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Why MGM and Paramount Pushed Back ‘Ben-Hur’

Why MGM and Paramount Pushed Back 'Ben-Hur'

Usually moving an epic movie from the first quarter to summer is a sign of confidence in maximizing commercial playability, although mid-August is not always prime time. As usual, the various players debated the right date, deciding to move off the unrealistic Oscar weekend, settling on the “Straight Outa Compton” date. Finally, my sources tell me, they needed more editing time for a movie of this scale and scope.
Prior to hitting Rome, early production went down in southern Italy’s historic Matera with director Timur Bekmambetov, the visually sophisticated director of “Night Watch” and the entertaining “Wanted.” 

“Ben-Hur” reconstructed Jerusalem on Cinecittà Stages and Cinecittà World’s Theme Park back lot for a four-month shoot. Other lavish international productions shot at Cinecittà include Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” Fellini’s “Casanova,” Fox’s prodigious “Cleopatra” with Liz Taylor, “The Passion of the Christ,” Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic” and, of course, BBC and HBO’s “Rome.” Cinecittà Studios, offering generous overseas tax breaks, also hosted much of the original “Ben-Hur”‘s grueling shoot with Charlton Heston and director William Wyler.

READ MORE: Will MGM’s Return to “Ben-Hur” Stand Up to the Oscar Winner

Jack Huston, who played the disfigured, tin-masked Richard Harrow on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” leads the cast as Judah Ben-Hur opposite Toby Kebbell, Morgan Freeman and Nazanin Boniadi as the woman he loves. Writers Keith Clarke (“The Way Back”) and John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”) went back to Lew Wallace’s epic novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ” to tell the story of a falsely imprisoned nobleman who after years of slavery seeks to wreak revenge on his best friend and betrayer.

The film is produced by Sean Daniel (“The Mummy” franchise), Mark Burnett (“Son Of God”), Joni Levin (“The Way Back”) and Duncan Henderson (“Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World”). Serving as executive producers are Roma Downey (“The Bible”), Keith Clarke, John Ridley and Jason Brown. 

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