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October 9, 2015

Ben-Hur to be remade as a mini-series

by Allison Waldman, posted Apr 10th 2008 1:04PM
ben hurThere should be a moratorium on remakes. They rarely work, and in some cases, they are just ill-conceived from step one. That's how I feel about this news: they're remaking Ben-Hur as a television mini-series. I'm not saying this because actor Charlton Heston has just died and this was his movie and, therefore, it should be sacrosanct. No, not at all. If someone has the urge to remake almost any other Heston film -- Soylent Green, Diamond Head, The Pigeon That Took Rome -- go for it. But leave Ben-Hur alone. You'd think the disastrous remake of The Ten Commandments on ABC last year would have been a lesson. I guess not.

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.

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Peter hirschman

Just for your edification Hestion's Ben Hur And
Ten Commandments Are BOTH Remakes of silents made in the 20's some other remakes are King Kong
(twice) , Casino Royale (twice If you allow for the made for television Episode for The Climax seris back in the 50's) and how many versions of the Long Ranger,Tarzan the ape man, and Wizard Of Oz (And dont forget The wiz
& TINman) just because something has been remade dosn't mean it is going to be bad .
by the way Though I haven't seen I am Legend .
I HAVE seen both Hesten's Omega Man And Vincent Price's Last Man On Earth all three based on the same story . peter hirschman

April 11 2008 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Peter hirschman's comment

Yep. This is why I made a special effort to emphasize that in *TODAY'S* Hollywood, remakes almost always suck.

Except for Dawn of the Dead recently, can anyone name a remake from the last ten or 15 years that didn't suck the life out of the film it was remaking? And even Dawn has it's detractors - although I tend to think they're congenitally insane and the film is awesome squared. :)

April 12 2008 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Oscar Gordon

I read that Wyler intends to "keep more to the original novel" but will "tone down the religious aspects". Huh? The book is subtitled "A Tale of the Christ". How do they tone down the religious aspects and stay more faithful? Hollywood logic.

April 10 2008 at 6:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BC McKinney

Since, as you acknowledge, the famous version of Ben-Hur *was* a remake (and so was the 1956 "The Ten Commandments", by the way), I can't figure out what your argument is. No remakes after there's a version which achieves some specific level of regard? Movies are filmed plays. Plays are produced over and over with different casts, sometimes for centuries--there was a very popular stage version of Wallace's novel, in fact.

It's too bad some productions are not as good as others, and too bad when some genius thinks a currently popular personality with extremely limited talent is just what's needed to jazz up some new version. But I won't prejudge someone apparently sincerely trying, particularly if there is some different approach to the original source material--as you may know, some Hollywood versions, especially from the classic era, contain little from the original book or play except for the title and names of characters.

April 10 2008 at 2:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to BC McKinney's comment

I hate TV executives, mediocre "creative" types who think remakes are actually making art and I think I might hate grapefruit, but that's not important right now.

I want everyone who wants to remake anything from this point forward to get painful rectal cancer that lasts for 30 years, and hardly ever hurts except when they are on the toilet, whereupon the pain is so intense that they shake and cry for two hours after doing their business.


For 30 years. Then they die in a horrible car crash where they are trapped in the wreckage for three hours first. And a dog urinates on then every seven minutes.

April 10 2008 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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