BEN-HUR Remake Set for February 26, 2016 Release; THE BIBLE Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey Board Project

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MGM and Paramount Pictures’ Ben-Hur remake now has a release date and a pair of interesting producers.  Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter director Timur Bekmambetov is onboard to helm the epic, and MGM and Paramount have now slated the film for release on February 26, 2016.  Moreover, The Bible and Son of God producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have come aboard the project as producers, which could potentially mean the redo might bridge the gap between Hollywood tentpole and the recent flurry of successful faith-based features.  Based on Lew Wallace’s novel of the same name, Bekmambetov’s film focuses on the nature of faith as it follows a falsely accused nobleman who sets out to take vengeance on the best friend who betrayed him.

Hit the jump for more on this curious project.

ben-hur-posterWallace’s novel was, of course, adapted to the big screen in 1959 by director William Wyler, and his Charlton Heston-led iteration went on to win 11 Academy Awards.  The script for Bekmambetov’s version was originally penned by Keith Clarke (The Way Back), but the most recent draft was written by Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley.

Previous reports have said that this new Ben-Hur will be more faithful to the book by telling the parallel story of Jesus Christ in addition to the Judah Ben-Hur story, and the addition of Burnett and Downey to the production team would appear to confirm that this will be a more faith-driven film than the original epic.

Faith-based films have been doing solid business as of late, catering to an audience that feels underserved, and it appears that MGM and Paramount are hoping to mount a “cooperative effort”, as it were, for Ben-Hur by combining the big-budget spectacle of a studio film (and a genre-experienced director) with a faith-focused storyline, not to mention the religious clout that comes with having Burnett and Downey as producers.

Read the full press release below:

HOLLYWOOD, CA (April 25, 2014) – Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (Son of  God) have joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Paramount Pictures’ Ben-Hur, it was announced today by Gary Barber, MGM’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and Paramount Pictures. The studios will co-produce the film, which is set for release on February 26, 2016. Burnett joins producers Sean Daniel (The Mummy Franchise) and Joni Levin (The Way Back), while Downey joins as an executive producer.

Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) will direct the film.  The screenplay, originally written by Keith Clarke (The Way Back), with revisions by Academy Award®-winner John Ridley (12 Years A Slave), is based on Lew Wallace’s 1880 epic novel Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ. Downey (The Bible) and John Ridley will serve as executive producers along with Keith Clarke and Jason F. Brown.

The film returns to the heart of Lew Wallace’s epic novel focusing on the nature of faith.  The story follows a falsely accused nobleman who survives years of slavery to take vengeance on his best friend who betrayed him.  Both must come to choose between retribution or forgiveness.

“We are thrilled to have Mark and Roma join the production team to bring such an indelible classic story to the big screen,” said Barber. “Their unrivaled passion, creativity and success in the faith based content space, will be a huge asset to the film and we look forward to working together.”

“A timeless film of this scale and scope requires an incredibly dedicated team of filmmakers and the opportunity to have visionary talents like Mark and Roma be a part of the making of the film, and knowing their incredible dedication to their own faith, made them the ideal partners to help bring this story authentically to life,” said Rob Moore, Vice Chairman Paramount Pictures.

“What an honor it will be to help bring this epic film back to the big screen” said producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett.  “When Gary Barber allowed us to read John Ridley’s amazing script, we immediately knew we had to join this team.  We are thrilled to be ablework with Timur, Sean, John and the entire MGM and Paramount teams.  General Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur is one of the most important Christian works of fiction ever written and this script is astounding.  It will be the most anticipated movie release of 2016.”

MGM will handle production with Jonathan Glickman, President, Motion Picture Group and Matt Dines, Vice President, Production, overseeing the project on behalf of the studio. The film will be distributed worldwide by Paramount Pictures, with select international territories as well as all television distribution to be handled by MGM.

“It is an honor for us to be making a film based on such an epic story whose themes still clearly resonate,” said Glickman. “Together with our partners at Paramount, and this dream team of accomplished filmmakers, we are excited to introduce Ben-Hur to a new generation.”

Together Downey and Burnett were executive producers of The Bible series, which became the number one cable show for The History Channel of 2013.  In February 2014, 20th Century Fox released the feature film version Son of God.  The project entailed extensive outreach to the faith communities and consultation with biblical experts, to strong effect.  ADL National Director Abraham Foxman declared “Son of God is the most sensitive depiction of the story of Jesus that I have ever seen or probably will eversee.” Downey and Burnett are currently producing A.D. a new drama series for NBC and The Dovekeepers a four-hour miniseries on the story of Masada for CBS, both set to air in 2015.

MGM and Paramount are currently partnered on the upcoming Hercules, releasing July 25 as well as the sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine, releasing Christmas day. The studios previously teamed up on the release of GI Joe: Retaliation and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

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  • mattinacan

    Timur Bekmambetov? Well, there goes any hope of this being good.

    • TheMacJew

      I was thinking that of Burnett/Downey’s involvement.

  • Brian

    The director from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and the producers from that cheesy bible miniseries on the “history” channel. Yeah, that’s a good sign.

  • Person

    Dear God, no,

    • The Flobbit

      Person, do you see any Jim Caviezel in that picture of Heston? It would be hard to cast some who meets Heston’s gravitas and presence, but Caviezel could do it.

      • Person

        Already played one kinda famous biblical figure haha

      • The Flobbit

        Ben-Hur isn’t Biblical, but I see your point.

      • Person

        Wasn’t it called a Tale of the Christ? I’m not Christian, I don’t know what’s actually in the Bible or not, but I recall Jesus making an appearance in the Heston version.

      • The Flobbit

        Jesus was in Ben-Hur, but Ben-Hur was not in the Bible.

