Ben-Hur, a Tale of the Christ, as readers may know, was written by Abraham Lincoln's General Lew Wallace, who had obtained a bad reputation for arriving late to the battle Shiloh. He spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name.
The success of his novel, however, outshines the dust of controversy. It remained at the top of the bestseller list until Gone With the Wind was published in 1936. It was even blessed by Pope Leo XIII.
Stage and Film Productions
Inevitably, such a property was destined to leap off the pages of the book. Productions were staged with live horses and chariots galloping on a treadmill. Amazingly, no one was killed. In 1925 it was turned into an epic silent feature starring Ramon Navarro. They built an actual Roman ship, filled it with extras, and set it on fire. Yep, extras earned their pay in them days. But the most famous version, the one that netted 11 Academy Awards, was the 1959 version starring Charlton Heston. (The pod race scene from 1999's Star Wars I the Phantom Menace is a futuristic remake of the famous chariot race.)
Bear will say it takes guts to re-make an iconic film like Ben-Hur, a Tale of the Christ. Those 11 Oscars must be intimidating. As you can see in the trailer, the Arab sheik has somehow become Morgan Freeman with dreadlocks. Makers say Christ will have a greater role, and will "meet viewers' expectations." More time is spent on Judah and Mesala's early relationship. They specifically mentioned the Noah debacle, where great liberties were taken with the Biblical account. They want to avoid the backlash that generated.
Lew Wallace would be horrified. He did not give permission for an actor to portray Christ. In the 1959 version, this wish was honored, except for the wonderful moment Jesus gives Judah Ben-Hur some water and stares down a Roman soldier. Only a hand is seen, but the scene is told through the eyes of the other people involved.