You know the gig: Judah Ben-Hur is the falsely accused Jewish nobleman who survives years of slavery to take vengeance on his hunky Roman best friend, Messala, who betrayed him. It was the bestselling book of the 19th century (beating out even Uncle Tom’s Cabin!), and has been made into four movies prior to this. The 1959 MGM version starring Charleton Heston, of course, was one of the most beloved, best reviewed, and highest grossing films of ALL TIME, winning a record-breaking eleven Academy Awards in 1960. Its chariot racing scene forever after set the standard for Hollywood action movies. So why, WHY, WHY would anybody want to remake it? Might as well remake Gone with the Wind! Or The Godfather! Or Citizen Kane!
There are two reasons, actually, that will become apparent once you see this trailer.
The first is that Jack Huston, who plays Ben, is, like TOTALLY HOT.
The second, and more important, reason for making this movie is so that Morgan Freeman can rock those kooky-ass grey dreads. OH, GURL. You need to SEE THE TO BELIEVE THEM. You won’t believe your eyes. I predict when Morgan Freeman is dead and gone, THESE DREADS WILL LIVE ON IN INFAMY. Centuries from now, when the Eloi research his name, this image from Ben-Hur is what will pop up. They are THAT LEGENDARY.
He also gets to sport a pretty bitchin’ turban…
Other than that, the movie looks like your standard sword and sandal epic: Gladiator meets Clash of the Titans meets 300 meets Pompeii meets Gods of Egypt meets Exodus: Gods and Kings. So… yeah. It might reeeeeally suck.
It’s also worth noting that in this version Judah and Masala seem to actually BE brothers, thereby negating the possibility of the gay subplot that was indirectly featured in the ’59 version.
The interesting backstory to THAT is told in Adweek:
As a script doctor for the 1959 film Ben-Hur, Gore Vidal felt politics was an insufficient reason to explain a central plot point, the acrimonious falling out between dear boyhood friends, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and Messala (Stephen Boyd). So Vidal created a back story, a teenage love affair between the two, one that Messala was keen to rekindle and Ben-Hur was not.
The film’s director, William Wyler, approved the story, and Boyd used the homosexual history to inform his acting, but it was agreed that Heston would not be told about any of it. That little bit of gay subtext wasn’t revealed till 1995, when Vidal was interviewed for the documentary The Celluloid Closet. In the clip below you can see parts of a scene written by Vidal that include the homosexual plot line. You can also see Portuguese subtitles, and we’re working on that.
Heston was not amused by the revelation. On March 17, 1996, he wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times downplaying Vidal’s involvement with the film and denying any gay subtext. “Vidal’s claim that he slipped in a scene implying a homosexual relationship between the two men insults Willy Wyler and, I have to say, irritates the hell out of me,” Heston fumed.