“Ben-Hur”: Roma Downey Discusses Remaking the Classic Film
By Rachal Marquez
Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the Hollywood couple best known for the hit 2013 TV miniseries The Bible and the 2014 feature film Son of God, are now undertaking a remake of the famous 1959 version of Ben-Hur.
Downey said that the goal is to retell the classic story for modern audiences. The 1959 film, directed by Wyler and featuring Charlton Heston, tells the story of a Jewish man living in the same time as Jesus, who is betrayed and seeks revenge. Long considered a classic, Downey said it is time for the story to be retold to modern audiences, many of whom have not even heard of the tale.
“It was very terrifying for us to tackle [a movie] that is engraved not just in the minds and memories of people, but in their hearts,” Downey said. “The 1959 version is one of those films that people remember who they watched it with or the feelings that it evoked. But 1959 is a long time ago and when Mark and I told our kids we were working on [the remake] my kids, who range in age from 18 to 22, said ‘Ben-Who?’”
The remake, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, will star Jack Huston (American Hustle) as Judah Ben-Hur and Rodrigo Santoro (300) as Jesus. The film will also feature Morgan Freeman as Ilderim.
Downey said that as impactful as the older version is, it’s time for a version that will reach modern audiences.
“It’s a great story, and it needs to be told again. And, if you thought the [original] chariot race was amazing, wait until you see [the new one],” Downey said. “It’s going to knock your socks off.”
The remake did much of its filming in Matera, Italy, where Mel Gibson also filmed 2004’s Passion of the Christ.
“Matera is absolutely gorgeous,” Downey said. “It’s a beautiful, interesting-looking town that’s carved out of rock and had all these caves and was able to provide for us on the film a geography and landscape of rocky terrain, because, of course, we couldn’t shoot in Jerusalem.”
Though the movie has been rewritten for modern audiences, Downey said that it will still have the same powerful message of faith and fulfillment. The new version will also reportedly feature Jesus directly interacting with the main character, though the original only showed shadows of Jesus.
“Ultimately [Judah Ben-Hur] brings a hardened heart until the end of the movie where he’s angry and has a desire for revenge. And through an encounter with Jesus he ultimately lays this down, and it’s an extraordinary moment in film,” Downey said.
Ben-Hur is set to hit box offices in 2016.
– Source: Christian Post; 10/15/15.