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Premiere
Planet of the Apes
July, 2000


Therapists, students of psychology, and those who earned a living deciphering the alpha-wave patterns of human beings, make of the following what you will. Last night Mark Wahlberg had a dream. Nothing unusual in that, perhaps. Surely, movie stars dream as we do, even if their nocturnal adventures inevitably involve bigger toys, better locations, and more photogenic partners. But Wahlberg's dream was about chimps. "It wasn't anything sexual," the star of Boogie Nights and the Perfect Storm says quickly. "I always have these reaccurring nightmares. actually it wasn't a nightmare last night, because the chimps were nice to me. I was driving in a car, and I pulled up to a hotel, and these chimps and orangutans were the valets."

Since Wahlberg has just spent 4 months playing a beleaguered human in Tim Burton's action-packed reimagining of the 1968 sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes, his vision of primate parking attendants could easily be interpreted ad well-justified turnabout. "I can live with that," he says of this cut-rate analysis. "Of course," he adds, "I got into trouble and went to prison, where I saw friends of mine."

Interesting...but let's save that for our next session, shall we.

On a cavernous Hollywood sound stage in January, a Planet of the Apes unlike any you've seen before has taken shape-an astronaut crash- lands n aupside-down world where talking apes are the dominate species abd humans are slaves-but under Burton's direction, the apes are more like apes. They fly through trees, climb walls, swing out of windows. They go apeshit when angry. And they tear along the ground on all fours-a technique the production calls "Loping" - at speeds up to 30 miles per hour, during a climatic battle sequence unparalleled in the original series. "The point is not to make it the same," says Burton, who has previously reinvented the worlds of Batman and Sleepy Hollow. "There was room for other explorations, bringing in more ape mannerisms, interesting behavior patterns, having more fun witht hat. But you need it to be serious to some degree,. because it's somewhat absurd anyway, talking apes and all of that."

Ape City, a mountain kingdom in a rain forest, has been created from nearly a million cubic feet of raw space by production designer Rick Heinrichs, who bagged an Oscar for his work on Sleepy Hollow. Its influences include the ancient Aztec, Mayan, and Incan civilizations. Twisted trees soar to the rafters; vines creep along jagged rocks on which strange markings have been carved. A thin veil of mist hangs in the air. Even the atmosphere seems chilled. Dwellings-have been hewn out of the mountainside. thirty-foot stone ape idols gaze down impassively. Rough steps lead to enclaves like the processing area, where slaves, including astronaut Leo Davidson (Wahlberg) and the native rebels played by Kris Kristofferson and Estella Warren, arrive in human-drawn carts and are deposited in cages belonging to an oily orangutan named Limbo (Paul Giamatti). To one side of a central Rock plaza, there's a fenced-in garden terrace, lit by flickering torches, on which an ape dinner party (sample Course: kabobs of Banana squash, black radish, and bitter melon) is underway.

The scene written is simple enough, yet it hints at the social and political concerns prevalent in this topsy turvy society, as well as the divisions that exits between the liberal chimp Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), who calls for the man's release from subjugation, and Thade (Tim Roth), general of the ape army, who's all for wiping them out. Over the course of the three days, Burton will shoot a dozen takes and angle of the scene, which climaxes with Thade knocking Leo, who is working as a domestic in Ari's household, to the ground, prying his mouth apart, and peering inside. "Is there a soul in there?" he snarls before tossing Leo aside and calling for a towel on which to wipe his hairy hands. ("I love that," Burton says after one particularly vibrant take." It's really creepy.")

As the hours tick by, cast members periodically slip off their ape feet and leave them lying like sleeping animals beneath the table. The things you hear on the set, like, 'Where are my hands?' or 'Have you got her teeth?'" laughs Bonham Carter, sipping a soda through a straw. The apes, she says have set up a kind of support group to discuss psychological effects of being up all night and under [the make up]." The dentures that push their mouths out are making them lisp, and though some dialogue will be rerecorded in post production, for now everyone is struggling to make sense of one another and not sound like a kid with a retainer. "It feels like you're underwater," says Lisa Marie, Burton's longtime love (previously featured in Ed Wood, Mars Attacks!, and Sleepy Hollow), cast here as a chimp trophy bride of an orangutan senator. When Roth can't hear David Warner (Titanic), who plays Ari's father and who's next to Roth, the only solution is to drill a hole in the side of Roth's ape head.

