Actor and mime Dan Richter was hired by Stanley Kubrick in 1966 to play the role of “Moon-Watcher”, the now iconic ape is his landmark science fiction film masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Let me just say how wonderful I think your book, Moonwatcher’s Memoir is. Of all of the books written about the making of 2001, it’s my very favorite because there’s this feeling reading the one gets like your there on the set as the film is being made around you.
DAN RICHTER: Thanks. That was always the goal. You know, I’ve always felt that Stanley was very misunderstood. Journalists have written that Stanley Kubrick was paranoid, or that he was a control freak, a tyrant, a guy who abused those that worked with him, and that is just crazy. He was never like that. Working with Stanley was such a wonderful and unforgettable experience.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: So for those that haven’t read the book, could you tell me how you came to work on the film with Stanley Kubrick?
DAN RICHTER: I had a friend at the time, a book publisher named Mike Wilson and he was working with Arthur C. Clarke on a series of books about diving. Arthur and Stanley had been discussing the ‘Dawn Of Man’ sequence because they had almost finished the live action shooting on 2001, but they still didn’t have an opening. They had tried a few different things but nothing seemed to worked right. They decided that maybe they should talk to a mime about some of their ideas. Arthur mentioned this to Mike Wilson, and because Mike and I had been friends, he said “I know a mime. His name is Dan Richter, and he’s great.”
So consequently, I was asked to go and meet with Stanley at Borehamwood Studios MGM outside of London. I figured he’d pick my brain, and I’d offer some suggestions. So I drove up to see him and we started to talk. Stanley started to explain to me some of the ideas they had had for the sequence that didn’t work. Thinking about it, I didn’t see his problems as having to do anything with acting, but rather as something to do with movement.
The ‘Dawn Of Man’ was for the opening of the film. The problem with the opening of a film or a play or a book is that you have to go and get your audience. You have a very short amount of time to get the audience involved, literally seconds of minutes. So it was important that we made the man-apes come to life.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: So you didn’t really go into the meeting thinking you were going in for a job interview with Kubrick?
DAN RICHTER: I truthfully thought I was just going in to talk to him. I thought Stanley was just going to pick my brain, and I thought I’d just offer up suggestions to him in regards to how a mime could be of assistance to him in terms of solving his problems for the sequence. I didn’t know I was auditioning for him. I went in there acting cocky. I wasn’t worried about saying anything wrong to Stanley, because I wasn’t looking for a job. I was busy with other work in London at the time. I just thought I was there to give Stanley some pointers or whatever. I thought I was meeting with Stanley to explain mime movement to him.
Stanley and I hit it right off, and I think he liked my approach. After I was done talking Stanley asked me to show him what I was talking about. He wanted to see how to move as I had explained it to him. Then he offered me the job. So I told Stanley I’d have to do all of the choreography. I told him I’d help develop all of the man-apes costumes. The costumes initially were completely unworkable. You couldn’t move in them. Then I told Stanley that I’d cast and then train the people myself. I didn’t think he’d actually agree to my terms, but he said “yes” to everything. So suddenly, I found myself with a immense job, and it was a job creating something that had never been done before. I was given an office, a rehearsal studio, assistants, and my name on a door and I was just this cocky kid. I had to deliver.
I mean, I had no ideas or plans to play “Moon-Watcher” in the film. I thought I was there to just help with the research and the choreography of the actor’s movements. I never had any notions that Stanley would want me to play “Moon-Watcher” in 2001.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Then there was the enormous amount of research you did on apes.
DAN RICHTER: I spent a great deal of time researching at the London Museum Of Natural History. I was granted access to their back stacks, and got to examine and study various skeletons and bones in their collection and all the early journals and research work the museum had acquired to that point.. I spent a lot of time talking to scientists with specialization in the Australopithecus era. Which of course, was the era that we were planning on setting the opening of the film in.
