Producer finds himself 'in a weird time warp'

Zanuck and Brown B.O. chart
Few men would want to tackle a hostile world full of intelligent apes once, let alone twice.

But no one is as well equipped for the task as Richard D. Zanuck, Showest honoree and producer of this summer’s return to “Planet of the Apes.”

“The idea of the whole upside-down world where men are the servants and apes are in charge is the same,” says Zanuck, who was in charge of 20th Century Fox when the studio made the original “Apes” 33 years ago. “Outside of that, they’re entirely new characters, an entirely different story.”

The new “Planet” finds Mark Wahlberg starring as an astronaut who lands on a planet where intelligent apes rule and humans are animals. Directed by Tim Burton, and co-starring Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Clarke Duncan, “Apes” promises to be a summer tentpole event.

The film began development inhouse at Fox about a decade ago, with everyone from James Cameron and Oliver Stone to Arnold Schwarzenegger attached at various points. William Broyles Jr. wrote the script that finally got the ball rolling with a story that Rothman says is neither a sequel nor a remake.

The search for a producer who could realize Burton’s vision and handle the logistics of a film that has armies of actors in heavy ape makeup led Fox to Zanuck.

“For all the people in this town who have the word producer next to their name, there are very few true producers, and we needed one for this,” says Tom Rothman, Fox co-chairman. “He obviously has a great personal connection to it, and we thought that there was poetic justice.”

Zanuck, 66, was born into the first family of Hollywood and was running the studio when producer Arthur P. Jacobs and star Charlton Heston were pitching the original “Apes” in the mid-1960s.

Unlike most studio execs, Zanuck thought it could be done and a screen test of the ape makeup convinced him that audiences would believe it.

Released in 1968, “Planet of the Apes” became an instant sci-fi classic that thrilled critics and audiences with its smart script, social commentary and famous surprise ending. Work on sequels began almost immediately, and the franchise spawned four more films and two TV shows before petering out in the mid-1970s.

Zanuck left the studio after the first sequel and returned to producing projects such as “Jaws,” “The Verdict,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Rules of Engagement” and the 2000 Academy Awards broadcast.

Rothman says Zanuck was working on last year’s Oscars when he was offered the new “Apes.”

“The reason I knew right away it was right, was the excitement in his voice,” Rothman recalls.

Ralph Winter, executive producer on “Apes” and a veteran of summer spectacles including “X-Men,” “Inspector Gadget,” “Mighty Joe Young” and the “Star Trek” films, says Zanuck’s previous “Apes” experience has been invaluable. “Dick’s been through a lot of the issues that we struggled with at the beginning

Most of those issues involved the ape makeup, and casting actors to perform in it. The makeup, designed by five-time Oscar winner Rick Baker, has a high standard to meet as the original film’s earned a special Oscar for transforming scores of actors into a believable army of intelligent simians.

Zanuck, however, isn’t so sure his work on the original has that much impact.

“I don’t think it helped or hurt or had any influence on it except I found myself in a weird time warp of my own,” he says. “We used one of the locations that was prominent in the original picture because it was right for our picture. But standing there, I’ve got to admit, that I did find myself thinking back 30 years.”

Running a set with scores of ape extras is no easy matter, but one Zanuck had a handle on, Winter says. “He’s a real professional. He thinks about the people and the human side of doing this, not just whatever it takes.

“Everyone gets along and that tone gets set at the top, from Dick and Tim. You just don’t see that a lot on a big movie.”

Rothman echoes that sentiment, saying Zanuck is involved with every aspect of the production. “He dove into this project with both feet and both hands.

“He understands the difficulties in the struggle for the studio and understands the difficulties for the filmmaker. It distinguishes Dick from all too many producers. First call, last shot of the day, he’s there, whether they’re out in the middle of godforsaken nowhere or doing very tedious, detailed work on the stage.”

So what can moviegoers expect from Burton and Zanuck’s final product, slated to swing July 27?

“It’s not going to be a dark film,” Winter says. “It’s going to be PG-13. It’s going to be action-packed and it’s going to be tense.”

Zanuck agrees, saying: “Tim is a man of great vision and he likes to stand things on their head, even in a normal world. It’s going to be great fun.”

ZANUCK AND BROWN AT THE BOX OFFICE

While Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown have shared filmography credits as producing partners for a majority of their career, Brown ekes out ahead of Zanuck in his total domestic B.O. take by $215 million. The difference? Brown’s credits on mid-grossing pics “The Saint,” “Kiss the Girls,” and the recent “Chocolat.”
Richard D. Zanuck
Title

Domestic B.O.*

Jaws (U, ’75)

260

Deep Impact (Par, ’98)

140

Driving Miss Daisy (WB,’89)

107

Jaws 2 (U, ’78)

77

Cocoon (Fox, ’85)

76

Rules of Engagement (Par, ’00)

61

The Verdict (Fox, ’82)

54

Neighbors (Col, ’81)

30

Chain Reaction (Fox, ’96)+

21

Cocoon: The Return (Fox, ’88)

19

True Crime (WB, ’99)

17

The Island (U, ’80)

16

Mulholland Falls (MGM, ’96)

12

Target (WB, ’85)

9

Clean Slate (MGM, ’94)

7

Rush (MGM, ’91)

7

Wild Bill (MGM, ’95)

2

Rich In Love (MGM, ’93)

2

All About Eve (re) (Fox Searchlight, ’00)

0.06

Total domestic B.O.

917

Source: AC Nielsen EDI/Variety

+as Executive Producer

*in millions of $

DAVID BROWN
Title

Domestic B.O.*

Jaws (U, ’75)

260

A Few Good Men (Sony, ’92)

141

Deep Impact (Par, ’98)

140

Driving Miss Daisy (WB, ’89)+

107

Jaws 2 (U, ’78)

77

Cocoon (Fox, ’85)

76

The Saint (Par, ’97)

61

Kiss the Girls (Par, ’97)

61

The Verdict (Fox, ’82)

54

Chocolat (Miramax, ’00)(still in release as of 2/25/01)

40

Neighbors (Col, ’81)

30

The Player (Fine Line, ’92)

22

Cocoon: The Return (Fox, ’88)

19

The Island (U, ’80)

16

Angela’s Ashes (Par, ’99)

13

Target (WB, ’85)

9

The Cemetery Club (BV, ’93)

6

Canadian Bacon (Gramercy, ’95)

0.2

Watch It (Skouras, ’93)+

0.1

Total domestic B.O.

1.13 billion

*in millions of $

+as Executive Producer

Source: AC Nielsen EDI/Variety

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