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Thursday July 26 1:34 AM ET
from Variety

Archerd: "Apes'' audience goes bananas

By Army Archerd, Daily Variety Senior Columnist

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - ``This weekend we're the 800-pound gorilla,'' Dick Zanuck says as his (and Tim Burton's) ``Planet of the Apes'' tackles Steven Spielberg's (and Joe Johnston's) dinos in ``Jurassic Park III.''

Zanuck was at Monday's New York ``Planet'' premiere at the Ziegfeld, so I reported Tuesday's Westwood (L.A.) screening at the Mann National to him.

One of my criteria for a film is the number of theatergoers heading to the restrooms (or out of the theater) during a screening. ``Apes'' held 'em down: I counted few passing by my aisle seat at the back of the theater. Secondly, sounds of laughter -- whether it was caused intentionally or not. ``Apes'' had 'em laughing at many of the scenes.

And Charlton Heston -- even in heavy, death throes as an ape patriarch -- was easily identifiable by his stentorian tones. It brought forth knowing guffaws from the audience as he instructed his son to extricate a long-hidden object. It was, of course, a gun.

NRA president Heston intoned, ``What you hold in your hand is proof of their (man's) power -- against which our strength means nothing. It has the force of 100 spears. I warn you their (man's) ingenuity goes hand in hand with their cruelty. No creature is as devious or violent.''

Zanuck, the epitome of a hands-on producer (on the set every day) says of the film, ``The object is to entertain and -- fun!''

Among ``Planet of the Apes'' alumni at the New York premiere was Zanuck's former wife Linda Harrison. She also is seen briefly in the current ``Apes'' and had just attended a ``Planet of the Apes'' convention in New Jersey. Also there: Kim Hunter, who appeared in two previous pix. Zanuck assured her, ``If we ever make another you'll be in it.''

Will there be another? I asked Zanuck. ``It all depends on what happens with this one.'' Let the games begin Friday.

Meanwhile, Zanuck also completed ``The Road to Perdition,'' directed by Sam Mendes and starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law for DreamWorks-20th Century Fox (foreign). He and wife Lili also produced ``Reign of Fire'' in Ireland, directed by Rob Bowman for Spyglass-Disney for summer 2002 release. And the busy duo have a score of pix also in development -- mebbe ``Return to the Planet of the Apes II.'' (But that would really be number ``Apes VII.'') It would make late producer Arthur Jacobs even happier, as his ``Dr. Dolittle'' is now in its third outing.