Thanks to the smashing box office success of Skyfall ($1.03 billion) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($886 million and counting), MGM has a built up quite the purse, and now they’re looking to commit some of that profit to a fairly high profile remake. Per Deadline, MGM is buying a spec script for a new version of Ben-Hur, based on the 1880 Lew Wallace novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ. Wallace’s novel was famously immortalized onscreen by director William Wyler in 1959 with the classic epic Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, and the novel was also previously adapted in the 1925 silent film Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ. This new adaptation was scripted by Keith Clarke and will be produced by Sean Daniel and Joni Levin. The reboot is more faithful to the book and diverges heavily from the Heston film, as it will also tell the parallel tale of Jesus Christ in addition to the Ben-Hur story. Hit the jump for more details.
The premise of Ben-Hur centers on the relationship between Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem, and his friend Messala, a commanding officer of the Roman leigons. As the story progresses following their childhood friendship, tensions rise and Messala betrays his friend, playing a key role in getting Judah sold into slavery. The film will focus on the story of Judah and his quest for revenge, but it will also include the story of Jesus Christ, whom Judah encounters several times. The script apparently follows the Christ story all the way up through his death sentence and crucifixion. The book depicts this event as well, with Judah converting to Christianity at the story’s end.
The inclusion of Jesus Christ in the script makes this Ben-Hur reboot one of several Biblical epics currently in development, as Brad Pitt is circling the starring role in Warner Bros.’ Pontius Pilate and Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott are working on separate Moses projects. We also have Darren Aronofsky’s Noah starring Russell Crowe on tap for 2014.
The 1959 film won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, and at the time was the most expensive movie ever made. The 9-minute chariot race in particular is iconic, so this re-adaptation has some monstrous shoes to fill. Watch the trailer for Ben-Hur below.