Back in February 2015, production started on MGM's Ben-Hur remake in Rome, although, unlike most big-budget productions, we didn't see a single photo or video from the set. In the 13 months since filming started, we haven't heard anything about this project, which hits theaters nationwide on August 12. Today, we have the very first photos, courtesy of USA Today. These images give us our first look at Jack Huston as the title character, and Morgan Freeman as Ilderim, who becomes Ben-Hur's trainer and mentor. Here's what Jack Huston had to say to the site about how this story is just as timely today as it was when Lew Wallace's novel was published in 1880.
"There's something really beautiful about it, especially in the current climate of the world, about different religions and people being at odds against each other. How do we find our way out of this, how do we forgive, how do we forget, how do we move on, how should we treat our fellow human?"
The film returns to the heart of Lew Wallace's epic novel focusing on the nature of faith. The story follows a falsely accused nobleman, Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) who survives years of slavery to take vengeance on his best friend who betrayed him, Messalla (Toby Kebbell). Both must come to choose between retribution or forgiveness. While there will be many things that have changed between the classic 1959 adaptation of Ben-Hur and this new incarnation, one aspect that will remain the same is the iconic chariot races. Jack Huston revealed that he spent two and a half months rehearsing this sequence and filming it in Italy, and at one point, they each had 32 horses running at the same time. Here's what he had to say about this intense sequence.
"You get in with two horses on a chariot, which blows your mind, and then you put four horses on the end of your reins. It would be the equivalent of a Formula 1 race. It's overwhelming and incredibly scary. But after the first day where you think every second, 'I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die,' you decide to put that out of your brain for good and it becomes just part of the job."
Director Timur Bekmambetov said the chariot race is "truly the crown jewel of the film," but even though the races may still be in the movie, there's a lot from the original 1959 classic that won't be included. The story is adapted closer to the original novel, which tells the tale of Jesus Christ, in parallel with the main story, which wasn't included in the original movie. Rodrigo Santoro is portraying Jesus Christ, with a cast that also includes Nazanin Boniadi,Sofia Black-D'Elia, Ayelet Zurer, Moises Arias and Pilou Asbæk. Take a look at the first photos, and stay tuned for the first trailer from Ben-Hur, before it hits theaters August 12.