Saturday, March 6 GalaxyCon streamed an exclusive virtual 50 minute live chat that featured the cast from the original Planet of the Apes films. Guests included Linda Harrison (Nova – Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes), Lou Wagner (Lucius – Planet of the Apes), Bobby Porter (Cornelius – Battle for the Planet of the Apes), Pat Cardi (Young Chimp – Battle for the Planet of the Apes), Austin Stoker (MacDonald – Battle for the Planet of the Apes). Dana Gould (comedian, writer on The Simpsons) as Dr. Z (as in Zaius) assumed control of the panel from Patty the host. France Nuyen (Amoa – Battle for the Planet of the Apes) was listed as a guest but was a no-show.
Gould, who was a past guest on Talking Apes, had a difficult task of keeping the show moving on a medium that some of the older guests were probably not too familiar with. His entertainer mode kicked into high gear to cover the spots when guests didn’t understand the question or just gave short answers. I’ve been in his place so I know exactly what was going through his mind. However it became the Dr. Z show which prompted many fans in the chat to say, “please let the others talk”. I felt that it was Patty’s job to then get more questions than he did from the chat and interject. But I’m sure he didn’t want to get in the way of the speed-talking Zauis.
Dean Preston, from Simina Scrolls Fanzine said, “Enjoyed it! Probably not long enough … another half hour and a few more fan questions would have been better!!”
Dr. Z introduced the first guest, Linda Harrison, who looked at home in her kitchen. She jumped right into the story of how she was cast as Nova in the original 1968 Apes film. “I was very fortunate, I was dating the head of the studio (Dick Zanuck) and he said if the movie gets made… You will play Nova. So it just came so easily.” However Dr. Z was more interested in what was cooking on the stove behind her. She was surprised that he could see it. I got the feeling she was very new to this visual virtual platform.
Next up was Lou Wagner. Now 72 years old, Lou looked very excited to be there. Dr. Z asked him how he got into the original Apes film since he wasn’t dating “Dick Zanuck, then again it was the ‘60’s.” Lou said everything came down to Zanuck. Then Harrison jumped in also singing praises about Dick and his dad, Daryll Zanuck, who was the studio executive at 20th Century Fox and who would soon become her father in law. Lou didn’t really answer the question about becoming involved in the Apes film so Dr. Z moved on and gushed about his appearances on Dragnet (1967). Wagner told a story of how the actors had to read off teleprompters since they were not allowed to memorize their scripts.
Austin Stoker, who also voiced the character Jeff on the animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes, was introduced next. He said he auditioned for the part of MacDonald in Battle for the Planet of the Apes even though it was already decided the part was his, “To make it real, so to speak.” Dr. Z threw in a fun fact that Ape City from the first film was still standing when Battle was being shot at Malibu Creek Park. He asked Stoker if he went over and visited the original set. “I don’t remember doing that, no.” Stoker said. I was ready for a fun story of how he and other Ape veterans toured the abandoned set. But nope. Dr. Z did mention that chunks of the Ape City are still all over the place since they demolished it at the Park. Dana mentioned this on Talking Apes which inspired us to visit and document the location.
Harrison shared a story that the reason Ape City looked rugged as opposed to the cityscape that was described in the book, La Planète des singes, which the film was based. “If you can bring in a movie for under $6 million then you don’t need the approval of the board of directors (at Fox). Rugged stone work was cheap, a city that looked like New York was expensive. Dr. Z tagged off of that and said that made sense since Fox was just coming off a huge budgeted film like Cleopatra. Anything that was as innovative with a large scope would have to go through the gauntlets at Fox.
At this point, we are 16 minutes into the live stream and there are still two more guests to introduce. Bobby Porter and Pat Cardi, both from Battle of the Planet of the Apes. Bobby told his story about being involved in Battle where he saw the filming of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes as it was being filmed at the University of California at the Irvine campus where he was a pre-med student. He had worked years doing stunts in film but his first line of dialogue came in Battle, which was hard to get out under the Ape prosthetic. “If my father were a gorilla, we’d all be learning riding instead of writing.” He had to loop that line about 60 times before they could differentiate “riding” and “writing”. Bobby also revealed that he played a primate nine different times including the orangutan Clyde from the Clint Eastwood film Every Which Way But Loose and it’s sequel to the Land of the Lost TV series.
Pat Cardi, a ‘young chimp’ also from Battle grew up as a child actor. (As a side note, and not discussed in the live stream, Cardi was the creator and founding partner of Moviefone in 1998.) In 1973, he was in a film with Apes co-star Austin Stoker called Horror High (renamed Twisted Brain for TV). After that film wrapped he went to see his friend who was a casting agent on Battle. He wasn’t looking for a part, he just wanted to just hang out on set and watch the filming since he was a big Apes fan. Then they stuck him in a chimp costume.
The conversation spun in many directions from there. They spoke about producer Arthur Jacobs and how Charlton Heston was the only actor who agreed to do the original Apes film. Harrison pointed out that Charlton “likes to hardly wear any clothes.” Dr. Z added, “He fills out a Speedo like no one else.”
Dr. Z, always one for an anecdote, told the story of how Charlton wanted to blow up the Earth at the conclusion of Beneath the Planet of the Apes so there would be no more sequels. Richard Zanuck said they shouldn’t do that since it’s such a downer of an ending. Later, the board at Fox replaced Zanuck as head of the studio and he turned around and said, “Ya know what, go ahead and blow up the earth that sounds fine with me.”
Personally I can’t thank Bobby Porter enough for giving shout outs to his friends and those in the Apes fan community, like me! “Richard Woloski who does an amazing podcast, Talking Apes, keeps all the Apes fans in contact with each other even though we can’t see each other face to face, you can listen to some amazing stories.” Bobby told some amazing stories when he was on Talking Apes!
The actors told stories about seeing the films for the first time. Lou saw the film with Edwin G. Robinson who famously played Dr. Zauis in the Ape make-up test footage for the studio.
Bobby shared a heartfelt story of when he saw Battle with his mom and sister. His sister was balling her eyes out when Cornelius was dying. He nudged her and said “I’m right here.”
Dr. Z and Patty got to a few questions from the chat. Then at the 50 minute mark they wrapped the experience up so the actors could get ready for their one-on-one video chats with fans which was an extra paid service from GalaxyCon.
To wrap the live stream up, Dr. Z reminded everyone to wear a mask! Spoken like a true doctor.
As of now GalaxyCon has not shared this Virtual LiveStream on their YouTube channel, but subscribe to be notified if they do.