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May 26, 2021

Unimaginable Costumes and Makeup From the Classic Sci-Fi Movie ‘Planet of the Apes’ (1968)

Planet of the Apes is a 1968 American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and loosely based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle. Written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, it stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison.

Filming took place between May 21 and August 10, 1967, in California, Utah and Arizona, with desert sequences shot in and around Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The film’s final “closed” cost was $5.8 million. 

The film was groundbreaking for its prosthetic makeup techniques by artist John Chambers. The stand-out costumes and intense makeup were a big part of what made Planet of the Apes such a success. It was even considered one of the strongest films of the 1960s by many. Each and every component of this production was unlike anything Hollywood had ever seen before.

Many roles in Planet of the Apes were not for everyone, strictly because of the intense costumes and makeup. For instance, Dr. Zaius was initially supposed to be played by Edward G. Robinson, however, once he learned precisely what went into making the character's appearance, he backed out.

Clearly, these wild costumes and amounts of makeup were just not his cup of tea. So the role was offered to Maurice Evans, who showed absolutely no hesitation about any parts of the production. He turned out to be an excellent sport, patiently sitting through the long and uncomfortable makeup sessions without making a peep; He even painted his nails voluntarily.

Costume designer John Chambers was determined to give people something they’ve never seen before in Planet of the Apes. He knowingly pushed the limits, as he wanted to bring a sense of realism to Hollywood, which was essentially a foreign concept to the industry at the time.

Costume materials included but were not limited to foam and spirit gum, which were relatively inexpensive and easy to get a hold of at the time. Chambers was a wizard with any materials he was given, and he had a natural talent for turning a chunk of foam into a human-like ape.



  1. "Unimaginable".
    Where did the idea come from then, I wonder?

  2. Some of those photos appear to have come from sequels and the 1974 TV series.




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