The biggest challenge on “Planet of the Apes” was making the characters feel real. According to a 2017 report from Variety, makeup tests started as early as 1965. There was just one problem though: There weren’t enough trained artists to go around. Producer Arthur P. Jacobs knew the only way to get things done was to rigorously train a bunch of folks into becoming makeup artists until they had the routine down. “We had 10 trailers that were turned into classrooms for makeup … It took three to four hours to put it on every day and about an hour and a half to get it off,” says Jacobs.
By the end of the arduous shoot, “Planet of the Apes” had given way to over 25 makeup artists. But with that many folks working around the clock, it ate into a significant amount of their allotted $5.8 million budget. “The makeup was our biggest expense on the film — costing about $1.5 million, or nearly one-third of the budget — and applying and removing it used up almost 60% of our total shooting time,” says Jacobs.
As difficult as it was to bring these characters to life, it was important to put the time and effort in. Decades later, characters like Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Zaius remains a shining beacon of how practical effects can enhance a performance. On top of pulling 20th Century Fox out of the box office drink, “Planet of the Apes” essentially gave way to a whole new generation of makeup artists, whose work could be seen across the industry.