The Sacred Scrolls

Cornelius I

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Doctor Cornelius
Biographical information
Species Chimpanzee
Gender Male
Born Unknown
Died 1973
Continuity Movies (APJ)
Actor (James Brolin),
Roddy McDowall,
David Watson
First Appearance Planet of the Apes
Last Appearance Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Cornelius was a male chimpanzee from the films Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Escape from the Planet of the Apes, based on the character of Cornélius from the original novel, La Planète des singes by Pierre Boulle. He was the fiancée (later husband) of Zira and the eventual father of Milo, who would grow up to take the name Caesar.

An archeological scientist, Cornelius was reluctantly supportive of Zira's theories and views. He really would have preferred the quiet life with less controversy but deeply loved Zira and stood by her, though he did try to smooth over the confrontation with the orangutan elders and the gorilla soldiers. He himself had alarmed Zaius also by conducting digs in the Forbidden Zone, which threatened to undermine Ape society if he discovered what Zaius already knew. He was thus discouraged from further studies by the authorities. He grudgingly helped Zira to defend Taylor to the authorities and to escape subsequently but was cynical of Taylor's stories of an intelligent human race, and retained his respect for Zaius.

In the third Ape movie we were informed that Zira and Cornelius, after the visit of Brent, travelled into the Forbidden Zone to visit their friend Milo, who had discovered and repaired Taylor's ship. Together the three attempted to fly it but it launched onto a fixed return path to Taylor's time and the Apes escaped just as the Alpha-Omega Bomb device destroyed the world. Landing on Earth in 1973, the Apes were cautiously welcomed as a novelty by the bemused population. However when they accidentally revealed details of Earth's final days and Zira became pregnant with a child that could spawn an intelligent Ape race, the human authorities became suspicious and ultimately plotted the deaths of Zira, Cornelius and their son (Dr. Milo having already died). Escaping, they were tracked down to a disused boat, where they were finally killed by Otto Hasslein despite Cornelius' attempt to defend himself and his family. The child, initially named after Milo but subsequently renamed Caesar, had been saved however, and would eventually do just what Hasslein had feared.

Many years later, Caesar named his own son after his father, whom he had never known.

In BOOM! Studios' Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm, Cornelius' past is explored further. His research on humans was interrupted by the Anti-Vivisection Society led by Prisca, shortly before the destruction of the Moon. In the aftermath Cornelius tried to save the chimpanzee Cassia, but she was killed. He later encountered Cassia's sister Zira and her son Lucius. Zaius appointed Cornelius part of the team, with Milo and Vitus, to travel to Painted Valley in search of provisions. On his return he broke his promise to Zaius by revealing the history of Painted Valley to the chimp radicals of Ape City, but did not share their enthusiasm to stage a bloody coup. After briefly showing an interest in Timon's cult of Aleron, Cornelius helped avert an ape civil war by calming the rioting chimps. He, Zira and Lucius were telepathically urged by Milo's mutant friend to join him at the site of his repaired space craft, where Lucius was shot by the gorilla army.


  • In Rod Serling's early script treatments, Cornelius was the head of the 'Fourth Northern Archeological Expedition'.[1]
  • Rock Hudson was apparently considered for the part of Cornelius,[2] though Roddy McDowall had been told about the role by Arthur P. Jacobs in person "a year before production", while on a flight back from London.[3][4]
  • Makeup artist Don Cash Sr. transformed Roddy McDowall into 'Cornelius' on the original Apes movie.[5]


  • The latter part of Cornelius and Zira's story is very similar to the situation of Merou in Pierre Boulle's original book.
  • Cornelius is the partial namesake of Cornelia, the wife of Caesar in the reboot franchise. It is possible that she was also named after the first wife of Julius Caesar, Cornelia Cinna Minor.


Roddy McDowall makeup1

External LinksEdit


James BrolinCornelius David WatsonCorneliusCorneliusgold Corneliuspower Corneliusmarvel Corneliuswithin Corneliusrider Corneliusmr

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