×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fox goes ‘Ape’ for Burton

Director in negotiations for sci-fi remake

It looks like the director who brought you the man with scissors for hands, revived Washington Irving’s most famous tale and sparked the imagination with his dark “Batman” may next be turning to talking apes.

At week’s end, Tim Burton was in late-stage negotiations to direct 20th Century Fox’s remake of the 1968 sci-fi classic “Planet of the Apes.” If the project — which has languished for years — really gets made, it could be Fox’s tentpole of tentpoles for summer 2001.

Burton’s signing would open a new chapter in the story of “Planet of the Apes.”

Gestation frustration

Industry heavyweights such as Oliver Stone, Chris Columbus, James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger have been attached to the project in one way or another in a development history reaching back to 1993 — longer than it took to make the original and four sequels. But the remake had never come close to going before the cameras.

Popular on Variety

Things picked up considerable steam in recent weeks as Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman/CEO Bill Mechanic, Fox Film Group president Tom Rothman and Hutch Parker, president of the studios’ TCF production arm, exercised personal control over the project. With a new script in hand from scribe Bill Broyles, Fox recently began shopping the project to directors.

Clandestine operation

The secrecy with which the search for a helmer ensued — with scripts going directly from Fox execs to directors themselves and no copies freely available for agents to read — was a sign of the high priority the film has at Fox.

That furtiveness has encouraged speculation about the plot of the film.

Insiders have described it as neither a sequel nor a remake, but a “re-imagining” of the original series.

Sources also indicate the lead for the pic will drop considerably in age.

Original star Charlton Heston was 44. Broyles’ version focuses on someone more in the age group of Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.

Pic is also likely to be a marketing bonanza of toys and tie-ins — a potential revenue-generating monster that has Fox extremely eager to push the film forward — especially after a rather lean 1999.

Odd choice

The choice of the idiosyncratic Burton is particularly intriguing because word was out that the studio was extremely happy with Broyles’ script and was looking for a director ready to proceed quickly into casting and pre-production — rather than spending precious time rewriting. Burton, on the other hand, is known for his unique vision, and it remains to be seen how his creative take will mesh with Broyles’.

The pic takes its inspiration from one of the most successful film series ever. The 1968 first installment, “Planet of the Apes,” had astronaut Heston unwittingly discovering the Earth of the future — with human civilization destroyed by nuclear conflict and apes running the show.

Four sequels ensued (although these were the days before sequels had numbers in their titles): “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970), “Escape From the Planet of the Apes” (1971), “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972) and “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” (1973).

Burton, who first made his mark with the cult favorite “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” in 1985, struck it big with “Batman” in 1989. He also helmed “Edward Scissorhands” and “Ed Wood,” both with Johnny Depp. He currently has the Depp starrer “Sleepy Hollow” in theaters; so far it’s pulled in more than $135 million worldwide since its release late in 1999. The director is repped by the William Morris Agency.

More Film

  • Ray Manzarek

    Film News Roundup: Concert-Documentary 'The Doors: Break on Thru' Set for February

    In today’s film news roundup, one-night showings of a Ray Manzarek tribute and the season premiere of “Doctor Who” have been set for 2020, and the MPAA hires a copyright expert. ONE-NIGHT SHOWINGS The Doors and Trafalgar Releasing are teaming on the worldwide Feb. 12 release of “The Doors: Break on Thru – A Celebration [...]

  • Richard Jewell

    Warner Bros. Hits Back at Atlanta Paper Over 'Richard Jewell' Legal Threat

    Warner Bros. is standing behind “Richard Jewell,” the Clint Eastwood drama that is the source of controversy over its portrayal of a female journalist trading sex for scoops. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent a legal threat to the filmmakers on Monday asking them to include a disclaimer noting that the film took dramatic license. In a [...]

  • The Irishman

    'Captain Marvel,' 'The Irishman,' Other Original Scores to Miss Out on Oscar Nominations

    The Regina Spektor song from “Bombshell” and at least six major scores including “The Two Popes” and “The Irishman” won’t be on Oscar’s music shortlists when they are announced next week. That’s because none of them are on the official Academy eligibility lists from which music-branch members are now voting. Preliminary voting ends tomorrow afternoon, [...]

  • Golden Globes Zodiac signs

    Golden Globes Nominees as Zodiac Signs

    The Golden Globes nominees aren’t the only stars of awards season. Variety turned to astrology to assign Zodiac signs to this year’s nominees. Some selections required a little more nuance — Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart” is a Virgo with a prominent Sagittarius rising and Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” is a Sagittarius that wishes it were a [...]

  • Two-time Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks portrays one

    How Production Designer Jade Healy Recreated the Beautiful Neighborhood of Mister Rogers

    Production designer Jade Healy is doing double duty this awards season. For one, her work can be seen in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.” There, she created a world of angst and individuality, making use of negative space as a couple reaches the end of their relationship. In Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” [...]

  • Eddie Murphy Awkwafina

    The Golden Globes Polish Up Their New Respectability (Column)

    It’s always a fun ritual to peruse the nominations for the Golden Globes, because you’re probably going to see a handful of eyebrow-raisers and maybe a jaw-dropper, the sort of “Oh, did they actually do that?” choices that make the Golden Globes the Golden Globes. That’s the theory, at any rate. But it may be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content