Planet of the Apes Cast 1968 Versus the Cast of the Planet of the Apes 2001: Who Played Whom and What are They Up to Now?

La Planète des singes – known as Monkey Planet in the UK – written by Pierre Boulle, is the novel behind the Planet of the Apes media franchise. Published in 1963, the story follows the journey of an astronaut who crash lands on a strange planet where talking apes dominate the world and humans are only remnants of the old order. The original film adaptation, Planet of the Apes, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, hit the screens in 1968 and has been a cult classic since then. A remake by Tim Burton, released in 2001, unfortunately did not fare too well with fans and critics. Check out the Planet of the Apes cast now!

Planet of the Apes 1968 Cast

The main protagonist in the original film is astronaut George Taylor, who finds himself on an unknown planet ruled by a theocracy society of apes. At the bottom of the caste system are humans. In this strange world, humans are nothing but irritating creatures to be hunted, enslaved, or killed. Some of the main cast include:

Charlton Heston as George Taylor

For his performance as the titular role in Ben-Hur, Charlton Heston won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1959. He was serving as the 16th president of the Screen Actors Guild when Planet of the Apes came out. Although the film earned a sizable commercial success, Heston was famously known for his reluctance to play in the first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. However, he did appear in the sequel, albeit briefly during the beginning and ending scenes.

Heston remained active in films up until 2003, appearing in more than 45 titles. An archival footage of his character, George Taylor, was also featured in the second sequel, Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). In August the same year, Heston played Robert Neville in The Omega Man. His last involvement with the franchise was in the 2001 with a cameo appearance as Zaius (uncredited). Charlton Heston died of pneumonia on April 5, 2008 at the age of 84.

Roddy McDowall as Dr. Cornelius

It was Roddy McDowall who portrayed the chimpanzee archeologist, Dr. Cornelius, in the 1968 Planet of the Apes. Since the actor was bound to complete another project in England during the production of the first sequel, the role was subsequently given to actor David Watson. However, archival footage of McDowall’s Cornelius was played in the opening sequence. 

McDowall made a comeback in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, in which Cornelius ended up getting killed at the climax. In Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, he played the son of Cornelius named Caesar (a different character from the Caesar portrayed by Andy Serkis).

McDowell also appeared as Galen in all 14 episodes of Planet of the Apes TV series. When some episodes were re-aired as individual films in 1981, McDowall appeared as an older version of the same character for the framing sequence. His last involvement with the franchise was Behind the Planet of the Apes (1998)  TV documentary as host/narrator.

Throughout his life, McDowall was a busy actor with plenty of credited works up until his death on October 4, 1998 at age 70.

Kim Hunter as Dr. Zira

In 1951, Kim Hunter made a breakthrough with her performance as Stella in A Street Car Named Desire, for which she received an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award, both for Best Supporting Actress. As one of the main Planet of the Apes 1968 cast, she played an important female chimpanzee Zira, who helped Taylor avoid the threat of castration and escape into The Forbidden Zone. Hunter reprised the role in the first and second sequel. Although she only had a small role in the former, the character rose to higher prominence in the latter. Like Cornelius, her fiancé in the film, Zira was killed at the climax.

Hunter continued acting on TV and in films until 2001. Her last major film appearance was in the 1997 film, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. Kim Hunter died on September 11, 2002 at the age 79. 

Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius

Best known for his interpretations of Shakespearean characters, the English actor Maurice Evans portrayed Dr. Zaius in the original Planet of the Apes. He reprised the role in the first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which also marked his last involvement with the project. His final scenes with Charles Heston as George Taylor at the ending led to the destruction of the planet, using the doomsday bomb.

Evans returned to England by the early 1970s. He made frequent trips to the United States in his capacity as a representative/trustee of the Actor’s Fund to visit retired actors in need of financial assistance. And he remained active on the small and big screens until 1983. He died on March 12, 1989, in East Sussex, at the age of 87.

Linda Harrison as Nova

Planet of the Apes included a tag “introducing Linda Harrison” in the opening credits, although she had actually appeared in two previous films. Portraying Nova, a female human captive in an ape-dominated world, she had little dialogue. That said, she managed to impress viewers with her long-dark hair and natural beauty. Harrison reprised the role in the sequel.

Her next film role was as Winnie in Airport 1975, credited as Augusta Summerland. She used the same name in a few episodes of Barnaby Jones and another of Switch. In 1998, Harrison appeared as herself in the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes, and made a cameo appearance as ‘Woman in Cart” in the 2001 remake of the original. Her latest film project, which she also co-directed and played as Quinia Brutus, was Midnight Massacre (2021).

Main Cast of the Planet of the Apes 2001

With Tim Burton at the helm of the production, the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes offered promise. Sprinkled with one difficulty after another, the outcome failed to capture the same level of excitement as the original. There was no more George Taylor. Sitting at the forefront of the story was Captain Leo Davidson, who also crash landed on a strange planet called Ashlar, ruled by apes.

Mark Wahlberg as Captain Leo Davidson

Planet of the Apes Cast: captain leo davidson

In the years leading up to Wahlberg portraying Captain Leo Davidson in the remake, he earned positive reviews for his performances in Boogie Nights (1997), Three Kings (1999), and The Perfect Storm (2000). Since there was no continuation to the reimagined story until a complete reboot about a decade later, Davidson’s story came to an end with the film as well.

Mixed reviews did not stop his career from moving up, however. Wahlberg remains an active actor with a lot of popular films in his long portfolio. Some of the most notable include The Truth About Charlie, The Italian Job, Four Brothers, The Departed, Shooter, Max Payne, and The Fighter. He was cast as the main character in all of them. Mark Wahlberg has expanded his career and now he is also a producer, businessman, and rapper. 

