James Cameron is a Canadian film director, producer and screenwriter. His writing and directing works includes The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and True Lies (1994).
In early 1996, Cameron was in talks with 20th Century Fox to executive produce and write a new Planet of the Apes movie, but said no to directing as he was busy filming his massive hit Titanic (1997). Peter Jackson turned down directing the film with Arnold Schwarzenegger as star and Cameron as producer, recognizing that they would probably conflict over the direction. Due to his work on Titanic, Cameron's commitment was delayed, but he still intended to produce and write the movie. Despite all these setbacks, Fox still maintained that the film would be made. Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford & Patrick Swayze were all rumoured for the starring role, but in January 1997 it was reported that Schwarzenegger was still attached and had been in talks with Cameron's development company, Lightstorm Entertainment, regarding the Apes film. Schwarzenegger already had a long-term working relationship with Cameron through the Terminator movies and True Lies.
In December 1997 it was reported that Lightstorm and Fox wished to get the project on the fast-track in the new year. The following Summer, Cameron's version was reportedly planned to fit in with the existing continuity of the original Apes movie arc, drawing elements particularly from the first film and its sequel. An anonymous leak in July 1998 suggested an outline of Cameron's version: "Battle for the Planet of the Apes set the stage for astronaut Taylor to return to a much altered 'planet of the apes.' That's exactly what the new script deals with. It is intended for the new film to open the same way as the first, with the exact same footage of Taylor aboard his spacecraft. The ship still crash-lands in a lake but the lake is no longer in the middle of a desert - it is now sitting alongside a research facility. The story soon shifts to thirty years later, when five time-travelling astronauts from the 1990's arrive at the research facility. The facility, mostly burned out, has been abandoned. The astronauts hike across the Forbidden Zone. A spooky hooded sniper stalks the astronauts and manages to kill one. Caesar's role in the development of this new ape society has given the chimpanzees more dominance. Science has been allowed to flourish, which makes the planet more technologically advanced than it was in the first film. But the balance of power is more uneasy and tensions are dangerously high among the different ape factions. The gorillas, whose aggression hasn't been stifled by chimps and orangutans, long ago slaughtered the small population of mutants living in the underground ruins of Manhattan. Air travel has allowed other types of apes to come to Ape City. Gibbons care little for science, religion or war - they are the artists and playboys. A descendant of Caesar, a bizarre mix of chimpanzee and gibbon, has been voted prime minister of Ape City although he doesn't see himself so much as an elected official as a royal heir. He is a perverted, insane egomaniac, pretty much a simian Caligua. The survivors of the astronaut crew befriend an eccentric old orangutan, who tells them he had met astronauts before. He tells them that one of these earlier astronauts - 'a real gun nut' - took the best looking human babe and dragged her off with him into the wilderness. The 'gun nut' hidden out in the woods turns out to be an old Taylor (appropriately played by NRA head Charlton Heston). Taylor has kept busy with the local women and has sired a large brood of intelligent humans. Landon is the religious leader of a savage community. Dodge has managed to become lobotomized but there's a little twist to how this has happened."
There is no proof that this outline was genuine however, and in fact in October 1998, Lightstorm Entertainment President, Rae Sanchini stated that there was still no script, but that Cameron intended to produce and write the project. Roddy McDowall - perhaps expected to be included in such a movie - said in an interview published in TV Guide Online in September 1998 (a month before his death) that he supported the idea that any new movie should pick up from the originals rather than try to reinvent the franchise. "I don't see any reason to remake them. Why? They're there, and they're as potent as ever. On the other hand, I've always thought it would be very sensible to continue the canon and I can't imagine why nobody's done so." Cameron was rumored to have completed a screenplay by November 1998, with Schwarzenegger still earmarked for the lead. Michael Bay was suggested as director, but Peter Hyams (Capricorn One, 2010) was ultimately chosen. However in December, Fox rejected Hyams as director and Cameron, disillusioned, quit the project. Schwarzenegger also ended his association with the movie around this time. James Cameron's Avatar (2009) would go on to break the box-office records set by his earlier hit Titanic - the two highest-grossing films of all time.