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’12 Years A Slave’ Writer John Ridley Boards MGM’s ‘Ben-Hur’

Bekmambetov directing remake

12 Years a Slave” writer John Ridley has come on board to write MGM’s reboot of “Ben-Hur,” the studio’s 1959 epic starring Charlton Heston.

Sean Daniel and Joni Levin are producing the the remake with Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted”) directing. Jason Brown will exec produce with screenwriter Keith Clarke.

The project began taking shape earlier this year when MGM acquired Clarke’s script, adapted from Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.” That story focuses on the years prior to those portrayed 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 novel is in the public domain. The 1959 movie was set in ancient Rome, directed by William Wyler, produced by Sam Zimbalist and starred Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins and Hugh Griffith. It won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The 1925 movie version of “Ben-Hur,” starring Roman Novarro and Francis X. Bushman, was also a major success.

Since it emerged two years from a prepackaged bankruptcy, MGM’s film business has been focused on co-financing its James Bond and Hobbit franchises, projects such as “21 Jump Street,” and mining its library for remakes, including “Carrie,” “Robocop” and “Death Wish.”

Ridley also directed and wrote “All Is By My Side,” the Jimi Hendrix biopic starring Andre Benjamin.

Ridley’s attachment  was first reported by Variety sister site, Deadline Hollywood.

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