December 23, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

In the wake of Junior‘s disappointing gross ($24 million in its first three weeks), Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s getting back into action. Production sources say he’s in discussion with Twentieth Century Fox to star in the revamped Planet of the Apes, the $60-70 million sci-fi epic being executive-produced by Oliver Stone. The Schwarzenegger deal supposedly hangs on the availability of Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger), whom the star wants as director. But Noyce’s services are committed until Jan. 15 to Paramount, for which he may direct the big-screen version of The Saint. Another inside production source, however, says the casting ”looks good,” and adds that, ”Arnold is interested no matter who directs.” Schwarzenegger’s agent did not return calls.

In this Apes — neither a remake of Fox’s 1968 Charlton Heston cult treat, nor a faithful adaptation of the original 1963 Pierre Boulle novel — Ah-nuld would play a geneticist who travels back in time to an ape-dominated society to save the human race from extinction. A draft of a script by Terry Hayes (The Road Warrior) includes a few nods to the original (an appearance by a female ape scientist named Dr. Zora, reminiscent of Kim Hunter‘s character, Dr. Zira, in the first film) but is much heavier on action, depicting several bloody battles between predatory apes and primitive human tribes. An expected standout of the movie will be the animatronic costumes, crafted by Jurassic Park‘s Stan Winston, which promise to be more lifelike than the original movie’s.

Fox hopes the movie will create a hefty new Apes franchise, complete with sequels, merchandising, and eventual TV spin-offs. The ’68 movie yielded four feature sequels, a short-lived TV series, an animated series, and memorabilia that now has some kitsch value on the collectibles market.

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