I also went to various zoo’s around England. With the zoo research I was studying the apes to develop a choreography. So I studied the apes at the zoo, so I could see how they interacted with each other in a tribe. How they moved, how their bodies reacted. So I began to study Gorillas, Chimpanzees, and Gibbons. Before my first trip Stanley had handed me a 8mm Bolex camera and told me to film everything. So I just went and filmed everything I observed. I was looking for the truth of it, I needed to know how they interacted with each other.
As we got closer to shooting, we were having a difficult time figuring out exactly how the man-apes should move. When I was at the zoo I filmed this Gibbon ape in slow motion coming down a tree and once he got down he began to just walk around. When I went back and watched the film I discovered this specific way in which the Gibbon walked. The Gibbon moves with their legs slightly bent with their knees pointing outward. Then, with the Chimps we decided it would be best to move our hands and arms in the same way that they moved theirs, which was at particular angle as well.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: There was a specific ape that you really spent a lot of time studying at the zoo as well, no?
DAN RICHTER: There was a Gorilla that I really studied and developed a kinship with named, “Guy.” Once I knew that I was going to play “Moon-Watcher”, I needed to figure out who that character was. And I saw “Moon-Watcher” in “Guy.” I identified with him directly and that liberated me because I could use him as a sort of guide to discover who “Moon-Watcher” was.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: So how did you develop the character internally then?
DAN RICHTER: Early on, prior to my involvement with Stanley back in New York when I was in mime school I had developed this character that I used to do named “Joe.” I had played him a numbers of times before, “Joe” was a character that was aggressive, but at the same time mild and slightly insecure, a little bit paranoid, and a little full of himself. “Joe” was a character that I could get into easily. He would come to life inside me, and to channel “Joe” through “Guy” the Gorilla was perfect because “Guy” was this tragic figure. He looked like he was in jail every time I saw him at the zoo. So I gave that to “Moon-Watcher”, and I think that gave “Moon-Watcher” some gravity. And I couldn’t just get that from channeling “Guy” again.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: So prior to doing all of that research, I was wondering if you had read the short story that Arthur C. Clarke had written that some of the film was inspired by?
DAN RICHTER: Reading Arthur C. Clarke’s short story Encounter At Dawn didn’t really offer me an insights into how to physically play “Moon-Watcher”. It gave me a context for sure, but I couldn’t identify with the “Moon-Watcher” in the short story. And I was ultimately looking for a identification, and I found that through “Guy.” He was what helped me connect with the script. “Guy” was my soul, and he was my spiritual friend. The working script that I was using, which was the script that was used right up until shooting, it was very sparse, it read more like an outline than anything. There was a lot of empty space, so there was a lot that needed to be filled in.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: One thing I like about the book so much is exactly how wonderfully you portray Kubrick as this wonderful collaborator. There are so many other books out there that focus on his intense work ethics.
DAN RICHTER: Right. Stanley was an incredible collaborator. Stanley expected everyone he worked with to bring something to the table all the time. People complain that Stanley drove those he worked with too hard, and he shot too many takes or whatever. But I never saw it like that. Working with Stanley on the ‘Dawn Of Man’ for example…We would do a take, and we would discover things in that take that we hadn’t thought about. I would say to Stanley, “I think I’m going to play it this way” and Stanley might give a suggestion or what not, and then we would do a take and he would say to me, “Wow…that was great… What happened there? Why don’t we try doing it a different way now.” So it wasn’t ever the same thing over and over. It was the same take, the same scene, but it evolved and grew as we went along together.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Then the man-ape costumes used in the film, there was a particular evolution to those costumes from the time you started to work on the film until you started shooting right?
DAN RICHTER: Yes, that’s right. When I first went to meet Stuart Freeborn, he had been developing the man-apes costumes. When I saw what he had originally designed the first thing I noticed was just how stiff the costumes were. It would have been impossible to be expressive inside of them. He was basically doing what any good make up artist could do. He was building a costume, and I knew that we needed to start over and re-design the costume. Stuart was a wonderful person, and one of the most creative individuals I’ve ever worked with. So when I told him we needed to scrap everything and start over, he jumped right on board once he heard my ideas.
