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Retrospective: The Apes Films That Never Were...

Here are three Planet of the Apes films that were in the pipeline, scrapped due to typical Hollywood politics.

Return to the Planet of the Apes (1988)


Director, Adam Rifkin was a huge fan of the original 1968 movie and wanted to continue the series. He proposed an alternative sequel to the first film, promising something along the lines of Aliens, an epic production on a reasonable budget. Titled Return to the Planet of the Apes, the story was to be set in a Roman-esque period of grandeur on the ape planet, where a descendant of Charlton Heston's character would lead a revolt against the apes. The project was fast-tracked and Rick Baker was hired for make-up and Danny Elfman to score the film. The lead role was to played by either Tom Cruise or Charlie Sheen and Roddy McDowall was to feature in a role written for him, a wise Leonardo Da Vinci type ape. However, shortly before the film was to enter pre-production, new Fox exexcutived disagreed with Rifkin creatively, demanding several re-writes. The project was soon abandonned. This is incredibly dissapointing because it sounds like it could have made a fantastic picture.

Return of the Apes (1994)

However, a mere six years later, plans for another installment were circling with Oliver Stone or Sam Raimi named to direct. The story featured religious elements far more heavily with the Apes being there at the very beginning of the world. Set in the future, Return of the Apes followed the world during a plague, killing all of humanity. A geneticist discovers that this is due to a 'genetic timebomb' routed in the stone age, so time-travels back with his pregnant colleague to discover that man is at war against highly evolved apes. It is revealed that the apes have manufactured this virus to destroy all humankind, however the scientists soon discover a young baby named Eve and protect her from the virus. The female scientist soon gives birth to a child named Adam, this ensures the survival of the human race for thousands more years.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was cast in the lead role, with Phillip Noyce now directing Oliver Stone's script. However, before filming started tension between the creative minds and studios began, with the studio wanting more comedy and light-heartedness in the gritty script. Scenes where the apes were playing baseball were proposed, however Noyce abandonned the project due to the ridiculous concept.

Columbus and Cameron's Planet of the Apes (1996)

Oliver Stone eventually abandonned the project, others soon followed suit. Eventually, Chris Columbus was brought on, with co-writer Sam Hamm. The script had an ape astronaut from another planet crashes into New York harbour, this ape contains a deadly disease that begins to wipe out humanity. Two scientists set off in the apes' spacecraft to see if they can find an antidote on the apes home planet but instead discover a planet ruled by apes, who hunt humans. These apes are lead by Lord Zaius and Colonel Ursus. After escaping from the planet, the scientists discover in their absence the earth has now been taken over by apes, once again we see the statue of liberty with an ape face chizzeled in.

Arnold Schwarzenegger remained attached but Chris Columbus left the film as Fox had mixed emotions on the script . James Cameron was offered to direct but was working on Titanic . Arnie soon left to work on Eraser and the studios turned to Peter Jackson to direct. However, after the death of Roddy McDowall, Jackson had little interest in the project. The project soon crumbled until Fox went to Tim Burton.

Check out our review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes here.
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