Richard Darryl (Dick) Zanuck was a very successful American film producer. He was the son of veteran producer Darryl F. Zanuck, founder of 'Twentieth Century Films', and subsequently head of Twentieth Century Fox. Richard's first production was Fox's Compulsion (1959), at age 24. In 1963, following Darryl Zanuck's return to Fox to become chairman of the company, he named his son Richard as Head of Production. It was in this capacity that Daryl Zanuck would become involved in the creation of the Planet of the Apes movies. Meanwhile, in 1965, Linda Harrison was 'spotted' by a talent scout at a beauty pageant and signed to Fox as an actress for a sixty-day trial period. She soon met Dick Zanuck at the premier of The Agony and the Ecstasy (starring Charlton Heston) and the two dated throughout her time with the studio. After her trial period was up, she was signed to a seven-year contract with Fox. While Harrison freely admits that her relationship with Zanuck boosted her acting career, it also had it's drawbacks: "I remember one piece of advice Dick gave me: "You go to work on time and listen to your director and do your job. And I don't want to hear any complaints about you!" I had to be even more careful, and nice, because I was his girlfriend."[1]

Arthur P. Jacobs had been working for some time on plans for a film version of the 1963 Pierre Boulle novel La Planète des singes (translated to English variously as Planet of the Apes or Monkey Planet), in which astronauts land on a planet where intelligent apes rule and mute human beings are hunted for sport. Jacobs' 'APJAC Productions' had commissioned a succession of artists to make production sketches and paintings as a first step, and an original deal with Zanuck fell through in December 1963. Jacobs had then secured the respected Blake Edwards to direct, and had hired Twilight Zone writer Rod Serling to write a screenplay (he had already prepared a treatment for 'King Brothers Productions' who briefly held the movie rights to Boulle's novel before APJAC). Within a year, Serling had written and refined thirty script drafts for Jacobs and Edwards, who began to approach Hollywood's studio companies. Initial interest in the project had come from 'Warner Bros.' studios, to the point where a budget had been estimated. However, even with a Serling script and with Edwards as director, Warner Bros. had balked at the huge investment and in January 1965 put the project in 'turnaround' (whereby the rights are offered for sale to another studio in exchange for the cost of development). After this major setback, Serling and Edwards both moved on to other projects, while Jacobs and Mort Abrahams began a grueling round of pitching the potentially expensive concept. They found little interest in a movie where the majority of it's actors would need to be heavily made-up for the duration of the film and would be portraying talking animals. Abrahams maintained that Planet of the Apes was "turned down by every studio in town at least twice". He and Jacobs "even went to J. Arthur Rank in England, and Samuel Bronston in Spain."[2] According to Abrahams, Zanuck threatened to ban them from the Fox lot if they mentioned Planet of the Apes again, while Zanuck recalled: "Arthur was an idea man and Mort Abrahams was the production guy, because Arthur didn't know anything really about the mechanics of making a picture."[3] A breakthrough came on 5 June 1965 when Jacobs secured the involvement of leading actor Charlton Heston, who said: "The project was first submitted to me years before production was actually undertaken. At that time, Warner Bros had the project and invested a great deal of money in it, although all that existed were the rights to the Pierre Boulle novel. Arthur had a sketch presentation which he made to me, and I was immediately intrigued by it."[2] Jacobs remembered: "I figured, maybe if I got an actor involved, and I went to Charlton Heston who, in one hour, said yes. Then Heston suggested Franklin Schaffner as director, and he also said yes. Now I have Heston, Schaffner, a screenplay, and all the sketches, I go right back to everybody, and I finally convinced Richard Zanuck to let me make a test, and I got Heston and Edward G. Robinson, with Schaffner directing it"[2]


APJAC brought the budget estimate down to $5.8 million, and this and the inclusion of Heston, Schaffner and veteran actor Robinson earned Jacobs a ten-minute screen test with Fox, using Serling's last script draft and starring Heston as astronaut 'Thomas' and Robinson as the orangutan 'Doctor Zaius'. Zanuck had read the script and told Jacobs: "I think there is something incredibly fascinating with this material. But I don't know how we're going to pull it off. The audience might just laugh at it; after the first 30 seconds we could be dead in the water. I want to make a test. I want to see if we can do the makeup properly or if it is going to look ridiculous and laughable." Director Schaffner recalled: "Jacobs finally persuaded 20th Century Fox to make a test - a make-up test - for the very dramatic scene in which a bunch of orangutans hang over a human being and discuss what kind of lobotomy they'll perform on him. It was very clear to me that the picture wouldn't work if audiences didn't accept apes talking English. So we changed the design of the scene to a dialogue piece between Heston and, I guess it was Eddy Robinson who was wearing an ape make-up, and that did work. Well, that test was probably made six or eight months before anybody decided to go ahead with the project and I was the most surprised person in the world when I got a call from Jacobs saying we were going to go ahead."[4] "It was planned as a makeup test, basically. Much more importantly, on the philosophical level, it was to see whether or not, that if you had a man talking to an orangutan, an audience wouldn’t laugh and would listen to what they had to say."[2] The test film utilized Jacobs' production paintings to depict the major scenes which led up to the filmed confrontation between Heston and Robinson. The ape makeup was devised Fox makeup artist Ben Nye. Fox also provided it's young contract actors James Brolin and Linda Harrison - Zanuck's then-girlfriend, who remembered: "All during this period, Dick was telling me about this fabulous book called 'Planet of the Apes' and that it was going to make a great movie. He said "I want you to play the ape Dr. Zira" - in fact, during the makeup testing, I had to go through the whole business with the mask and everything for Zira, the part that eventually went to Kim Hunter. I think they always had me in mind for Nova, but they needed someone to do the screen test, and you keep trying to employ your actors. So, I did the screen test."[1] Jacobs said: "I showed it to Zanuck, who really got excited over it. Rod Serling wrote a long, nine-page scene, a conversation between Taylor and Dr. Zaius, which was condensed in the final film. Everyone thought that no one would believe an ape talking to a man, and I said, 'I will prove to you that they will believe it.' We packed the screening room with everyone we could get a hold of, and Zanuck said, 'If they start laughing, forget it.' Nobody laughed, they sat there tense, and he said, 'Make the picture'."[2]