With my training I was used to wearing black tights so you could see the whole body and it would be easy to convey anything. So I knew right from the start that the man-apes costumes had to be really tight on the body. Eventually, we ended up with a skin tight body wig. It was like a stretched leotard with hair patched into it. All the hair was woven into it. Each of those man-apes costumes took months to make. It was very trial and error, and it had to be done step-by-step.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: One of the most insane things surrounding the making of 2001 which you talk about in your book is how some of the man-apes costumes were stolen during the production.
DAN RICHTER: Right. The Planet Of The Apes (1968) thing. Now, I’m not actually saying that anyone from Planet Of The Apes stole our costume ideas, but we were suspicious that there was a spy in our production.
As we finally figured out the best way to approach the man-apes costume we started to have issues with theft. What had happened was that one of the man-ape masks was stolen. And it was never determined who was at fault. So the production went on lock down and everything had to be locked up at night. If you had any involvement with the man-ape masks you had to sign it out when you took it, and then you had to sign it back in when you were finished with it. And we were very very careful with those costumes. There started to be some talk that perhaps there was a spy from Planet Of The Apes in the production, but no one was sure. So Stanley and I would meet privately to discuss the designs for the costume.
One day, I decided that I wanted to show Stanley how the new mask design worked as well as the new designs that Stuart Freeborn had just completed for the hands and feet of the costume. Because I was trying to keep those hands as expressive as possible. So Stanley and I went out onto the back lot of the studio which was this field. We walked way out into the field so that we could see all around us. We didn’t see anybody around so we stat down against this fence and I put on the “Moon-Watcher” mask and the hands and then I got up and moved around a bit as Stanley asked me to do this and that in the movement we had been practicing.
After that, I took off the mask and hands and set them down by the fence on the ground, and Stanley and I wandered off in the distance some into the field some to have a cigarette. Stanley didn’t have any cigarettes of his own cause his wife, Christiane [Kubrick] was trying to get him not to smoke so he was always bumming cigarettes off of me. So we stood there for about fifteen minutes talking and joking around. We walked back to the fence afterwards and the mask and the hands were gone. They had been stolen, and we thought…how could this have happened we were standing just over there…this is impossible as we could see everything around us. We walked around on the other side of the fence and there was a drainage ditch that we hadn’t seen that ran along the fence-line.
Someone had literally crawled out there and grabbed the man-ape mask and hands and slipped away while we were out in the middle of the field talking.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: And it was never determined who stole them?
DAN RICHTER: No we never found out, but I think whoever stole them won four Academy Awards that year for costume and make-up…laughing
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Could you talk about just how much time and effort when into finding the actors that would play the other apes alongside you in the ‘Dawn Of Man’ sequence?
DAN RICHTER: The key thing about the man-ape costume was that we needed very, very skinny people because once you fitted the costume on someone, and the padding was in place, you looked very bulky so the skinnier the actor, the better otherwise it wouldn’t have looked real. The female apes in the film were played by males, and if you notice the way their walk is the differentiating point between them.
As choreographer, I basically had to find people who could move, but who were also performers, who were super skinny, and were also smaller than me. Because I was “Moon-Watcher” I had to be bigger than the other apes, and I”m only 5’10”. It took a very long time to find the actors who played the other apes in the film. We looked over everyone. We looked at long distance runners, we looked at every track team in England I think from high school up. I interviewed tens of thousands of people. We have a big rehearsal studio and my assistants would line people up and then walk down the row going, “No, No, No, Yes, No, Yes, No, No, Yes, No, No, Yes, No. To all the “No’s” thank you very much for coming out.” Then I wold line up everyone. We went through thousands of people. We placed ads in the newspapers looking for people even. After all that, we only had a few that would work, and I need at least twenty performers. Then one day, Stanley comes to me and says, “ I was watching television last night and I saw this dance group called The Young Generation.”