Wahlberg, unhampered by prosthetics, has his own difficulties with the scene. During one take, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Pearl Harbor), who plays Krull, a silverback gorilla and protector of Ari, whacks him with a wooden spatula and Wahlberg can't stop laughing. Take two, and he's's still fighting the giggles "Did I make it?" he asks. "Almost," says Burton, shaking his head. "There were a number of times where I just lost it," Wahlberg reflects later. "Seeing Tim Burton get a little frustrated helped me gain control of myself."

"Dinner parties are hard," Burton says. "They drive you crazy because everybody feels like an extra. And they are!" He cackles. "Mark's been bussing tables for three days, " says Bonham Carter. "He's bored stiff. Mind you, he being paid, and he doesn't wear the makeup. He's very aware he can't afford to be late, 'cause he's got a load of cranky chimps around."

Upon it's release in 1968, Planet of the Apes became an international phenomenon, spawning four sequels, 2 TV series (one of them animated), and a banana boat load of merchandise. So, Naturally, the idea of reviving the franchise has been bouncing around 20th Century Fox for sometime. Producers Don Murphy and Jane Hamshet (Natural Born Killers) took a stab at it in 1993, roping in Terry Hayes (Dead Calm) to script and Oliver Stone to produce alongside them. Director Chris Columbus was later attached, and even James cameron expressed interest, but the project languished in development until Tom Rothman, then president of Fox Film Group, brought in screenwriter William Broyles Jr. (Cast Away) to starts afresh. Armed with Broyles's script, Rothman approached Burton, who had just come off Sleepy Hollow. "to reenergize a familiar idea, you need a uniquely iconoclastic filmmaker," the executive says. "Tim has that uncanny ability to walk the line between making very commercial films and yet very individualistic and distinctive films, " Burton was a fan of the Apes series but was uncertain about doing a remake. Fox, however, insisted that his was neither a remake or a sequel, but something else entirely. (For one thing, it's not even the same planet, so don't expect an earth-shattering twist at the end.) "Knowing that was helpful," Burton says. "I don't think about [the comparisons] because that'll just be a night mare." Instead, he focused on the dichotomies inherent in the story. "what I liked about this is, it's just reversals," he says. "There's a human outsider, there's also an ape outsider. You see reversals on different levels, double justapostitions. I don't know how much of that will come through, but it's interesting to play with. Watching the chimp channel all those years influenced it as well," he adds with a laugh.

The project was fast-tracked by Fox when Burton signed on it early 2000. But while Broyles script was enought get the director to commit, it wasn't exactly ready to go. The reason? "Too big. It would of cost 300 Million whatever...rupes," Burton says. Explains Richard D. Zanuck, who was head of production at Fox when the first apes movie was released and is producing this new version. "To get the picture green-lighted was a very, very difficult task because the studio wanted it to make it at a price that made sense. {tim} was dragged into all kinds of budgetary problems." Burton says this is standard: "To me, that kind of stuff helps to bring it back down so it's a little more basic, more about character." Although a source puts the final figure at $100 million-plus, Rothman will say only that the budget was "more than X-Men, less than Titanic."

After working first with Broyles on revising the script, Burton brought in Lawrence Konner and Mark d. Rosenthal (Mighty Joe Young) last August for "a page-one rewrite," according to Konner. "the Broyles script has been radically changed," Zanuck says. "He came up with the characters pretty much as they are, but his script was impractical in many respects. It had monsters in it, all kinds of other things, half-horse-half-man. We wanted to go back to the basic element: the upside-down world." Konner and Rosenthal returned tot he Pierre Boulle novel on which the original was based and watched the old movies. "I think it's fair to say we're a bit more faithful to the book and the original movie than bill was," Konner says. "Tim felt very strongly that this needed to be the adventure of a guy ion the planet of the apes."

