Just two days after Jack Huston landed the title role in MGM's Ben-Hur, the studio is in early talks with Toby Kebbell to play the villainous Messala.

The remake is said to follow the original 1880 novel by Lew Wallace more closely, centering on Ben-Hur's betrayal by his childhood friend Messala, which results in the title character being sold into slavery. Morgan Freeman is playing Ildarin, the man who teaches Ben-Hur to become a champion chariot racer, as he seeks his revenge against Messala. The story culminates in an epic chariot racing sequence, just like the original 1959 film, which starred Charlton Heston as Ben-Hur and Stephen Boyd as Messala. The remake will also feature the parallel story of Jesus Christ, which wasn't included in the original movie.

Timur Bekmambetov is directing from a screenplay by Keith R. Clarke , which was rewritten by John Ridley. No production schedule was given, but MGM has already handed out a February 26, 2016 release date.

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Toby Kebbell recently starred as the villainous ape Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and he also wrapped production on The Fantastic Four, where he portrays Doctor Doom. The actor also stars in the upcoming video game adaptation Warcraft.