  • MoviesAreForever88

    This is such an insult. Ben-hur is a classic and is considered, by most, to be one of the best films of that generation and decade. So how does MGM and Paramount decide to treat this remake? By hiring one of the worst directors of our generation and decade.

    • TheMacJew

      This is hardly the first remake of the story. In fact, this will be the sixth adaptation of the novel.

      • MoviesAreForever88

        Oh, Give me a break, this is the first remake of the classic 1959 film that is due to be released in cinemas. Other than that there was only the 1925 version. I didn’t realize I had to be so specific. After all, I don’t know of anything that you are referring to.

        I remember they released some piece of garbage “made for TV” version and some silly cartoon version for kids, both of which came out a few years ago…but those obviously don’t count. In fact, if you are actually referring to either of those two as official adaptations of Ben-Hur then you are just looking for an argument.

        So, what other four adaptations (other than 1925 and 1959) are you referring to?

      • TheMacJew

        They are considered adaptations,whether you like it or not. Remakes are hardly new. How many versions of Dracula have been done? More than I care to count. Same goes with adaptations of Shakespeare.

        But, hey, since you want a rundown of all of the adaptations,here there are:

        That is five adaptations of the source material. Since they are all film, that qualifies as a remake. That’s why movies like The A-Team, Get Smart, The Man from UNCLE, and The Beverly Hillbillies are called remakes.

      • MoviesAreForever88

        I hate to break it to you but The Man from U.N.C.L.E., A-Team and even The Beverly Hillbilllies are NOT remakes. A remake, by definition, is a FILM that has been released in cinemas once before being remade for another theatrical release.

        That’s common knowledge.

        Don’t believe me? Hell, there is even a wikipedia page devoted to listing every remake ever made. NONE of the films you listed are on there. Why? Because they aren’t remakes.

        If an adaptation is made into a T.V. movie, a T.V. series or a kids direct to video cartoon and is, several years down the line, made into a theatrical release…it’s not a remake.

      • TheMacJew

        Hate to break it you, but according to the Studios that made those films, they are remakes.

        That’s common knowledge.

        Don’t believe me? Hell, IMDB lists them as such.

        The wikipedia link is great.I use it all of the time. Unfortunately, it is incomplete. You’ll notice that Ben-Hur (1959) is not listed as remake, though two version came before, yet The Ten Commandments(1956) is listed. So it’s hardly “every remake ever made.”

        The A-Team:

        The Beverly Hillbillies:

        The Man from UNCLE:

        And there are more just like it: The Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched, and The Brady Bunch to name a few.

    • Pierre V. Wilson

      I heard Sir Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg TURNED DOWN this.

      So MGM TRIED to get Legendary Filmmakers but FAILED.

      • MoviesAreForever88

        Uh, I could be wrong but I think you might be mistaken about that. Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott were both circling the Moses film, Exodus, at the same time. Ridley obviously went on to direct (which is being released in Nov). Then, when Ridley took on Exodus, Steven was circling Gods and Kings and was more or less attached to direct it….but later ended up dropping the project.

        I don’t remember anything about either of them directing Ben-Hur. If I’m wrong, cool….but where did you read that?

  • Mike

    Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg turned this down because it hits “psycho-preachy levels”. Paramount made some horrible decisions with NOAH, but lucked out due to the quality of that fantasy film. This has disaster written all over it. What “faith-driven consumer” is going to support Paramount after they lied about what NOAH was.

  • Mike

    Son Of God, God’s Not Dead, and Heaven is For Real won’t top $65 million domestically. So, I wouldn’t advise a $100+ million budget. Burnett means nothing outside his American Fundamentalist Christian community. BOMB!!!!

    • MoviesAreForever88

      Hahaha. So true. Religion is a f*cking farce. I friggin hate it. Any film that preaches it, especially in the ways of the films you listed, deserves to fail.

      The only film I’ve ever been torn with seeing is Exodus…. because it’s Ridley directing. He’s been pretty outspoken about being anti-religious, so I find it hard to believe that it’s going to be preachy. I guess we will find out in November.
      However, no matter if a film is “preachy or not” I always find it hard to sit through it if it deals with crap from the bible because its so ridiculous and I know so many people are actually taking it as historical fact. I tried to watch Noah with an open mind and, even though it wasn’t “true” to the original story, it just ended up pissing me off at how absurd it actually is.

      • MoviesAreForever88

        Having said that, there are plenty of films that touch up on religious topics, usually from an objective point of view, such as Kingdom of Heaven, which are masterpieces and deserve to be taken seriously. That’s not to say they are religious films.

        I feel Ben-Hur walks the line but because it’s been taken seriously in the past I feel like it deserves a good remake….as long as they don’t preach. If it’s preachy, like some other users claim, then the hell with it and maybe Timur is a good choice…it will ensure it’s failure at the box office.

  • alk

    What a weird combination. Really, i mean. This could be a really interesting trainwreck.

  • katana

    i doubt anyone even recalls there was a straw dogs remake, oldboy remake etc.. basically cuz no one gives a shit about shitty remakes. now if you team scorsese and dicaprio and produce a great movie well thats another story..

    • MoviesAreForever88

      Departed, baby! Soooo good.

      • Will Olsen

        Which was a remake of “Internal Affairs”…

  • CaptainFabulous

    I hope it also has rock monsters. I’ll suck without those guys.

    • Daniel O’Reilly

      Maybe they can race with them instead of horses.

  • Tyler

    REMAKES! Because Hollywood writers can’t come up with original ideas!

  • Lance Mitaro

    CGI chariots!

  • Otis Bundle

    Dumb idea. Leave classics alone!

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