Zanuck showed the test to the Fox board at their headquarters in New York. Though Zanuck was enthusiastic, and while the test proved that the makeup could be accepted on a realistic level, it was still believed that a $5 million science-fiction film was too risky a gamble. Then, Fox released the special effects-laden science-fiction film, Fantastic Voyage (1966), which opened to fantastic box-office grosses. Mort Abrahams explained that he, Jacobs and Zanuck were in a meeting discussing the possibility of Planet of the Apes, and the success of Fantastic Voyage as proof that science fiction could be a viable force at the box office, when: "Dick Zanuck said, 'OK, I'll tell you what. If you can bring the picture in for $5 million, I'll try to get it through the board.' Dick went to New York and stuck his neck out, and convinced them. He came back and said, 'OK, go.'"[5] Zanuck communicated the decision for Fox to make Planet of the Apes on September 26, 1966, with filming scheduled to begin in Spring 1967. [6] Heston underlined the importance of Zanuck to the movie: "I think Richard Zanuck deserves a great deal of credit for the fact that Fox undertook the picture, because he examined the project and the considerable costs involved. At this time, Franklin Schaffner was involved, and Zanuck had a lot of confidence in him, rightly so, as did I, as not only a director of enormous creative ability, but a good captain. You need a good captain in any picture, but you really need one in directing a film like this."[2]

The movie began filming in May 1967 with Linda Harrison playing the role of Nova. Roddy McDowall, who had been brought to Hollywood by Richard's father Darryl F. Zanuck as a child star many years earlier, co-starred as Cornelius. Although Planet of the Apes was never intended to spawn a franchise, after the phenomenal success of the movie, the studio demanded a sequel. Jacobs "didn't plan any sequel in the first one, but it became so successful that Fox said you must do a sequel, if you can come up with one. Of course, in that second one, we blew up the world, and said that's the end of the sequels."[2] Costume tests were undertaken in late 1968, and further make-up tests in early 1969. However, the production of Beneath the Planet of the Apes was fraught with problems, including budget constraints, frequent script re-writes, and the waning enthusiasm of Heston, director Ted Post, and Dick Zanuck, who in 1969 had replaced his father as president of 20th Century-Fox; Darryl F. Zanuck became chairman of the Fox board but felt he had been manipulated and began conspiring against his son. Harrison reprised her role as Nova in Beneath but Charlton Heston didn't want to commit to a sequel: "I felt a certain obligation to Richard Zanuck about the film. The first one had such an enormous success, both critically and commercially, and of course I was grateful for the part and the material rewards it brought me and so forth. They spoke to me, as soon as the overwhelming success of the film became evident, about a sequel, and I said, "You know, there is no sequel. There’s only the one story. You can have another picture about further adventures among the monkeys, and it can be an exciting film, but creatively there is no film." Now that comment is in no way intended, as I said to Zanuck, as a criticism of them for making it. A picture that grosses $22 million, and has the potential to be spun off into one or more sequels, obviously you have a responsibility to your stockholders, and indeed all the other movie makers on your lot who will be making films with the profits from that to make others. I think it's fruitless to compare and say which of the... successive films is the better. It's clear that, in terms of the story, the first one is all there is. Nevertheless, I felt a responsibility to Zanuck, and I said I'd be happy to do it as a friendly contribution."[2] Heston agreed to make a brief appearance so long as his character was killed off early in the film. The original storyline for Taylor was adapted for the character of John Brent (James Franciscus). Heston recorded in his diary at the time: "Fox is now willing to accept my proposal to do a brief transition bit for them in their new version of APES. I don't think it's a good idea, but of course I'll carry out my promise to them. I pointed out to Dick Zanuck that, while I sympathized with him from a corporate point of view, as an actor there was really no sequel possible. The only story you could tell had been told; anything further would just be adventures among the monkeys. While this might well be profitable, there was nothing new to act in it. Still, as Dick said, they couldn't really undertake a sequel if I weren't in it at all. Moved by this wistful observation, I offered to appear in the opening sequence, if they'd then kill me off."[6]

