During breaks in filming, actors made up as different ape species tended to hang out together, gorillas with gorillas, orangutans with orangutans, chimps with chimps. It wasn't required, it just naturally happened.
Roddy McDowall, an experienced actor, recommended to his companions in makeup that they should frequently add tics, blinks and assorted facial gestures to add a sense of realism and keep the makeup from appearing "mask-like". McDowall reportedly became a merry prankster with the makeup, driving home with his make-up on, and shocking some of the other drivers on the freeway.
All the Ape actors and extras were required to wear their masks even during breaks and in between shots because it took so much time to make them up. Because of this, meals were liquefied and drunk through straws.
Charlton Heston was sick during much of the film with the flu. Rather than wait for him to get better, the producers felt that his hoarse voice added something to the character of Taylor. According to Heston's diary, after filming the scene where Taylor and Nova are forcibly separated, he wrote that he was feeling like hell while shooting because of his illness, and felt even worse "every time that damn fire hose hit me".
Turning down the part of Zira was one of Ingrid Bergman's greatest regrets. Much surprised at how well the finished film turned out, she later confided to her daughter Isabella Rossellini that in hindsight the film would have been an ideal opportunity for her to "disregard her regal bearing". She also regretted missing the opportunity of working with Charlton Heston.
One of the first films to have a major large scale merchandising tie-in. Merchandise related to the film included toys and collectibles, action figures, picture and story books, trading card sets, books, records, comics and a series of graphic novels from Marvel Comics.
Linda Harrison, who plays Nova, was having an affair with producer Richard D. Zanuck at the time of production. In the year of the film's release, Zanuck divorced his first wife and married Harrison. The couple were married for 9 years and had 2 children.
Allegedly, Jerry Goldsmith wore a gorilla mask while writing and conducting the score to "better get in touch with the movie." He also used a ram's horn in the process. The result was the first completely atonal score in a Hollywood movie.
The sound effect of the rocket ship hurtling through the atmosphere of the ape planet and then landing in the lake is the exact same sound effect used for the Batmobile in motion from the TV show "Batman" also produced by 20th Century Fox.
In the scene at the Ape City natural history museum, a large claw of a strange animal can be seen prominently displayed several times on a pedestal at the top of the stairs. It is the plaster cast made of the foot of the monster that attacks the spaceship in Forbidden Planet (1956).
John Chambers' outstanding makeup technique pioneered in the film was based upon one technique he had used during World War II to give disfigured veterans a normal appearance. Chambers spent many hours watching the apes at Los Angeles Zoo, studying their facial expressions. Several other productions were delayed due to the fact that many of Hollywood's top make up artists were working on this film. Leftover makeup supplies were later used on actor Michael Conrad, playing an ape-like alien in Lost in Space: Fugitives in Space (1968). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Chambers a special award for makeup (which was not an Oscar category until 1981) for this achievement, in the second time that a make-up artist received an Academy Award. [William Tuttle was the first, with 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)]. Chambers' award was presented by Walter Matthau and a chimpanzee in a tuxedo.
Michael Wilson was brought in to do a rewrite of Rod Serling's screenplay. Wilson's contribution is most evident in the kangaroo courtroom scene, Wilson being an embittered target of the blacklisting Joseph McCarthy "witchhunts" of the 1950s.
Shortly after the astronauts have crash landed Taylor is asked where he thinks they are, having no idea he sarcastically responds, "We're some 320 light years from Earth on an unnamed planet in orbit around a star in the constellation of Orion." In the original novel the story takes place on a planet in orbit around the star Betelgeuse, which is in the constellation of Orion.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks preventing 20th Century Fox from committing to the project was their fear over how the ape faces would appear on screen. Eventually they stumped up $5,000 for a test scene to be shot with Charlton Heston playing alongside the made-up Edward G. Robinson as Dr. Zaius and James Brolin as a character called Mr. Cornelius. The studio was very excited about the results of this test but still delayed green lighting the film for a further six months. It was only after Fantastic Voyage (1966) became a hit and showed the viability of science fiction as a genre that "Planet of the Apes" was given the go-ahead, but without Robinson, as he suffered from a weak heart and didn't think he could endure the day-to-day rigors of performing in the ape make-up.
The actors in ape costume had to eat their lunch in front of a mirror so as to monitor any changes to their make-up. They also had to use straws for their drinks. Naturally, in those days, a lot of the actors were smokers too so they were all issued with cigarette holders. Kim Hunter found the whole experience so laborious that she eventually gave up eating when in full make-up.
It was a tough shoot for all concerned in the Arizona heat. Not just for the actors in the ape make-up but also for Charlton Heston who spends most of the film half-naked, being brutalized by the elements and the simians. As Heston noted in his autobiography, "even rubber rocks hurt".
The first director to spot the potential in Pierre Boulle's novel was Blake Edwards. He brought on board leading sci-fi writer Rod Serling who produced nearly 40 drafts of the screenplay. While Serling was able to get to grips with the structure, he gave full credit to Michael G. Wilson for the final screenplay.