The Young Generation was a group of variety show dancers who were supposed to be all kids. So I met with them and they were this group of skinny baby faced kids and we were able to get them. But even after that we were still a few people short. Eventually we found a few horse jockeys and we were finally ready to go.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Put me one step closer to being on the set of 2001. Can you tell me about shooting the sequence? Was the costume hot? What was the shooting of the sequence like for you?
DAN RICHTER: When we’re shooting, the temperature on the set, but also inside the man-ape costume was very overwhelming. Because of all the lights on the sound stage the resulting temperature was well over a hundred degrees. Now, imagine yourself in a costume that is skin-tight to your face and body that’s covered in woven animal hair and layered in urethane padding and you’re moving around in a difficult position for your body to handle.
The lighting of the sequence was very difficult as well. The front projection system had originally only been used on a much smaller level prior. It was first used on a cigarette commercial I believe. The projection system was powered by these Carbon lamps that produced so much heat that it could only be turned on for a certain amount of time. And a special condenser lenses had to built in Germany for it. Behind us was an eighty foot long screen that was designed by the company 3M. It was a silver color, and it had shards of diamond in it. It had a ability to reflect back 100 times the original light source being sent to it.
The issue was to be able to light the set so it would have the same color temperature as the images of the African landscape that were being projected over us. What Stanley and his Director Of Photography [Geoffrey Unsworth] discovered is that they had to bring the light levels way, way up on the stage. And to do that they had to bring in scores and score of lights, big rows of 10K Carbon arc lamps. Then there also were batteries of lights above us on the ceiling shining down. All of these lights were wired in to this massive box of switches which allowed whole sections of lights to be turned on or off individually if needed at any given time.
It was a challenge. Not just the awkward body movements with the costume on, but we all had to wear full contact lenses as well. And we had to say in costume for hours at a time. So you had the dust, the sand and dirt from the set getting to you as well. And with the temperature on the set, and in the costume you felt like you were going to pass out all the time. For some of the actors it became too much, and some of the guys went on strike and refused to continue to work until better conditions were established.
Ultimately, we had to agree to give the actors more money, but also we came to an agreement with the union that we’d have medical people on call standing off to the side in case anything happened. Another demand due to the heat of the costume was to figure out a way to cool off the actors between takes. So we came up with the idea of having tanks of compressed air with hoses coming off of them available. When Stanley would yell “cut” members of the crew would run out onto the set, help take each actor’s ape mask off, and run these tubes down inside our costume and blast air into it to help cool us down. With all of this, we were supposed to be subtle and creative...laughing
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Also, I know that your man-ape mask that you wore had a toggle switch inside of it as so you could move the mouth, how difficult was that to do while you’re in the mask?
DAN RICHTER: As “Moon-Watcher” it was important to be able to make facial expressions visible for the camera. My mask was attached to my face in a way that it acted like real skin, and my actual skin a skeleton. This allowed the mask to move along with my actual face as it was moving under the mask. There are quite a few close-ups of different man-ape’s in the film. I played “Moon-Watcher” but I also played other apes in close-up. I had a few specialty masks for those close-ups. We wanted to figure out how to make the apes lips snarl for medium shots and close-ups. Stuart Freeborn developed a couple toggle switches that sat in the hollow tongue in the mask.
It took a lot of practice, but after a while I got really good at it. If you pressed for example the upper toggle, that would make the upper left lip of the mask role back and snarl a bit. Or if you pressed with your tongue the lower right toggle switch that would bring the lower right portion of the lip back to it’s normal position. Then if you pressed the toggle switches at the same time it would re-set the lips of the mask to their original position.
As we tried to keep the hands of the man-ape costumes expressive, it was important to us that the eyes be the most expressive part of the mask. When you had the mask on, it was attached around your eyes with spirit gum so it fit around perfectly, which allows the eyes to be the most expressive part of it all.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Shooting the sequence and being a fan of Stanley Kubrick yourself, did you ever catch yourself in that costume, in character looking out at Kubrick behind the camera, and what was that like?
