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Movie director James Cameron once had his sights set on directing his own vision of Planet of the Apes. But circumstances led to Tim Burton making a reboot for Fox instead. Cameron, however, believed that Burton wasn’t the right choice for the film.

James Cameron was once tapped to direct a ‘Planet of the Apes’ reboot

James Cameron speaking at an exhibition.
James Cameron | James Croucher/Getty Images

Cameron had been attached to an Apes film as far back as the 90s. Producer and filmmaker Peter Hyams claimed he was going to work with Cameron on the project as a writer. But Hyams, who was behind films like TimeCop and End of Days, had certain standards that needed to be met for Apes.

“I was going to write and produce and Jim was going to direct. He asked me if I wanted to do the project with him and I said, ‘Well, duh’ because that was a dream project for many of us from that generation of filmmakers,” Hyams once said in an interview with Daily Dead. “I told Jim though that my only condition about the project was that I would only do it if he could find a way to make sure that the apes could talk- and look like they were really talking, not just guys behind a mask.”

The Terminator filmmaker showed Hyams a sample of how the apes would look like in the potential film. From there, Hyams was sold on the project. But circumstances would later make it so Cameron’s vision for Apes would never be realized.

James Cameron once felt Tim Burton was miscast as the director for ‘Planet of the Apes’

In a resurfaced interview with Ain’t It Cool News, the Avatar director confirmed that he was in deep talks with Fox about an Apes reboot. But the studio didn’t agree with Cameron’s take on the film.

“Well, the other thing I’ve learned is that when you deal with a studio and it’s their asset… it’s their asset. And I should have learned that lesson with Planet of the Apes because I had a great… great idea with Planet of the Apes, but it was Fox’s asset,” Cameron recalled. “Even though I was supposedly developing it we didn’t see eye to eye and they sort of picked up their marbles and that was that.”

As many know, Fox would turn to director Tim Burton for the film. But the Avatar director didn’t feel that Burton was the best fit.

“They turned out, I think, possibly the most egregious film that they could have on that subject because they miscast the director. It’s the only Tim Burton film that I don’t like,” he added.

Tim Burton initially turned down ‘Planet of the Apes’


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Burton originally wasn’t on board with remaking Planet of the Apes. Although the Batman director was a fan of the original movies, he didn’t want to tamper with a classic.

“First of all, you don’t remake a classic, and not only a classic, but a classic of its time,” Burton once told The Washington Post. “You can’t redo the molecules that that thing had. . . . Part of what that movie was was of that time. And you cannot re-create Charlton Heston.”

But after sitting on the idea for a while, Burton couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dive into the Apes world.

“I loved the first movie, and so I just started thinking about the power of the whole Planet of the Apes mythology . . . which is just something weirdly primal and strong,” he said.

The Apes stories offered the kind of storytelling that he enjoyed about cinema. Given the film’s subversive narrative, Burton decided to take a crack at it after all.

“It’s got this dynamic where you don’t quite know where you are — kind of here, kind of there — a pair of universes, time; it’s always a little weird that way. I started to think, well, this is what I like about movies: seeing life from a different angle,” he continued.