Script rewrites and director turnovers plague the film's production

And speaking of cheesy ’70s movies…

When Twentieth Century Fox decided three years ago to remake Planet of the Apes, the decision could have been made by a chimp. After all, the 1968 sci-fi classic starring Charlton Heston spawned a ’70s phenomenon that included four sequels and a TV series, and after two decades of dormancy the franchise seemed ripe to be exploited again. But what could have become a retooled cash machine instead became a monkey on the studio’s back. What happened? A reconstruction of the events:

December 1993 Fox gives a go ahead to the remake with the producing team of Don Murphy, Jane Hamsher, and Oliver Stone. The trio hire screenwriter Terry Hayes (The Road Warrior), who develops a story about a geneticist who time-travels back to an ape-dominated society. ”It was a no-brainer,” says Murphy. ”A can’t-miss hit. A merchandising tidal wave.”

March 1994 Stone taps Arnold Schwarzenegger to star — which means the buffed one also gets a say in the choice of director. In the meantime, Fox calls for rewrites. ”Terry wrote a Terminator,” says Murphy, ”and Fox wanted The Flintstones.”

January 1995 Schwarzenegger approves director Philip Noyce (Patriot Games). Stone is ready to proceed with a healthy $100 million budget — but Fox is still unhappy with the script.

February 1995 Noyce commits to develop The Saint for Paramount. Fox brings aboard director Chris Columbus (Nine Months), who rewrites the script with screenwriter Sam Hamm (Batman). James Cameron enters the mix as another possible producer. Schwarzenegger goes off to make Eraser with The Mask director Chuck Russell, who was once in the running to helm Apes.

Late 1995 Cameron ends up passing. Columbus exits and later signs on to Jingle All the Way with — surprise — Schwarzenegger.

January 1996 Fox offers the film to director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), but he declines. The studio then pursues New Zealand director Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures), who pitched his own take on an Apes film to the studio back in 1992. Jackson, however, decides to commit to Universal for another big primate remake: King Kong.

The Present Fox swears Apes is alive and kicking. ”We see the potential for a big movie,” says studio president Bill Mechanic. ”It won’t get to the screen by the most linear path, but it’s going to get made.”