Even as the story was being reconcieved, work proceeded on the production. One if the first hires was 6-time Oscar winning makeup artist Rick Baker, who had already created realistic primates for such movies as Gorilla in the Mist and mighty Joe Young. Baker and his crew were given 4 months to create hundreds of ape makeups. If they had asked me, I would have said I need, like, a year," Baker says. "If I hadn't had the experience on [Dr. Suess' how the Grinch Stole Christmas] of doing 90 makeups a day for 5 months and ot having enough lead time on that, I probably would have been afraid to do this."

Filming began November 6. The shoot was scheduled to last 17 weeks, followed by a truncated post production period of 18 weeks. Toward the end of filming, Burton occasionally had 3 units shooting simultaneously and a mobile editing facility on location which he would visit between setups. "He never compromised for a second," wahlberg says. "It wasn't like we rushed for the sake of the short schedule." [According to Rothman, Apes "finished on schedule to the day and actually slightly under budget."]

The screenplay continued to be reworked throughout shooting, however. Burton has been criticized in the past for disregarding script and story , even as he has been lauded for his visual style. "They should read what the script was," he says of such comments."I happened to think we're making it better." Baker, who came aboard on the strength of the title and the chance to work with Burton again (they also collaborated on Ed Wood), agrees. "when I finally read the script," he says, "I was not thrilled at all, which I probably shouldn't say. I even said to Zanuck, 'Why don't you throw this piece of shit out and get the (1968) Rod Serling script?' Fortunately [the story is now] much closer to what the first film was." Konner was often on the set reworking the dialogue. "I read the first script, and then it was constant changes, so I would just read what was happening with my character in the morning, while I was in makeup," says Roth. "I have no idea what's been going on, which is good when I see the film."

For someone who has worked entirely within the studio system, and consistent returns for the money spent (Mars Attacks! and Ed Wood, to a lesser extent, being his two blips). Tim Burton has remained remarkably (as Rothman observes) Individualistic and iconoclastic. The 42-year-old director has always brought a personal connection to his movies, reflecting a childhood spent in suburban Burbank, finding solace in monster movies, Vincent Price, and cheesy '50s sci-fi cinema and indulging his affinity for outsiders, oddballs, and aliens. "There's an enthusiasm and ana energy that is just refreshing," Roth says. "It reminds me of working with a young director on a very low-budget film." Says Wahlberg, "I look at this as an art film. The story itself, the way he's telling it, it's a very very expensive film."

"I've been lucky," Burton says. "Making a movie is tough by nature, whether it's an independent or whatever. As the world gets more corporate, you just want to protect that artistic feeling as much as you can. I don't want to create a me-versus-them, because that's not what it's about. It's a large operation- a lot of people, a lot of money-so I take that very seriously. I feel like I'm in the Army sometimes." For Burton, the joy is in the filming. He admits that everything else about making a blockbuster hasn't gotten any easier since 1989's Batman. "There's so much of this other crap," he says. "There's just this tiny ray of light where you're actually making the movie. Marketing, they're the ones now who decide which movies [get made]; it used to be agents, the studio." He's not frustrated with any studio per se but with the system as a whole. "It's ridiculous-it's like you're in the way of the marketing," he says. "I saw a teaser poster [for Apes] the other day and it said, 'This film has not been rated.' And I said, 'Why don't you put, "this film has not yet been shot?"'"

Dressed in his signature directing uniform of faded black Levi's and black combat boots, topped off by an array of predominately black shirts, Burton bounds around the set, an energetic, uncoordinated, oddly charismatic figure. His hair is an unruly mane of black, tangled curls, his gleeful face adorned with salt and pepper stubble and blue-tinted wraparound shades. "I call him the mad scientist," says Michael Clark Duncan (The Green Mile), who plays Attar, Thade's right-hand gorilla. "When I first looked at him, I said, 'This guy is crazy-looking.' But you have to have that type of mentality to do a movie like this." Burton flits constantly to his actors between takes. "It's not because I'm paranoid," he says. "With this makeup it's hard-I can't tell what's going on under there. I have to hand it to these people; it's like they're being buried alive everyday."

