Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, who made the recent miniseries "The Bible," will be producing the new movie "Ben Hur: The Tale of the Christ." The movie is set for release in February 26, 2016. It is based on the 1880 novel "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" by Lew Wallace. Prior film adaptations of the book include the 1925 film and the 1959 film of same name. The film stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, Nazanin Boniadi and Rodrigo Santoro. Principal photography began on February 2, 2015 in Rome, Italy.
Downey and Burnett, who created the "The Bible" miniseries and the box-office hit "Son of God," told a large crowd at Bishop T.D. Jakes' annual family festival that ultimately the film tells "a story of forgiveness with an underlying story of Jesus." The project, which is the product of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Paramount Pictures, is just the latest in the couple's quest to glorify God through Hollywood entertainment as they continue to be "Hollywood's noisiest Christians."
"Ben-Hur is an epic, epic movie," said Burnett. "An action movie but at the center of it is the story of Jesus, the story of redemption, of forgiveness ... it's the biggest thing we've ever done and again we are remaining to be Hollywood's noisiest Christians."
Tom Hiddleston was considered for the title role, Judah Ben-Hur. Morgan Freeman was added to the cast to play Sheik Ilderim, the man who teaches Ben-Hur to become a champion chariot racer. Jack Huston was cast in the title role. On September 18, sources confirmed that Toby Kebbell was in early talks to play the villain, Messala. Pedro Pascal from the TV series Game of Thrones was in talks to play Pontius Pilate
Considered "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century,"Ben Hur" became a best-selling American novel, surpassing Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) in sales. The book also inspired other novels with biblical settings and was adapted for the stage and motion picture productions. Ben-Hur remained at the top of the bestseller lists until the publication of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind (1936). Following the release of the 1959 MGM film adaptation of Ben-Hur, which was seen by tens of millions and won eleven Academy Awards in 1960, the book's sales increased and it surpassed Gone with the Wind.
Blessed by Pope Leo XIII, the novel was the first work of fiction to be so honored. The success of the novel and its stage and film adaptations also helped it become a popular cultural icon that was used to promote numerous commercial products.
The story recounts in descriptive detail the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a fictional Jewish prince from Jerusalem, who is enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the 1st century and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. Running in parallel with Judah's narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus, who comes from the same region and is a similar age. The novel reflects themes of betrayal, conviction, and redemption, with a revenge plot that leads to a story of love and compassion.