I was beginning to wonder why I hadn’t seen any local coverage of the new mini-series version of Ben-Hur, the first part of which premieres this Sunday on CBC. But then a couple of interviews popped up in my news feed.
The first, from the Globe and Mail, revolves around Joseph Morgan, who plays the title character — and in his intro, writer R.M. Vaughan describes the mini-series by saying that it
offers lots of sex, manly, bare-chested combat, a spectacular Roman battleship sequence, more sex, lepers and centurions, underdressed lady pagans, a murderous chariot race, and Christ Himself (looking suspiciously like Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski).
Oh-kay. The interview itself is fairly quick and superficial, but it does include one noteworthy aside about the possible religious implications of this new adaptation of Lew Wallace’s story:
Is Judah Ben-Hur a Jewish hero, or an early-adaptor Christian?
That’s interesting. I think he undergoes a change. In our version, the reason why he forgives [his enemy] Messala, and understands forgiveness, is because of Jesus Christ. So I guess you could say he is maybe a Jew turned Christian, in the space of the story.
It will be interesting to see how that last bit plays out. The two major big-screen versions of Ben-Hur have also made Jesus a key part of Judah’s enlightenment, so to speak, but they have differed on what sort of influence, exactly, Jesus had on him. The 1925 version (which also had a bit of nudity, for whatever that’s worth) ultimately emphasized Judah’s religious belief, but the 1959 version made him more of a humanist or pacifist in the end than a Christian, per se. (For more on this topic, see my review of the four-disc DVD set that came out five years ago.)
In the meantime, the Canadian Press has an interview of its own with Emily VanCamp, who plays Judah’s wife Esther — though she doesn’t say a whole lot about the mini-series itself. Instead, she talks about her career in general and how hot it was to shoot Ben Hur in Morocco and various other things of that nature.
APR 4 UPDATE: The Montreal Gazette also interviews Morgan.