"He's very solicitous and caring," Bonham Carter says. "Unfailingly, he will laugh after every take, even though it's not particularly funny. It's nice to have a compassionate heart in a director."

"Come day 60, 65, it gets a little old, getting up at 5 in the morning," Wahlberg says. "It would have been nearly impossible if it wasn't for the fact that I enjoyed being around him. I told him when we finished, 'Anytime, anywhere.'"

That's pretty much what Wahlberg said before they started as well. "We had a meeting that lasted all of 2 minutes," the actor recalls. "I went in and told him how much I liked him. I said I would be willing to do whatever he wanted. I was just hoping I wouldn't have to wear a loincloth [as Charlton Heston did in the original] I like to keep my clothes on these days," adds the former Calvin Klein underwear model. " And I've got tattoos." For his stranger in a strange land, Burton says he needed someone who could 'ground [the movie] against all the other weird stuff. all he has to do is look at something and it's like, 'Where the fuck am I? What's going on?' It's a kind of acting that is very hard to do."

Playing the human female who joins Leo in challenging the apes (the people on this planet are not mute, as they were in the original film) is Estella Warren (Driven), a Canadian model and former synchornized-swimming champion appearing in only her second movie. Her athletic background has come in handy during the film's more physical moments. "We were in Lake powell [Arizona], in this freezing water, and I'm in my little outfit," she says. "Tim wanted to get this closeup of one of the actors coming out of the water on a horse. The trainers said, 'you can't have any of the actors riding the horses; they're for the stunt doubles.' And Tim's like, 'Can anybody [ride]?' so I get on the horse, and it was the biggest rush because I came pummeling out, neck-deep."

Burton says there was talk of using computer imagery to create the apes, but the idea was swiftly discarded in favor of actors in makeup. "That's part of the energy of it, part of the mystery," he says. "there's something almost Shakespearean about it, like mask acting." That didn't mean, however, that they could scrimp on the quality of the performances. "there was one point where the studio felt we should drop down a notch because, after all, 'they're behind masks, all they have to be is actors,'" Zanuck says. "We wanted really great actors."

Bonham Carter was filming in Australia when Burton called, asking her to play a chimp, no audition required. "If you think about it, what am i meant to do, come in and eat a banana?" she laughs. "It was a straight offer, without even meeting me, which ws very nice."

"I think it was a good stroke to get actors to play apes, a s opposed to stunt guys or whatever," says Roth, who turned down the role of Snape in Harry Potter an the Sorcerer's Stone to play Thade. "All the performances are varied because of the worlds the actors come from."

"We're getting these performances because with rick Baker's makeup, you see the actor come through," Zanuck says. Baker had first been contacted about the project back when Oliver Stone was involved. his vision for the apes was simple. "I wanted them to be more expressive than in the first one," he says. "You never saw the lips moving over the teeth. I wanted to be able to see teeth and have people move more like real apes." Applying the makeup takes between 2 and 4 hours. The actor's days begin at around 2:30am, and despite the exceedingly long hours, there have been few complaints. "It's not hot, it doesn't irritate my face or anything, Duncan says. "I usually go into the makeup trailer, pop in a movie or go to sleep, and when I wake up, I'm attar. the makeup is so beautifully constructed that the movements and the expressions of your own facework, it's just a matter of trusting it."

The female apes are less hairy and from a human point of view, attractive. "I'm more evolved, I guess," sighs Bonham Carter. "I've got eyebrows. Apes don't have eyebrows. I wanted more hair." Lisa Marie, who plays "a sexy, glamorous chimpanzee," actually looks a bit like Mariah Carey. ("Have you told her that?" Burton asks me, laughing. "they were saying Ann-Magaret yesterday," she says when I do.) Later between camera setups, Burton carefully plants kisses on her chimp lips and neck. "It is a little strange, he admits, grinning. "But I know what's underneath." even so, it could be disconcerting to see the actors without their makeup. "You go, 'Who the fuck is that?'" Burton says. "Michael Clark Duncan walked into the set the other day and it shocked me."