DAN RICHTER: Looking out at Stanley standing by the camera while we were shooting was absolutely amazing. It was a dream to just be working on the project. You know we were breaking new ground, using new technologies and I was the star of this big opening scene in a film made by a filmmaker who even at that time was lauded as a genius. But at the time, I was so busy researching the apes, coming up with the man-ape movements, working on the costume that I really had no time to appreciate those feelings, because it was all I could do to just focus on creating the character.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: I know the entire ‘Dawn Of Man’ sequence was shot “MOS” [Mit Out Sound] so how was the sound done in post production for the sequence? Was that you and the other man-ape actors just going crazy in a studio?
DAN RICHTER: We studied Jane Goodall’s Chimp films a great deal. These were shot for National Geographic. And these were very helpful to our research. National Geographic was extremely helpful to us as well. Not only did they provide us the Goodall films but also the outtakes not used in her films. So we had a lot of research material. These were important cause we could hear and study the sounds that Chimpanzee’s made to communicate with each other. Even though we were shooting without sound and it wasn’t being recorded, I encouraged the other ape actors to make sounds while we were shooting the scenes. We were used to just doing it because we had already been doing the Chimp noises in rehearsals and Stanley loved this. I mean he understood that it was helping us sort of bring these man-apes to life.
Once we had a rough cut of some of the scenes we had shot, I looked at local flight paths for airports and pinpointed an area outside the studio where we thought we’d have the least amount of background noise. Then I gathered up the ape actors who I thought made the best Chimp sounds and we got in cars and drove out to a field near a farm just north of Borehamwood Studios and we spent a day with a Nagra recorder just recording ourselves doing the Chimp noises, and that’s what you hear in the finished film.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Then the man-ape hands were those gloves, or just make-up appliances that went over each actor’s hand?
DAN RICHTER: Originally the ape hands that Stuart Freeborn designed were these very heavy gloves. Then he developed these very thin gloves and figured out a way to extend the tips of the fingers slightly. The hands needs to be thin cause it was important that the hands allow the actors to be expressive. As for the fingertip extensions… We did this cause of an issue with human legs. Comparing human legs to those of a Chimpanzee, our legs are much too big in relation to our arms so much of our movements as the actors would not have been or looked natural. The hands all had urethane padding and animal hair woven in on the back. All the hairs were punched in with needles. The idea behind extending the finger tips was to create a visual trick for the camera. If you watch us, we’re holding our hands and our arms away from our bodies, trying to keep them extended most of the time.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Could you talk some about the size and scope of the set used for the sequence?
DAN RICHTER: Well, the the ‘Dawn Of Man’ set was built roughly around 6 feet off the ground, and working with the tapirs there was no rehearsing on that set. It wasn’t like the tapirs got to visit the set prior to shooting either. I think we had about 12 tapirs already. We had started working with them about a year before we started shooting the ‘Dawn Of Man’. We had them down at the South Hampton Zoo, and I was always going there to check up on them to make sure that they were getting human exposure and interaction that we wanted to them to have. This was important cause we knew that when we did in fact need them, they’d be comfortable around us. By the time we were ready to shoot, an animal trainer brought the tapirs up to the studio and put them on the sound stage and threw down some cabbage and carrots and they just started to mingle around. Stanley came out and looked at the stage and said, “You know, these sets are so big that we need more tapirs.”
The trainer went and got another five or six more tapirs, but these ones were not used to being around humans, so when the trainer put the new tapirs on the set, they began to run around hysterically. Now a tapir is a 200 pound guinea pig more or less, and they have these really short elephant type noses. So when all of them went barreling around the set, nobody could do anything about it, and you can’t catch them. This caused the other tapirs to act hysterically as well. Then finally one of the tapirs ran right off the edge of the stage falling the six feet down to the ground and it killed itself. That was the one that was the most hysterical. This calmed the others down and the trainer was able to wrangle the rest of the tapirs and get them back into their cages. Of course, Stanley was quick to realize the situation. So he immediately said, “Put it into a freezer now”. The next day, they took it out of the freezer and we did the shot you see in the film, that cut in – where you see the tapir falling down to the ground like it’s just been hit.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: That’s very practical.
