Big news for Bible-movie buffs today. Deadline reports that the once-moribund MGM, now flush with cash from the billion-dollar successes of Skyfall and The Hobbit, is thinking of making a new adaptation of Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.
The film would be based on a script by Keith Clarke, whose only big-screen credit to date is the Peter Weir film The Way Back (2010) — and, according to Deadline, while the new film will of course focus on the rivalry between Judah Ben-Hur and his Roman ex-friend Messala, it will also place greater emphasis on the parallel story of Jesus than the famous Charlton Heston-starring 1959 adaptation did.
Ironically, Deadline notes that MGM is free to make this new adaptation — only three years after the most recent adaptation premiered on TV — because the book is now in the public domain. But it wasn’t always like this: The first film to be based on this novel, produced way back in 1907, prompted a copyright-infringement lawsuit that set the precedent for all future film adaptations of written works.
The most recent adaptation of Wallace’s novel was the 2010 mini-series I alluded to a couple paragraphs ago. I taped it — or, rather, got friends to tape it for me — when it premiered on Canadian television, but I must admit I haven’t watched the entire thing yet. I will have to get around to doing that soon.
Incidentally, there has been some other interesting news in the world of Greco-Roman films in development lately, but I’ll deal with that in a later post.