Tim Roth as General Thade

Planet of the Apes Cast: tim roth

Starting his career on TV in the 1980s, Tim Roth made his film debut in The Hit (1984) in which he portrayed Myron. In 1995, he played Archibald Cunningham in Rob Roy for which he received BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and the Kansas City Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Role. He portrayed General Thade in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. For his performance, he once again received a nomination from the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor and two more from Empire Award as Best British Actor and MTV Movie Award for Best Villain. In the following years, Tim Roth has played in more than 40 movies and 11 TV shows.

Helena Bonham Carter as Ari

Planet of the Apes Cast: helena bonham carter

The breakthrough role for Helena Bonham Carter happened in A Room with a View (1985) as Lucy Honeychurch. During the 1986-1987 season of Miami Vice, she portrayed the love interest of Don Johnson. Although her performance as Ari in Planet of the Apes was not exactly brilliant, many of her subsequent roles in various films established her stardom status. She played important characters in such famous titles as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Alice in Wonderland, and Dark Shadows.

Bonham Carter played Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter film series. In the fourth Terminator film, she had a small role as the embodiment of Skynet. Throughout her career, she has received a BAFTA Award, an International Emmy Award, a Critics’ Choice Movie Award, and three Screen Actors Guild Award. She remains active in the industry with at least two upcoming titles, a film and a TV series. 

Michael Clarke Duncan as Colonel Attar

Planet of the Apes Cast: duncan

The blockbuster Armageddon (1998) marked Duncan’s rise to international recognition. His next big role was as John Coffey in The Green Mile (1999). During the early to mid-2000s, Duncan was a busy actor scoring appearances in a string of films including Planet of the Apes (2001) in which he played Colonel Attar. Some of his next big film roles were as Balthazar in The Scorpion King (2002) and as The Kingpin in Daredevil (2003). In his last years, Duncan focused on voice-over performances for various films and TV shows, and video games too. Michael Clarke Duncan died on September 3, 2012 at the age of 54.

Paul Giamatti as Limbo

Planet of the Apes Cast: limbo

The orangutan named Limbo, who ran a slave-trading business in Planet of the Apes was portrayed by Paul Giamatti. Limbo found himself trapped in the conflict between apes and humans and was simply trying to survive. After the remake, Giamatti has appeared in more than 80 films including about a dozen voice-over works. He played the titular character in the HBO series John Adams (2008) and is currently portraying Chuck Rhoades in Billions (2016-present). His latest work is in the upcoming film The Holdovers, where he will play the role as Paul Hunham.

So many great actors from different decades made up the lead cast of both Planet of the Apes movies. Of all of them, we like Kim Hunter the best because her character Zira was distinctly sweet and caring. She may have been the only kindly character in the entire movie!

Which character in which movie do you like best? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

If you liked this, then check out The Planet of the Apes Movies: Post-Apocalypse and Dystopia in One Thrilling Package!

Other things you might want to know about.

Why wasn’t the 2001 Planet of the Apes as popular as the original?

According to the reviews were varied. The tomatometer was 44% and the audience score was 27%. Here are some samples of the reviews. You may have to watch it and decided for yourself. 

  • All about noise and chaos – the unstable mix of intellect and brutal will that’s intended to mirror our own evolution. (Rob Gonsalves from Rob’s Movie Vault) 
  • These apes rock and rule, but their gymnastic antics don’t cover-up a thin script and a plot that feels thrown together. (Sean Axmaker from Stream on Demand)
  • No remake would have been deemed complete without a shockaroo ending—and this Apes has its lulu, which I won’t disclose-but it leaves behind the stink of arbitrary mystification. (Joshua Rothkopt from In These Times)
  • Rumored to have filmed seven or eight endings for the film, one can only wonder if the one selected here was the best or the worst of the bunch. (Debbie Lynn Elias from Behind the Lens)

Go to to read the entire reviews, but many more. 

Trivia from Planet of the Apes filming

Here are some excerpts from IMDB about Planet of the Apes.

  • During breaks in filming, actors made up as different ape species tended to hang out together, gorillas with gorillas, orangutans with orangutans, chimps with chimps. It wasn’t required, it just happened naturally.
  • One of Ingrid Bergman’s greatest regrets was turning down the part of Zira.
  • To appease the censors, the female native humans were not bare-breasted.
  • Charlton Heston was sick with the flu during much of the film. 
  • The make up team consisted of over 80 artists. 
  • Linda Harrison (Nova) was having an affair with the producer (Richard Zanuck) during production. 
  • The actors in ape costume had to eat their lunch in front of a mirror to monitor any changes to their make-up. They had to use straws for their drinks. Smokers were given cigarette holders. 
  • Some of the actors spent time at zoos studying the apes. 
  • This film contains Heston’s first nude scene.
  • The film was released the day before Dr. King was assassinated. 

Go to IMDB for more trivia, quotes, and goofs about the movie.

What are some toys that came from Planet of the Apes?

According to here are some toys that came from the 1968 Planet of the Apes movie. 

  • 8” action figures of Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, Soldier Ape, Astronaut
  • Second issues action figures: Ursus, Urko, Verdon, Burke, Galen
  • Playsets: Catapult and Wagon, Rock Launcher, Throne, Action Stallion, Jail, Forbidden Zone Trap, Fortress, Treehouse, Village
  • Mega Bend “N Flex” Figures
  • AHI Parachutist Toys
  • Tommy-Burst Rifle with mask
  • Multiple Toymakers Mini-Playsets

Go to for details and pictures of these Planet of the Apes toys.