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MGM to remake Ben-Hur

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With all the loot they’ve made on “Skyfall”, MGM are seemingly in a position to take expensive gambles – at least until one of their big hopefuls does a back-flip and fizzles out at the box-office.

Deadline reports that anachronistic “Ben-Hur” is getting the reboot treatment over at the Lion.

The remake of the classic 1959 Charlton Heston film will be written by “The Way Back” alum Keith Clarke, and produced by Sean Daniel and Joni Levin, with Clarke and Jason Brown exec producing.

The outlet reports :

MGM, now steered by Gary Barber and production president Jonathan Glickman and taking on action adventure films that include Hercules with Dwayne Johnson, just loved a spec that is faithful to the book and is much different than the 1959 William Wyler film that focused on the adult blood feud between Judah Ben-Hur (Heston) and Messala (Stephen Boyd).

This film will tell the formative story of the characters as they grew up best friends before the Roman Empire took control of Jerusalem. Judah Ben-Hur was a Jewish prince and Messala the son of a Roman tax collector. After the latter leaves to be educated in Rome for five years, the young man returns with a different attitude. Messala mocks Judah and his religion and when a procession passes by Judah’s house and a roof tile accidentally falls and hits the governor, Messala betrays his childhood friend and manipulates it so that Judah is sold into slavery and certain death on a Roman warship, with his mother and sister thrown in prison for life.

Judah doesn’t die, and vows revenge on Messala which, like in the films, culminates in the famed chariot races. There is another way the script differs from the movie, in that it will tell the parallel tale of Jesus Christ, with whom Ben-Hur has several encounters which moves him to become a believer in the Messiah, and which culminates in Christ being sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate. Intertwined in all this is the lifelong struggle between Ben-Hur and Messala.

The depiction of Jesus Christ as an occasional character in the script puts this project squarely in the mix of Biblical-themed films that are proliferating at studios around town. They include Pontius Pilate, which now has Brad Pitt attached to the Vera Blasi-scripted Warner Bros project; two films about Moses that Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott are separately circling; and the Darren Aronofsky-directed Noah, which stars Russell Crowe.

“It’s one of the great stories of friendship and betrayal, and faith, that works in the context of a big onscreen action thriller for a global audience,” Daniel said of the Wallace novel.

I’m simply playing guessy, but with Hugh Jackman’s win at the Golden Globes yesterday, expect him to get an offer to play Ben-Hur.

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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