While I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the internet in the mid-to-late nineties, I was vaguely familiar with the fact that iconic filmmaker James Cameron was originally set to helm a Planet of the Apes project with 20th Century Fox, but that the project fell through and was eventually resurrected in the form of Tim Burton’s 2001 remake.

During a recent interview with director/producer Peter Hyams (Timecop, The Relic, End of Days), he shared with us some details on what Cameron had originally envisioned for his iteration of the Planet of the Apes and how legendary special effects artist Stan Winston, who Cameron had approached about working on the film, had managed to crack the holy grail of the Apes franchise (at that time): fully-articulate apes effects that bared no resemblance to the stiff “man-in-a-mask” effects approach of the original Planet of the Apes series.

“I got involved with Jim on Planet of the Apes sometime around 1998,” explained Hyams. “I was going to write and produce and Jim was going to direct. He asked me if I wanted to do the project with him and I said, ‘Well, duh’ because that was a dream project for many of us from that generation of filmmakers. I told Jim though that my only condition about the project was that I would only do it if he could find a way to make sure that the apes could talk- and look like they were really talking, not just guys behind a mask.”

“Jim said ‘Okay, give me some time’ and then a few weeks later, this mysterious VHS tape shows up at my office.  I start playing it and sitting in front of me, in two director’s chairs, are Stan and I believe his son Matt. They’re dressed normally from the neck down- in shorts and t-shirts- but they were both made up like apes. Stan was an orangutan and his son was a gorilla. And as I watched this tape, which was like 10 minutes or something, here’s Stan and Matt fully made up to look like real apes having conversations, laughing and everything. It was absolute perfection; I couldn’t believe that Stan actually cracked it. I even asked Stan about how he managed to pull it off but he wouldn’t tell me- I just remember thinking it was absolutely stunning work and it was a real shame that fans never got to see Stan’s vision for these apes come to life.”

“As you know, Jim’s movie never worked out and eventually Fox went with (Tim) Burton, but you know that for all the years I knew Stan, he still wouldn’t tell me how he pulled off those apes effects? No matter how many times I asked, he never revealed it to me (laughs) but it was probably some of the most incredible stuff I’ve ever seen from him.”


  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.