DAN RICHTER: Absolutely. Stanley was quick to see the benefits of an accident. First you had the tapir, but then there was the front projection system mistake with the leopard. If you watch the film you’ll see that shot of the leopard turning his head toward the camera and his eyes are lit up and glowing. That was just a happy accident. No one noticed it during shooting, but when we all went to the rushes everyone saw it, and someone said “Oh look what happened? We’ve screwed up!” Stanley said, “No, it’s great. I love it. Let’s keep it.”
JUSTIN BOZUNG: My favorite story in your book, and maybe it’s something that ties into the intensity of Kubrick’s work ethic is the story you tell about the files…
DAN RICHTER: Oh right.. If you look closely throughout the ‘Dawn Of Man’ sequence you can see flies swarming around, especially in some of the close-ups on the apes. Stanley wanted to see flies buzzing around the apes. I think he came up with it because there was a scene were all the apes are eating that meat. To get the flies to buzz around and land on the apes faces we tried quite a few different things but nothing worked. For example, we tried to paint sugar all over the masks to see if the flies would land on it, but they didn’t.
The meat the man-apes ate in the film was very much real dead animal meat. And everyone of the ape actors had a very difficult time with it. It was just such foul smelling stuff and everyone had a hard time with it cause you’d be holding it up to your masked mouth and the meat would actually get into the mask and stay there, and it took a tremendous effort for everyone involved not to vomit cause of the smell.
So finally, Derek Cracknell [Assistant Director] said, “Let’s see if we can gas them.” So we got some CO2 and put some flies into a paper cup with a lid on it, and shot some CO2 into the cup, and it worked. It didn’t hurt the flies and it didn’t knock them out, it just made them really slow moving, and they didn’t fly away. So we’d shoot some gas into the cup, and then pick them out of the cup and set them on the ape masks and shoot the scene. We had only about a minute to shoot before the fly would regain themselves and fly away.
Something funny about this. A couple years later I was working with Yoko Ono and John Lennon. I had known Yoko for years, she was a friend of mine when I was living in Tokyo studying theater years before. I was working with them on some of their short films. I was pretty much acting as the producer on all of their short films. They made this short film called FLY (1970). We shot it down in the Bowery. It was a film that featured this fly crawling around on a woman’s body. I told Yoko, “I know how to make them walk around on her body.” So I used what we had did on 2001 for that…laughing
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Nice, I love those Lennon / Ono short films. Did you work on UP YOUR LEGS FOREVER (1971)?
DAN RICHTER: I did. I remember standing there telling all of those people, “Please take off your bathrobe.” Andy Warhol had sent down all of these crazy people for it. Then we had all of these music people that came down. We must have had about a couple hundred people come down to the studio for that. We had all of these people standing around in bathrobes waiting for their shot…laughing.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: What about APOTHEOSIS (1970)? That’s the one where they go up with a camera into the air, and it’s just that single shot focusing down on the ground.
DAN RICHTER: Right, they went up in a hot-air balloon.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: You’ve just put out a new book about your time with John Lennon and Yoko Ono right?
DAN RICHTER: I did. It’s called The Dream is Over: London in the 60s, Heroin, and John and Yoko. So many things have been written about John and Yoko. There have been so many books. So I took the same approach that I did with the 2001 book. I just wanted give people the feeling of being there with them.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Back to 2001… Can we talk about the day you shot what I consider to be the most iconic film moment in the history of cinema? The day you shot the scene where “Moon-Watcher” throws the bone up into the sky? Was it something that was scripted or was it improvised? What kind of direction does Kubrick give you for that sequence?
DAN RICHTER: Well, it took us weeks to do that scene. The page of the script said something like, “Moon-Watcher picks up a bone, he now has the power..and he will kill” or what not. All Stanley told me was, “Go over there and pick up the bone. Hit the skull and break it.” That’s all he told me!
