Ben-Hur to be remade as a mini-series
Oh, well. The news here is that it's David Wyler, the son of director William Wyler, who is behind this remake. Willie Wyler directed the 1959 version with Charlton Heston in the title role. That film was a huge undertaking and a phenomenal success. It saved MGM studios which was on the verge of going under. The movie won 11 Academy Awards (it only lost in screenplay adaptation). Any mini-series will be hard pressed to meet that level of quality and execution. There was also a famous 1925 silent version.
According to Variety, David Wyler's $30 million production will be more faithful to the original Lew Wallace novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, which was written in 1880. It's the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince who's betrayed by his Roman best friend and forced into slavery. He later saves the life of his captor and is rewarded with his freedom. He resumes his former life, but is bitter. In time, he is converted along with many others to the ways of new prophet, Jesus Christ. "We've got a joke that this is the family business," Wyler said as a news conference in Cannes. "In my mind this is dedicated to my dad and Chuck (Heston). We think it's a great way to keep his memory alive."
There's no word on which network will broadcast the mini-series. It will be filmed using international crews and instead of casting an actor like Heston as Judah, who was 34 when the film was made, the producer is talking about hiring an actor in his 20s. "It's been 50 years since my father's version, and we think we can bring something new and contemporary to it in the same way that Gladiator did for that genre," Wyler said.
Call me cynical, but Gladiator to me is code for CG effects. Well, that will make it a lot easier to film the chariot race. Easier, but not necessarily better. We'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, if you want to see William Wyler and Charlton Heston's version of Ben-Hur, it's on TCM this Friday night, April 11th 9 p.m. EST. Set your DVR and watch it in widescreen as it was meant to be shown on TV. The chariot race is classic.