A brief note on two important characters whose presence in the new version of Ben-Hur has not yet been confirmed

ben-hur-balthasar-arrius

Earlier this year, I kept fairly close tabs on who was being cast in the new film version of Ben-Hur, but I didn’t pay much attention at the time to who wasn’t being cast in the film. Which is to say, I didn’t notice at the time that there were was no news whatsoever regarding certain major characters or who might play them.

Then, the other day, I was looking at the film’s cast and crew list over at the IMDb, and I realized it didn’t include any actors as Quintus Arrius, the Roman warship commander who adopts Judah Ben-Hur and rescues him from slavery, or Balthasar, the Wise Man who befriends Judah and becomes a follower of the adult Jesus.

However, the cast and crew list did include a “stunt: double ‘Quintus'”, so it seemed likely that the film must have cast somebody as the Roman officer, at least.

Quintus Arrius plays a pivotal role in the story and has been played by significant actors before — Jack Hawkins in the 1959 film and Ray Winstone in the 2010 miniseries — so a couple nights ago I posted a tweet, wondering why we hadn’t heard anything about this character in the 2016 film, and yesterday I got this reply:

If you click on the link in that tweet, it takes you to James Cosmo’s page at the United Agents talent agency, where it says that he is, indeed, playing someone named “Quintus” in Timur Bekmambetov’s Ben-Hur. So that much seems settled, at least.

Interestingly, Cosmo will be the second Quintus Arrius in a row who has been in the Narnia movies. Cosmo played Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, while Winstone provided the voice of Mr Beaver in that film.

Cosmo has a long, long list of other credits too, going back to 1966.

Meanwhile, I wonder about Balthasar.

Balthasar, of course, is the traditional name for one of the Magi who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child in Bethlehem, and in Ben-Hur he goes on to befriend the title character and become a follower of the adult Jesus. He is the bridge, as it were, between the fictitious story and the biblical narrative.

Balthasar was played in the 1959 film by Finlay Currie, a Bible-movie veteran who also played Peter in Quo Vadis (1951), David in Solomon and Sheba (1959) and Jacob in Joseph and His Brethren (1961). But the character was omitted altogether from the 2010 miniseries, which retained very, very little of the story’s biblical subplot.

It would be easy, I suppose, for the new film to leave Balthasar out too, but when the project was first announced in January 2013, it was said that this film would place greater emphasis on the parallel story of Jesus than the 1959 film did — and that film did make Balthasar a fairly significant character, starting with the Nativity.

So it’s possible that Balthasar is a significant part of the new film, and that the makers of this film simply haven’t announced it yet — just as they haven’t officially said anything about Quintus Arrius yet. As ever, we shall see.

— The images at the top of this post are taken from the 1959 version of Ben-Hur and depict Finlay Currie as Balthasar and Jack Hawkins as Quintus Arrius.

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