Two 9-foot statues of the Lawgiver were made. The original used in the 1st, 2nd and 5th film ended up in Arthur P. Jacobs' backyard as the sole prop he kept from the movie. The other was given to Sammy Davis Jr. by Jacobs and was kept by him for many years. Arthur P. Jacobs kept the original Lawgiver statue in his backyard until his early and untimely death in 1973 at age 51. His widow Natalie Trundy Jacobs, kept the statue in her backyard even as she moved residences. Several movie stars and celebrities can be found in photo archives standing next to the Lawgiver statue including Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Kim Hunter, Andy Warhol, and a pregnant Natalie Wood. In December of 1998, Natalie Trundy Jacobs sold the original Lawgiver statue through an online auction hosted by The Time Machine, an web based memorabilia store retailing in photos and celebrity autographs. The winning bidder of the auction was an avid Planet of the Apes Collector, Ed Gogin of Orange County, California, who outbid 20th Century Fox (TCF). TCF wanted the Lawgiver statue for their archives and marketing purposes. In December of 2010, Gogin was featured in Hollywood Treasure: Joe's Judgment Day (2010) with Gogin's other Apes memorabilia. The copy of the Sammy Davis Lawgiver statue was sold at his IRS estate auction for the celebrity singer's unpaid back taxes to a Hollywood actor and friend of Roddy McDowall. This Lawgiver statue was featured in the 1998 AMC documentary, Behind the Planet of the Apes (1998), as part of AMC's 30 Year Anniversary campaign "Apes Go Classic".
Director Franklin J. Schaffner deliberately used odd, skewed angles and hand-held cameras to create a disorientating effect, much like what Charlton Heston's character experiences in this brave new world.
The famous quote "Human see, human do" is based on an old children song that goes, "When you clap, clap clap your hands,/The monkey claps, claps claps his hands. Monkey see, monkey do/Monkey do the same as you."
When Franklin J. Schaffner came on board as director, one of his first acts was to re-imagine the apes' society. In the script he was given, the apes lived in a hi-tech world. Schaffner wanted it to be more primitive. (This also helped to significantly reduce costs.)
Although it is widely believed that the budget for the ape make-up was at a million dollars, Assoc Producer Mort Abrahams later revealed via interview that the make-up was "more like half a million...but a million dollars (quote) made better publicity". Abrahams was certainly qualified to know, since his function was more as the active Line Producer through Planet of the Apes (1968) & Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970).
The spaceship is inscribed with the acronym ANSA rather than NASA. The meaning of this in-joke is uncertain. The ship itself has been named by fans as the USS Icarus, after Greek mythology's ill-fated flight pioneer.
When Cornelius & Zira are showing Taylor the map of the Forbidden Zone, you can see the coastlines on the map strongly resemble the current New York, New Jersey and Connecticut shorelines (once you take into consideration the 2000 years of a post-nuclear apocalyptic worlds dramatic land mass shift). Although the Hudson and East Rivers are gone, you can clearly identify on their map Long Island, Long Island Sound, Lower NY Bay, Staten Island & the Atlantic Ocean.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The final scene with Taylor coming across the Statue of Liberty was suggested by Rod Serling. According to rumor, Pierre Boulle was greatly upset by this ending, but later warmed to it, preferring this new ending over the very different ending he had written. The skeletal remains of the torch appear as "set decoration" in the final episode of Lost in Space: Junkyard of Space (1968).
There was an attempt by censors to have the final scene edited for profanity but Charlton Heston was able to argue that his character was actually asking God to damn those responsible for the destruction of the world to hell, rather than simply using the Lord's name in vain.
Pierre Boulle's original novel also featured a twist ending, although slightly different from the film. The spacecraft crew does in fact land on another planet, some 350 light years from Earth. The main character, Ulisse (Taylor in the film) escapes from the ape authorities with Nova, and they return to Earth, after another 350 light years, only to find that Earth has undergone the same evolution. (It is therefore not that great a departure for the film to have set the story on Earth the whole time.) The novel adds a further twist, however: Ulisse/Taylor's story has been told in flashback, after he and Nova fled Earth as well and left a message in a bottle floating through space to warn off anyone else who might stumble across either planet. The bottle is discovered by an old married couple named Jinn and Phyllis - who are later revealed to be chimpanzees themselves. They dismiss the story, saying that no human could be intelligent enough to write it.
In the novel, the ape society is technologically comparable to the 1950s or 1960s, with cities, automobiles, televisions, etc., technology left over from the planet's human population. However, the budget could not accommodate the setting, so a more primitive depiction of ape society was used.
The filming location of the classic final scene has been erroneously thought to be Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, but is in fact Malibu, California. For die-hard fans who want to visit the true location, it is a secluded cove on the far eastern end of Westward Beach, between Zuma Beach and Point Dume. Ignore the wide curving beach by the car park and clamber over the rocks to the east until you get to the quiet, often deserted, little beach surrounded by cliffs. (The Statue of Liberty was an optical effect skillfully achieved with a matte painting blended into a still existing rock structure.)
When Cornelius and Zira are showing Taylor the map of the Forbidden Zone, you can see the coastlines on the map strongly resemble the current New York, New Jersey and Connecticut shorelines (once you take into consideration the 2000 years of a post-nuclear apocalyptic worlds dramatic land mass shift). Although the Hudson and East Rivers are gone, you can clearly identify on their map Long Island, Long Island Sound, Lower NY Bay, Staten Island & the Atlantic Ocean.
Some viewers claim that the windows of the Icarus, when viewed from inside at the beginning, resemble the eyes of the Statue of Liberty. When the Icarus is half submerged and tilted upwards, its shape resembles one of the points of Liberty's crown.