“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” both performed well in August so the studio likely believes that part of the summer summer is the best time to unspool a tentpole epic. The upcoming Olympics also provides an ideal advertising platform.
The film stars Jack Huston as the titular Jewish prince betrayed into slavery by Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Mark Burnett, Sean Daniel and Joni Levin are producing the film.
“Wanted” director Timur Bekmambetov is helming from a screenplay originally written by Keith Clarke, with revisions by “12 Years a Slave” writer John Ridley, who will exec produce along with Clarke, Roma Downey and Jason F. Brown.
The project began taking shape in 2013 when MGM acquired Clarke’s script, an adaptation of Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” which is now in the public domain. The story focuses on the years prior to those portrayed in the 1959 film, centering on the characters Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem, and his childhood friend Messala, who returns home as a commanding officer of the Roman legions and betrays the Ben-Hur family.
The 1959 movie, which was set in ancient Rome, was directed by William Wyler and produced by Sam Zimbalist. It starred Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins and Hugh Griffith and won 11 Oscars, including best picture.
The 1925 movie version of “Ben-Hur,” starring Ramon Novarro and Francis X. Bushman, was also a major success.
“Ben Hur” will face competition in the August slot from Disney’s family film “Pete’s Dragon,” Sony’s animated “Sausage Party” and Universal’s actioner “Spectral.”