Timur Bekmambetov, the director of movies like Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, is adapting the story of Ben-Hur for the big screen. The 1880 novel has already been adapted multiple times before, twice as silent films and once as the 1959 Charlton Heston movie that won eleven Oscars, but the bombastic filmmaker is hoping that modern audiences take a shine to the story as well.
USA Today has a couple of first-look images from the new film, which stars Jack Huston as Judah Ben-Hur, the role Heston made famous, and Morgan Freeman as Ilderim, who trains the hero for the climactic chariot race, which Bekmambetov calls "truly the crown jewel of the film." Huston and co-star Toby Kebbell, who plays Messala, trained for two and a half months for that sequence and eventually got to the point where there were 32 horses racing around the course at one time.
“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,” Huston recalls. “It would be the equivalent of a Formula 1 race.
"It's overwhelming and incredibly scary," he says. "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.”
Huston clearly knows that many cinephiles are wary of this remake, but he's giving us the benefit of the doubt and thinks we'll do the same: “I hope people will go into this with a very open mind and realize the beauty’s very much in the story.”
Ben-Hur hits theaters on August 12.