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An Interview with Charlton Heston
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher
Editor’s Note: In 1993, Dr. Baehr interviewed Charlton Heston on the release of Mr. Heston’s great television series, CHARLTON HESTON PRESENTS THE BIBLE. Warner Bros. is re-releasing this wonderful series this week while, at the same time, Paramount Pictures is re-releasing on Blu-Ray a beautifully restored version of Cecil B. DeMille’s masterpiece, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, starring Charlton Heston as Moses. To commemorate these events, MOVIEGUIDE® is re-publishing this 1993 interview.
Charlton Heston is a pleasant, reserved, self-controlled, gentle man and a great friend of MOVIEGUIDE(r). Although it would be presumptuous to equate talking to Charlton Heston with talking to Moses, it is easy to lapse into that association since he portrayed Moses with such charisma in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. So when I interviewed him about his latest project, CHARLTON HESTON PRESENTS THE BIBLE, his deep, authoritative voice, sounded very much like one would expect Moses to sound.
Mr. Heston notes that this video series is extremely unique as it is the first film project that involves an actor actually performing the biblical stories from both testaments. This collection of stories, beginning with creation, is illustrated with performances by Charlton Heston shot on the actual sites of the Holy Lands. These video performances make the biblical stories come to life.
“There is a reason why these are the greatest stories ever told,” explains Heston. “They have been evolving as stories in a verbal tradition for thousands of years. They’re irresistible.”
The entire series is filmed in the Holy Land in sites where the biblical stories are connected and took place. At such places as the Red Sea, the River Jordan and Mt. Sinai, Heston performs and comments on the significance of the sites. Heston also uses the recently excavated Roman amphitheater from the time of Christ and performs all of the stories actually on that stage.
“It was very thrilling as an actor; the high point of my career,” exclaimed Heston.
Using the story of Joseph for the first hour of this series, the second hour tells the story of Moses, while the third and fourth hours focus on the story of Christ as they take the four gospels and reduce them into one.
Heston was first drawn to the project by the quality of the writing.
“In the King James translation,” he said, “there is no better writing in the language this side of Shakespeare. The impact of the stories on the world is immeasurable.”
Reflecting back on his career, Heston commented on how fortunate he was to have worked with such great directors and actors so early in his career. Under the direction of Cecil B. DeMille, Heston first gained real attention for his acting skills and screen presence in 1952’s Oscar winner THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH and also played the memorable role of Moses in DeMille’s 1956 masterpiece THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.
“If you can’t make a career out of two De Mille pictures, you better turn in your suit,” Heston explained to me.
He commented further on De Mille’s strong Christian faith and understanding of how good the biblical stories were, enabling him to make some of the most honored movies in history.
Heston also starred in the unforgettable BEN-HUR, directed by William Wyler, which won Best Picture of 1959 and 11 Academy Awards, including a Best Actor nod for Chuck. Among these significant achievements, Heston has also worked with Lawrence Olivier, Orson Welles, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren, and Jimmy Stewart.
Aware that Christian family values are a subject of an ongoing debate, he feels that no final conclusions have been reached.
“Family values is a loose phrase,” he noted. “It makes me a little uneasy because it can be defined to suit a variety of agenda to the extent that it means relying on and respecting the views and the values of the nuclear family.
“I’m not certain that family values have been publicly and permanently repealed.”