This is a big week for Ben Hur as it premieres all over the world. The cast of Timur Bekmambetov’s Ben Hur including Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Pilou Asbaek, Ayelet Zurer and Jarreth Merz appeared at the TCL Chinese theatre in Hollywood on Tuesday for the films premiere. They came out to tell their story and emphasized that the film was not necessarily a remake, but a reimagining of Ben Hur for 2016.
Producer Sean Daniel told The Hollywood Reporter “It’s important to say that this isn’t a remake of the incredible William Wyler film. It is our re-imagining of Ben-Hur for 2016. We went back to the book, the incredible novel by Lew Wallace: Ben-Hur, A Tale of the Christ. We drew from the novel for our story [and] for our themes.”
Daniel also shared that the tale between the two brothers ends in a way that will surprise audiences. “There is no question that these two brothers are out for revenge,” Daniel shared. “The question is: How does it resolve itself? In 1959, Judah ended the chariot race with Messala dead on the track, [but] in this film, things turn out differently.”
Ben Hur is traditionally an epic story that centers around two brothers seeking revenge. After Ben Hur is wrongfully accused of treason, his adopted brother, now a Roman officer, sentences Ben Hur in the galley of a Roman warship. Ben Hur wants nothing more than to simply survive and dreams of one day getting revenge for his brother’s actions against him and his family. He eventually makes his way back to his brother and must participate in a violent chariot race to settle all matters.
Kebbell shares how he prepared for his role as Messala and shared how it differed from his previous roles. “It’s a very precise part of the art, much like theater and dance,” he said. “I was allowed to figure out things on the day rather than have to practice so much beforehand, except for the chariot race. You’re growing each day, you come in prepared but you’re trying to be flexible, [but] learning to chariot race from scratch was phenomenal.”
The film does a great job showing us the close relationship of the brothers. Although they were close, deep down Massala was always jealous of his brother. Zurer who plays Naomi Ben-Hur, the mother of the prince and Roman officer, told THR why Messala was so quick to sentence his brother.
“We put ourselves in a place where we are loved, believe in ourselves, and the comparison to our brothers and sisters. If you have someone who is more loved, you will feel not deserving, and have a problem in life and I think that’s what happens with Messala. It’s the core of all drama.”
Despite all the drama and action in the film, the cast shares a unique chemistry between characters. Jarreth Merz who plays Florus, told THR that regardless of the given comparison to Wyler’s adaptation, this version will stand on its own.
“The film was so challenging, because — let’s not kid ourselves — there’s a classic out there. We had to come up with something new. We had to bring up a new chemistry, and I think we achieved that; we managed to do by just being very closely knit and supportive of one another.”
He added: “Filmmaking is magic, you never know what to expect. Once you’re on set, it’s time to make new rules, and I think we did that successfully. This movie is very honest, it’s not trying to be something it’s not.”Ben-Hur is in theaters now. Be sure to check out the auctions at www.benhurauctions.com.