The whole film was shot on a sound stage, except the end of that scene. We did it outside of the studio. In fact, there were buses driving behind me as we were doing it. So I’m sitting there on this platform up in the air and I’m looking out at the camera, and I noticed the type of lens Stanley was shooting with and the angle in which I was being filmed. I noticed he was shooting with a portrait lens. And I knew we were shooting in Cinerama. So I knew that I was going to be gigantic on the screen. I had to show visually that “Moon-Watcher” had this idea that was put into his head by these aliens. I had to show that somehow. So I thought about it. Then I thought it would be good if I just cocked my head slightly. So I had to protect the entire moment by not doing much. I decided to move very slowly forward, and look very carefully down at the bones. I wanted to make it so that it filled the screen, so that the moment where I cocked my head would signify this change in the script, like a beat.
In fact, the whole time I was doing that scene, I was talking to Stanley through the mask. We’re shooting it “MOS” so I was saying to Stanley “OK, I’m going to move to the left a bit”, and Stanley would say, “OK, that’s good. Just reach over.” So, when it came time to pick the bone up, I was playing with the idea of hitting things, because remember he had never picked anything up before, never held anything in his hands, never knew how to wrap his hand around anything. Everything was totally new to him. I took the time to feel the weight of it in my hand. Then I started probing things with it. Then at that moment, I hit one of the little bones, and it spun up into the air. I said to Stanley, “Oh, I screwed up Stanley.” He said, “No, no I like it keep going.” So we started to grow the scene from that. We set it up again, so that all of the bones would flip into the air as I hit them.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: There’s been so much talk about the cut scenes for the film. I was curious to see if you remembered shooting anything for the sequence that never made it into the final film?
DAN RICHTER: There really wasn’t anything important edited out of the ‘Dawn Of Man’ sequence. Stanley cut out stuff certainly, but to tighten everything up only. There was footage of us ape actors beating our chests and our sides in that first section of the sequence. Then with the waterhole sequence, where we come back with bones and “Moon-Watcher” comes down and he whacks the leader of the other ape tribe over the head and kills him, there was an extension there that was cut out. It just made that portion of the sequence longer is all. Originally that portion opened up in a long shot and then went into a medium shot and finally got into a close-up. What Stanley did there was cut out the long shot. So if you notice in that sequence, when it starts it’s in the middle of the action of the scene. Stanley just tightened everything up and made things move a little faster.
There was a scene in the original script that we never did shoot. There was to be a scene of “Moon-Watcher” carrying the body of his dead father out from a cave. Except, in the scene “Moon-Watcher” wasn’t mentally aware that it was his father, but it was implied that this body belonged to someone in which he was to feel some sort of connection with. But the scene never got shot, but Stanley and I did rehearse it and talk about it. By the time we started shooting though, Stanley decided not to use it.
There were few scenes that Stanley cut. Then there were scenes that got shot that never got used as well. There was one scene in particular that I remember seeing with some school children around a pool taking a painting class on the space station or in a garden or something like that. That was one of the very first scenes shot. I think it was done on Christmas day in 1966. It was done at another studio though because Borehamwood wasn’t ready yet.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: Then another idea for the film that was never completed was the concept of including an alien in the final sequence of the film. You were involved with that too as well, right?
DAN RICHTER: We knew that Stanley wanted to create an alien. He worked on it throughout the entire production. I was working with Stanley on that and one of the ideas he had was to shoot some tests on high-contrast film. This being a film that offers a result of either black or white with no grays in between. Ultimately we just ran out of time and money.
The idea was to paint me white and then cover me with black polka dots and place me in front of another polka dot field and hopefully it would result on film where my body would be converted into just a shape or form. So I put a latex bald cap on and my bare skin was painted from head-to-toe with white paint, and then they painted black polka dots all over me including on my eye lids and then Stanley and I came up with some slow movements for me to do. The experiment didn’t work though, it just looked like a guy in a polka dot suit, and I was labeled the “polka-dot man”…laughing
This interview was first published in 2012. Re-printed with permission of Mondo Film, LLC. All rights reserved.