After several script drafts, it was decided that Taylor's character would function as a framing sequence for the second film, appearing briefly in the beginning of the movie, where he falls into a Mutant trap, and returning towards the end of the film for the movie's climax. By the time filming began, Heston's proposal (backed by Dick Zanuck) that not just his character but the entire planet be killed off, meant that the planned ending of the film had to be changed. Heston believed that by destroying the entire planet, it would stave off future sequels: "They asked me to simply disappear in the opening sequence, and be killed off in the end. I agreed, thinking I could end the whole thing with a death that included the end of the world. I sold them on this, but they were cleverer than I; they still made several sequels, though without me."[6] The situation behind the scenes at Fox goes some way to explaining why Zanuck pushed Heston's idea for the apocalyptic ending, despite the objections of Ted Post and James Franciscus, as he didn't want there to be any more sequels. Ted Post was very disappointed with the revised ending: "We had other endings, but the order came down from Dick...that was the picture I was involved with that found Dick Zanuck not in a very happy state of mind. His conclusion about the picture was a reflection either consciously or unconsciously of what he felt... it was cynical and pessimistic because of the finish of it."[7] Beneath the Planet of the Apes was released in May of 1970, yet "when [Beneath] also became very successful," Arthur Jacobs disclosed, "Zanuck wanted another one",[2] and Escape from the Planet of the Apes was commissioned.

Zanuck married Linda Harrison in 1969, and Linda launched straight into a TV acting role: "After Beneath, I was cast as one of the starlets in a new TV series called Bracken's World, which was a series Dick for a long time had wanted to do, about a Hollywood studio. So I got that part and I had to finish Beneath and go right into the pilot - I didn't even get a day's rest. And I had to start remembering lines!"[1] The series was short-lived however, and the board-room tensions at Fox finally erupted in December 1970 when chairman of the Fox board Darryl F. Zanuck got his revenge by humiliating his son at a board of directors meeting and replaced Richard as president of the company with himself (tiring of Zanuck Sr., the board of directors forced him out in turn in May 1971),[8] as Linda explained: "[Dick's] relationship with his father was strained because 'the son was rising' - and Dick needed to spread his wings. And the father wasn't ready to let go. Pretty soon there was a wedge between father and son, and there was a terrible change in their relationship. It was like a divorce, like any situation where two people come to a crossroad and things splinter. Darryl fired Dick, and David [Brown - Dick Zanuck's partner], and me - I was under contract, I was eight months pregnant... So Dick and David went to Warner Bros., and then from there formed Zanuck-Brown. That's history, what happened when they formed their own company. They wanted to start humbly, and they got a screenplay called 'Sssssss' by a makeup man (Dan Striepeke) they thought a lot of."[1] The birth of the couple's two sons (February 1971 and August 1972) interupted Harrison's acting career, though she wasn't dismayed: "I enjoyed working in front of the camera but not full-time. I didn't have the personality or the desire to be a 'star'."[1] It's suggested that Arthur P. Jacobs made it clear to 20th Century Fox that if they passed on funding a fourth Apes movie he would shop the property to Zanuck-Brown. Fox subsequently began filming Conquest of the Planet of the Apes in January 1972.[9] Zanuck's producing career included smash hit Jaws in 1975, shortly after which his marriage with Linda Harrison ended: "For one reason or another, I got involved with a guru - which was the 'in' thing at the time. Unfortunately, this guru wanted to make movies from his own screenplays. And for whatever reason, he put a terrible wedge through my relationship with Dick. It ended that I left Dick."[1] They divorced in 1978, but remained on friendly terms. Eventually, Linda was cast in two Zanuck-Brown sci-fi movies, Cocoon (1985) and Cocoon: The Return (1988). In 2001, Linda also appeared in a re-imagining of the Apes mythos in the Tim Burton directed remake, Planet of the Apes, produced by the studio executives of Fox in collaboration with Richard's 'Zanuck Company'. Zanuck said at the time: "I feel like I've been in my own time warp, my own science fiction world. Having 34 years ago initiated this, I find myself producing a picture that is not a remake but a whole new picture using the same concept." The Zanuck Company produced many more of Burton's films.

Richard Zanuck died suddenly of a heart attack on July 13, 2012.

External LinksEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 'Starlog - Woman of the Apes' (April 1995)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 'Cinefantastique Planet of the Apes Issue' (1972)
  3. The Legend of the Planet of the Apes by Brian Pendreigh
  4. 'Films In Review' interview, conducted January 1969
  5. 'Planet of the Apes Revisited' by Joe Russo and Larry Landsman
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 The Actor's Life: Journals 1956-1976 by Charlton Heston (1978)
  7. 'Planet of the Apes Revisited' by Joe Russo and Larry Landsman.
  8. Darryl F. Zanuck biography
  9. Planet of the Apes: 40 Year Evolution, by Lee Pfeiffer & Dave Worrall (June 2008)
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