It’s perhaps too soon to argue that Hollywood-ized Biblical epics are making a comeback; that said, there are two noteworthy tentpoles based on religious source material that will arrive in theaters in 2014. The first is director/co-writer Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, an expensive retelling of the Noah’s Ark story, which Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel have already brought to life in graphic novel form. The other project in question is Exodus, a new look at the life and times of Moses, with Ridley Scott directing a cast that is rumored to include Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby).
Meanwhile, MGM has begun development on Ben-Hur, a reboot of the cinematic (Franchise? Property?) that is based upon Lew Wallace’s all-time best-selling book “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” (published in 1880). The story was first adapted into a silent black-and-white feature in 1925, some thirty years before director William Wyler made his famous Technicolor 1959 adaptation with Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur: the Jewish prince betrayed by his childhood friend – Messala (Stephen Boyd), commander of the Roman garrison – and forced into slavery, thus beginning the lifelong adult blood feud between the two former brothers-in-spirit.
Deadline is reporting that MGM has found a potential candidate to direct the Ben-Hur reboot in Timur Bekmambetov, the Russian-Kazakh filmmaker behind the visually-spectacular horror/fantasies Night Watch and Day Watch. However, in the U.S., Bekmambetov is better known for the highly-stylized Mark Millar comic book movie Wanted – starring James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie as professional assassins with superhuman killing abilities – and the historical-fantasy/horror novel adaptation Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Earlier this year, we learned that the Ben-Hur reboot spec script was penned by Keith R. Clarke, who previously co-wrote the Oscar-nominated true-story survival tale The Way Back. Clarke’s adaptation of Wallace’s literary source material is said to start back further in time than Wyler’s film – spanning Judah and Messala’s relationship from their time together as children on through to the traitorous act that gave rise to a permanent ideological (and personal) schism between the duo. Moreover, the parallel story of Jesus Christ – as featured in Wallace’s book – is covered in greater detail than in Wyler’s adaptation, according to the early descriptions of Clarke’s script from Deadline‘s sources.
By the sound of it, Clarke’s Ben-Hur script has the potential to be to Wyler’s film what The Prince of Egypt is to Cecil B. DeMille’s Then Ten Commandements (starring Heston). In other words, the Ben-Hur reboot will examine the relationship between the story’s protagonist and antagonist in greater depth (compared to previous movie adaptations) – by highlighting their original brotherly love – as to give a greater sense of pathos to the proceedings, once the pair evolve into bitter rivals. Moreover, bringing the Jesus Christ subplot to the forefront could strengthen the themes of redemption and forgiveness that are inherent to the narrative.
Bekmambetov as director would ensure that the Ben-Hur reboot offers a visually-striking and grandiose treatment of that story. Problem is, his booming voice as a filmmaker could overwhelm Clarke’s more intimate screenplay – and thus, bring the sort of semi-campy vibes to the proceedings that are present in his other Hollywood features. However, a deal for Bekmambetov to call the shots on Ben-Hur is reported to be far away from guaranteed at this point – meaning, it’s best to not take his involvement for granted yet (regardless of whether you think it’s a good or bad idea).
Are you interested in the Ben-Hur reboot? If so, who would you like to see hold the directorial reins on the project?
The Ben-Hur reboot is still in the early stages of development, so it might be a while before we have a more concrete update on the director situation. As always, we shall keep you posted.