley - p276
  5. Peter Jackson: A Film-maker's Journey, by Brian Sibley - p276