Ben-Hur news round-up: More press from overseas, plus an update on how much money the studios could lose

Round-ups: Jun 27 | Jul 4 | 18 | 25 | Aug 1 | 8 | 11 | 15 | 18 | 22 | 25 | Sep 1


Ben-Hur opened in several new countries this week, so the news keeps rolling in.

The film ranked fifteenth at the North American box office last weekend.

The Hollywood Reporter says the film is the biggest money loser of the summer:

The ancient tale directed by Timur Bekmambetov is officially the biggest bust of summer 2016 and is on track to lose an epic $120 million or more, according to sources close to the film and multiple box-office analysts consulted by The Hollywood Reporter. The Paramount/MGM release has grossed just $53.9 million to date at the global box office since its mid-August debut, including a dismal $25 million domestically. While it has several major foreign markets yet to open, the film is fading fast and will have a hard time getting past $75 million globally, say knowledgeable sources.

Ben-Hur cost nearly $100 million to make before a major marketing spend.

MGM will take the majority of the financial hit, since it put up more than 80 percent of Ben-Hur’s budget and much of the marketing spend (it did minimize some of its exposure by selling off rights in select foreign markets). Paramount’s loss is pegged by sources at a relatively modest $13 million.

A visual-effects company released a video on the making of the chariot-race sequence.

The Derry Journal spoke to producer Roma Downey, who was born in Ireland:

Roma says it was the themes in the movie that interested her.

“There is enough fear and division, chaos and confusion in the world that we are living in, with so much random violence out there, and certainly all that we went through in our own province and our city over the years, and that we finally figured it out.” she said. “Every time I can come to Derry, I walk across the Peace Bridge. I just found it so encouraging there is tangible evidence of outreach and how community can come together, and how the world can look to our nation to see how we built bridges, literally and metaphorically, and I’m interested in those themes showing up in my work. . . .”

The Telegraph in the UK had a studio-sponsored article on how to keep fit:

Fun charioteer fact: only Greeks actually relied on just holding on for dear life. Roman charioteers wrapped their reins around their waists and held on one-handed – giving them a free hand for the whip, but also meaning they’d have to cut themselves free in the event of a capsize, or be dragged behind the chariot. Obviously, grip strength was paramount, but controlling the rapidly-moving reins would have been a challenge in itself.

“Battle ropes, which most well-equipped gyms have these days, would be the classic chariot racer move,” says Simon Waterson, one of the trainers who prepared the Ben-Hur cast. “Do them in between sets of big, compound moves to condense your workouts and up your intensity.” The basic movement is the “slam” – smash the ropes up and down, aiming to make the resulting “wave” travel all the way to the ropes’ anchor point.

Do a set of pull-ups or dips, then incorporate 10-15 seconds of all-out slamming into your “rest” period before the next set.

The Telegraph also had a studio-sponsored article on Roman-themed fashions today.

Christian Today profiled Carol Wallace, whose great-great-grandfather Lew Wallace wrote the original Ben-Hur novel (Carol has written a revised version of it):

She cut down on the descriptive passages, which Lew Wallace included because the landscape of the Middle East was far less familiar in his day.

“Any contemporary reader knows what a palm tree and a Roman helmet look like, so I could cut a great deal there. On the other hand, I did spend more time on the women’s experiences, relating more scenes from their points of view and making them (I hope) more well-rounded. And finally, I wanted this version of Ben-Hur to read more like a thriller, so I did my best to keep the tension up with shorter sentences, short chapters, and as much narrative tension as possible.”

The Stopru in Quebec had an odd quote from Morgan Freeman, who plays Ilderim:

If he was not part of those running around the arena, the actor still had a hard time with this inevitable transition from Ben-Hur: “It took me to run in the tunnel from one side the other of the track. and in this tunnel we had all the extras, all production people, spectators, and those who were doing the same as me … it was shielded from the world and try to make I had to do respecting the camera angles … It took a long time to shoot this scene and it was quite difficult!”

Finally, Coach magazine is giving away a two-night holiday in Matera, the Italian town where Ben-Hur and many other Bible films have been shot over the past 50 years.

September 12 update: The Sunday Post in Scotland spoke to Jack Huston:

“It was an incredible thing. It was a journey inside myself as well as outside — emotionally, mentally, physically.

“Ben-Hur is very much a character that I believe a new audience is waiting for.

“It’s got such a lovely message and it was a beautifully- transformative six months for me as an actor and human being.

“I learnt a lot about myself,” he nods.

And The Stopru has more odd quotes from Huston, Toby Kebbell and Roma Downey.

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