Just over one month after Gal Gadot backed out of MGM's Ben-Hur, the studio has brought on Homeland star Nazanin Boniadi as the female lead. Gal Gadot entered talks to play Esther, a female slave who falls for Jack Huston's title character, in mid-October. She was forced to bow out just a few weeks later, citing conflicts with her schedule on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where she plays Wonder Woman.
Nazanin Boniadi joins a cast that also includes Toby Kebbell as Messalla, Ben-Hur's former friend who sells him into slavery, and Morgan Freeman, who mentors the title character and teaches him to become a champion chariot racer. Deadline reports the actress beat out a number of candidates for the role. Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) was the runner-up to land the part, with other contenders including Moran Atias (Third Person) and Natalia Warner (The Double).
Timur Bekmambetov is directing from a script originally written by Keith R. Clarke, with revisions by John Ridley (12 Years a Slave). The story is said to be much more faithful to the original 1880 novel by Lew Wallace, which includes the tale of Jesus Christ, told in parallel with the main story. That portion of the plot was not included in the original 1959 Ben-Hur adaptation starring Charlton Heston. It isn't known when production will get under way.