Pope Francis blesses the actor who is playing Jesus in Ben-Hur

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Remember how Russell Crowe and Darren Aronofsky tried to get a blessing from Pope Francis during the run-up to the release of Noah last year? And how there was some confusion as to whether or not they did, in fact, get to meet the Pope in the end?

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Timur Bekmambetov says the chariot race in his version of Ben-Hur will be inspired by YouTube videos

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Timur Bekmambetov is currently out there promoting the horror movie Unfriended, which he produced, and along the way he has been fielding questions about the remake of Ben-Hur, which he is currently shooting in Rome. And, just as Unfriended was inspired by Skype, Bekmambetov has revealed that his own version of Lew Wallace’s “tale of the Christ” will be influenced by social media too.

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Ben-Hur begins its four-month shoot at Cinecitta Studios

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Timur Bekmambetov’s remake of Ben-Hur has apparently finished shooting exteriors in southern Italy and has now moved on to the next phase of its production: a four-month shoot at Cinecitta Studios in Rome. This is the same studio where the famous 1959 version of the story starring Charlton Heston was shot.

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Casting news: The Shack, Of Kings and Prophets, Ben-Hur

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1. Big news regarding Stuart Hazeldine’s adaptation of The Shack: Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for The Help, has been cast as God — or at least as one of the manifestations of God. (In the book, God appears as a black woman, a Middle Eastern carpenter, and an Asian woman.) Back when Forest Whitaker was going to direct the film, it was widely buzzed that his The Butler co-star Oprah Winfrey might get this part, but Spencer is probably a better choice: more versatile, less baggage.

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Our first look at Rodrigo Santoro as Jesus in Ben-Hur

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Timur Bekmambetov’s remake of Ben-Hur is now nearing the end of its second week of production, and the unofficial photos keep on coming. Last week we had pictures of Judah Ben-Hur, his girlfriend Esther and possibly one of the rebels who ends up crucified next to Jesus. This week’s batch includes our first pictures of Jesus himself, as played by Rodrigo Santoro. You can check ’em all out at the Daily Mail.

Who’s holding the bow & arrow in these new Ben-Hur pics?

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Filming on the new version of Ben-Hur began in Italy last Monday, and pictures from the set have begun to pop up. The Gazzetta Del Sud has a rather low-res photo of extras in costume standing outdoors in Matera — a town that has been featured in a number of Bible movies going back to The Gospel According to St. Matthew — and now the Daily Mail has pictures of a few of the movie’s stars in character.

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