From speeding apes to singing belly buttons and all the oddness in between -- here's the inside dope on entertainment's most curious developments

By EW Staff
Updated August 03, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

In Planet of the Apes, how did they get humans to run like primates?

It could be the most striking image in Tim Burton’s movie: scores of actors in full ape regalia on all fours, sprinting at what appears to be Olympic speed. ”It’s all smoke and mirrors,” says villainous ape Tim Roth. ”You don’t wanna know how it’s done — it just looks good.” Ah, but we do wanna know. Turns out producers hired Terry Notary, a former member of the acrobatic Cirque du Soleil, to help the actors and stuntmen access their simian side. ”We call it loping, or quadrupeding,” says Notary. ”We did workshops with Tim, showing him different combinations, from zero percent ape to 100 percent ape. And he said, ‘I like it right about 20-to-80 ape-to-human.’ But when they start to get emotional or they get into a battle scene, they jump to 100 percent ape.” Notary needed only 30 minutes to perfect the technique. ”You just have to really bend your legs and try to make your arms as lo-o-o-ng as possible,” explains Notary, who trained 20 performers for the shots. ”A lot of the guys you see are [digital] replicas of themselves.”

Burton insists he didn’t have to speed up the film to achieve the high-velocity effect. ”I thought we were gonna have to do other things to kind of goose it up,” he says. ”But these guys did it. I was amazed, actually.” Still, in some of the scenes, going from zero to 100 percent ape did require a little trickery. ”Those guys were getting shot forward on wires,” says orangutan costar Paul Giamatti of the stuntmen. ”And then they [were] dragged on these rubber mats, so it looked like they were going really fast. I couldn’t have done that.” Thank God for evolution.

How did they make the belly buttons sing ”I’m Coming Out” in the Levi’s Superlow jeans commercial?

Ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day went to L.A. production company Partizan with the concept of talking navels, but it was director Michel Gondry (whose dark comedy Human Nature, starring Tim Robbins and Patricia Arquette, is due next year) who decided to take it a step further. ”We shot a real girl singing and took the movements from her cheeks and mouth, put it in the computer, and used it as a reference to make the belly buttons sing on their own,” says producer Julie Fong, who adds that Twisted Laboratories’ Olivier Gondry (Michel’s brother) created a computer program specifically for the spot and then imposed the images on the midriffs of the women strutting in the commercial. ”Olivier designed every single shot by hand,” says Fong. ”At times we wanted one of the voices to have a little more vibrato, and if you look closely, one of the belly buttons has a little vibrato going on.” If the voice sounds familiar, that’s because — bada-bing! — it’s The Sopranos’ Jamie-Lynn Sigler (above) warbling Diana Ross’ disco classic.

How did ‘N Sync choose which tracks would make it onto their new album, Celebrity?

After recording 25-plus songs, the guys and their label, Jive, first narrowed their repertoire to 15. ”We then whittled it down to 12 because we didn’t want the unlucky number 13,” says group member Lance Bass. ”We spent six hours at Jive listening to these 15 songs over and over again.” First to go: ”Fallen,” a ballad written by Chris Kirkpatrick, and the up-tempo ”I Swear,” a JC Chasez composition that Bass says ”sounded just like Michael Jackson.” The final choice came down to two tracks from Swedish hitmaker Kristian Lundin: ”That Girl” and ”Just Don’t Tell Me That.” Fortunately, the guys realized the lyrics to ”That Girl” fit perfectly with the plot of Bass and Joey Fatone’s fall romantic comedy, On the Line. So it was decided that song, and ”Fallen,” would appear on the film’s soundtrack.

The process still wasn’t over. After 15 became 12, the group received a demo from the production team PAJAM for a track called “Do Your Thing.” “We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a great song!'” says Bass, who describes it as “percappella.” “So we went ahead and recorded that.” The track’s placement on Celebrity? Lucky No. 13.

America's Sweethearts

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 100 minutes
  • Joe Roth