Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (“Son of God”) have joined MGM-Paramount’s “Ben-Hur” as producers.
The studios are co-producing the film, set for release on Feb. 26, 2016.
Burnett joins Sean Daniel (“The Mummy” franchise) and Joni Levin as a producer. Downey is an executive producer.
“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 and Jason F. Brown.
The project began taking shape last year when MGM acquired Clarke’s script, an adaption of 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, 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.
“We are thrilled to have Mark and Roma join the production team to bring such an indelible classic story to the big screen,” said MGM topper Gary Barber. “Their unrivaled passion, creativity and success in the faith based content space, will be a huge asset to the film and we look forward to working together.”
Downey and Burnett executive produced “The Bible” TV series last year for History. Fox released the movie version in February and the film has topped $59 million in the U.S.
“What an honor it will be to help bring this epic film back to the big screen,” said Downey and Burnett. “When Gary Barber allowed us to read John Ridley’s amazing script, we immediately knew we had to join this team.”