Planet of the Apes! The Ten Commandments! Soylent Green! One of Hollywood’s biggest stars was born 100 years ago…


In my career writing comics, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to write dialogue for some of my favorite characters in the pop-culture landscape. Characters like Spike from Buffy and Angel, Picard and Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who, even Mickey Mouse! With these characters, the dialogue practically writes itself, as if I can hear the voice in my head. Nowhere was this more apparent than when I got the opportunity to write for Taylor, portrayed by the legendary Charlton Heston, in Star Trek/Planet of the Apes. That unmistakable Heston cadence was an absolute joy to bring to life.

Mr. Heston was born 100 years ago, on Oct. 4, 1923. So let’s celebrate by counting down 13 GREAT HESTON PERFORMANCES, both big and small, from television and film.

13. Zaius, Planet of the Apes (2001). I’m not a fan of the Tim Burton remake of the 1968 classic, like, at all. Poorly conceived, sloppily scripted, with a nonsensical ending that has me scratching my head to this day. But its single saving grace is a cameo appearance by Heston as Dr. Zaius, where he manages to give a great performance under heavy prosthetic makeup by Rick Baker, ending with an outrageous callback to Heston’s most famous line from the original film, which I had to admit even made me smile.

12. Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965). My favorite kind of Heston performance usually involves a lot of screaming. Nobody plays angry better than Heston, as here where Heston’s Michelangelo, while painting the Sistine Chapel, yells at a bunch of meddling cardinals.

11. A Better Actor, Wayne’s World 2 (1993). I always thought Charlton Heston never got enough credit for how funny he was, and also his willingness to poke fun at himself and his image, like in this hilarious cameo.

10. Long John Silver, Treasure Island (1990). This made-for-cable production is practically forgotten these days, but it’s incredibly faithful to the original Robert Louis Stevenson novel, and has one hell of a cast besides Heston, with Christian Bale, Oliver Reed, Julian Glover and Christopher Lee!

9. Famous Actor Charlton Heston, Friends (1998). Here we see Heston offering some wisdom on the art of acting to young thespian Joey Tribbiani.

8. Judah Ben-Hur, Ben-Hur (1959). Heston was known for his Biblical epics, and none was bigger than Ben-Hur, with its famous chariot race sequence. Even though stunt doubles were utilized, it’s jarring to see how much of the hazardous race was performed by Heston himself after weeks of daily lessons.

7. Dave’s Supervisor, Late Show With David Letterman (1995). My favorite thing about this is just how completely random and unexplained it is.

6. Stewart Graff, Earthquake (1974). I’m not saying this movie is good (although the endless scenes of miniature Los Angeles architecture falling apart are fun), but nobody is working harder to give this schlock some gravitas than Charlton Heston.

5. Robert Thorn, Soylent Green (1973). The third film in Heston’s “dystopian cycle” of the late ’60s and early ’70s, these days Soylent Green is probably best remembered for its famous payoff line.

4. Robert Neville, The Omega Man (1971). The best adaptation of the often-filmed Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend, Heston shines as Neville, the last human standing in a deserted Los Angeles overrun by nocturnal mutants. The scene of Heston in his bachelor-pad fortress trying to enjoy a meal before pausing to pick off mutants with a high-powered assault rifle is both funny and more than a little chilling.

3. Moses, The Ten Commandments (1956). Probably Heston’s most famous role. His portrayal of Moses as the young Egyptian prince humanizes the character, and gives it the depth that viewers respond to later in all the bigger, bombastic scenes involving acts of God. In a movie where Moses yells a lot, it’s in the quieter moments where Heston excels.

2. George Taylor, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). Heston had no desire to return for the sequel, but felt a debt to the studio that had taken a chance on the original, so he agreed to come back, but only in the film’s opening and final scenes. (He donated his salary to charity.) Heston insisted that Taylor be killed off, resulting in one of the most grim endings in cinema history.

1. George Taylor, Planet of the Apes (1968). How could it be anything else? The movie is so chock full of iconic Charlton Heston lines and moments, I could put together a list of scenes from this film alone. But we all know it can only be one. Pure Heston.

Feel like watching some of these movies? You’re in luck! Chuck is the Star of the Month at TCM! They’re running 25 films on Wednesdays through October. Click here for the details.



— BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES: Still Bizarre — and Fun — After All These Years. Click here.

Scott Tipton is 13th Dimension’s longest-tenured contributor-at-large. He’s best known as the writer of scores of Star Trek comics published by IDW.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Great list.  As a kid, I was a huge Charleton Heston fan…primarily due to his SF films & watching “Ben Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” every Easter. He is the only actor that I ever wrote a fan letter to…I ended receiving an autographed picture, which I still have to this day.

    My list would have include his hilarious Bud Light “I Love You Man” commercial

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  2. Any chance that Superman 78 recycled the collapsing dam from Earthquake 74?

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  3. Any chance that the film Superman 78 recycled the collapsing dam sequence from Earthquake 74?

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  4. You forgot Will Penny (1968) … Heston’s favourite film performance in a sterling career. Also land of the Incas (1954), Lucas and Spielberg’s prototype for Indiana Jones (its on YouTube … watch it and be amazed!)

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