Despite his size, there's something at most cuddly about Duncan's Attar, like a teddy bear on steroids. Roth, however, is one intimidating primate, moving around "in a shark like manner," he says, his slender frame encased in armor. Thade was originally written as a gorilla, until baker informed Burton that Chimps were the scarier apes. "you don't know whether they're going to kill you or kiss you." Burton says. "they're very open on some levels an much more evil in a certain way. they'll rip you to shreds." Roth was keen to exploit this unpredictability in his performance. "I wanted to do this thing where he would be across the room and then two inches away from you in a heartbeat," the actor says. "One moment they're your friend, the next they can tear your head off."

Before every take, Roth goes through a strange little routine, stretching, loosening his neck muscles, then uttering a loud noise. Sometimes a bark, other times a screech, most often a growl. Roth says it's less a case of Method acting than boredom relief: "If you don't keep the movement going, you lose it in your head." He gets tips from terry Notary, an ex-cirque du Soliel performer employed to teach the actors how to move like apes (he's also Roth's stunt double). the primate performers also had to put in several preproduction weeks with Notary at Ape School. "they gave you a basic walk, and you adapted it to the kind of ape you were playing," says Giamatti (Man on the Moon). "Orangutans have a waddling kind of walk, and they hang from things, so there's a lot of me [doing that]." Bonham Carter found inspiration in childhood. "The most helpful image was to think of a nappy [a diaper] that was full between your legs, and you don't want to spill it," she laughs.

If walking is complicated, eating is an ordeal. At lunch one day, in the parking lot of a defunct bank building across from the sound stage, Roth sits alone, grimly poking bite sized piece of food into his mouth with the aid of a small mirror on the table in front of him. "You need the mirror because you've got no idea where your mouth is," Bonham Carter explains. "It begins about an inch lower than where you usually aim for." Missing the mark could be disastrous. "The first day, I ate some beetrot," she says. "I thought we could just wash it off. And it was a nightmare because they had to repaint [my face].

Of the many incongruous sights on the Apes set-gorilla extras singing a capella off camera, background apes sans masks, their eyes, mouth and noses ringed i black, reading the los Angeles Times-none is stranger than that of a chimp smoking. "The first time, I felt like one of those experiments, smoking beagles," says Roth, who, along with Bonham Carter, regularly steps out for a cigarette. baker warned them about the flammable glues used to apply the makeup, as well as the makeup itself. "He said, 'Be careful when you light up the cigarette, you'll lose your face.' By that he meant our real face."

The only fire casualty, however, turned out to be Wahlberg, who was singed during a scene that had him being pelted by fireballs. "the stuntmen, of course, were seeing who could get closest to me, and whoever hit me would get a hundred bucks," the actor says with a laugh. "After take ten, I got hit with a couple, but then they hit Helena, and I didn't like that much because she was very flammable." Bonham Carter says, "Mark was literally on fire. But we were next to the lake, and he went out pretty quickly."

Wahlberg also took a pounding one day from two chimps that the actors spent time with during rehearsals. He greeted Bonham Carter with a hug, and the overprotective primates rushed in. "hey were more familiar with me than they were of her, but I think she smells a little nicer than I do, so they got a little upset," he says. "They got over it."

The Internet has, inevitably, been a buzz for months with gossip and rumors about Planet of the Apes. "Of all [the Web's] wonderful uses, what seems to be sticking is the worst side of it," muses Burton. "some crazy fucker making up weird things. now you've got to spend all your time either confirming or denying." What about the report that George Clooney plays an ape, for example? "That's a new one to me," the director laughs. "I didn't even hear that." The real burning question, however, has been this: Do Wahlberg's Leo and Bonham Carter's Ari consummate their mutual attraction? "It was in the early drafts," Konner says. "It preceded [our script]. what can I tell you? Mark and Helena express interest in each other. A physical sex scene? No." Why steer away from it? "Because I was told to."

"Interspecies love-don't really go there, Bonham Carter says. "It's more platonic. It's quite like dog and human, but there's definitely a special love that can't be categorized." For his part, wahlberg insists, ""I was in bed with a chimpanzee. You'll have to see whether it makes it into the movie. I've got a feeling it will." This is news to Burton however. "I guess I wasn't there that day," the director laughs. "Maybe I was out getting coffee."

"Believe me, If I want to make a movie about bestiality, I'll do it without a major studio," Burton adds. "All we're trying to do is to deepen the characters a little bit, so it's more simple, emotional. I've seen much worse at the Central Park zoo."

Other questions are more easily answered. As for what nods to the original fans can expect, parts of Burton's film were filmed at Lake Powell, the ex-Mrs. Zanuck, who played beauteous Nova in the first 2 films, appears briefly as one of the humans brought into Ape City. And the biggest coup was nabbing Heston to play an Ape. "He never wanted to do the sequel," says Zanuck, "and said to me at the time, 'I'll only do it on 2 conditions: one, you finish me in a week, and two, you kill me so we never have to have this discussion again.'" Thirty years later, Zanuck invited Heston to breakfast with a proposal. "I said, 'Chuck, it's unimaginable to me that we can make a picture called Planet of the Apes and d not do some kind of homage to you. Obviously you'll have to play an ape, because we killed you [in beneath the planet of the apes] at your request.'"

Heston has one scene, as Thade's dying father. Roth, who plays opposite him admits he's o fan of the older actor's conservative, NRA-touting politics. 'I have great disagreements with everything he stands for,' Roth says. 'I had to treat him with respect, as I would any actor, and so I did.'

Wahlberg didn't work directly with Heston, but he made sure to visit the set the day of Heston's scene, also to show respect for the legend. "That was one of the few days I had off," he says. "But I had to see Chuck Heston. He had been in makeup for a good 12 hours and wanted to get out of it, but he was very polite and complimented me on my work. I said the feeling was mutual. Being from the 'hood, I've got my own views on guns."

Released during a turbulent period in US History-the Cold war, Vietnam, the race riots-the original Planet of the Apes offered some social and political insight along with its sci-fi thrills. Those involved with the film are aiming for a bit of the same, but it's clearly not priority number one. "If we can make a little comment here and there with out trying," Zanuck says, "and if it's amusing, that's fun." Says Konner, "Hopefully, it will say something about the condition of modern man without being as specific as that. Also about tolerance. We find apes saying things that people often say in racial ways, subtle and not so subtle." Yet Duncan, who earned an Oscar nod in the racially charged drama The Green Mile, doesn't see any such such implications in the Apes story line. "Not to me," he booms. "When they asked me to do it, I just said, 'Yes, I'd be honored to,' because I remember Charlton Heston doing it. Nothing ever came into my mind about politics or race or anything like that. I'm an actor, and this is what we do to get paid."

As for the apocalyptic shock of seeing the ruined Statue of Liberty at the end of the original movie, the filmmakers are planning something different but, they hope, equally surprising. "We couldn't compete with the atomic bomb, which in the '60s was a concern of everybody's," Zanuck says. "But we have come up with an idea that we think is a lot of fun." Whatever that is, "it's not in writing anywhere," executive producer Ralph Winter said on the set in January. "there's no dialogue, so we'll give the actors direction that day." Says Wahlberg: "It was one of the last things we shot, and if people thought the Statue of Liberty was a cool ending, this is going to blow your minds."

It's now mid-April, and Burton is holed up in an editing suite in new York City, about to begin working on the music with composer Danny Elfman (Batman, Edward Sissorhands, Sleepy Hollow). "Everybody's got the answers, I guess, except me," say the director, who chortles at the idea of unwritten endings and the rumors that as many as 4 or 5 variations were filmed. "That's rubbish," he says. "Here's the thing: what the ending is, exactly, I can't tell you, 'cause I'm still working on it. [Fox] didn't pay for 4 endings. We've tried to leave ourselves a couple of options, like you do on anything, to see how things play." He sighs. "This is tough one to maneuver. It sort of takes away from the process of doing it, and I'm trying to enjoy that brief moment as much as I can."

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