He played Xerxes in 300, now he’s Jesus in the new Ben-Hur

rodrigosantoroContinuing the trend whereby actors of Portuguese and/or Latin American descent play Jesus in movies produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, The Hollywood Reporter revealed today that Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro has been cast as Jesus in Timur Bekmambetov’s upcoming remake of Ben-Hur, which Burnett and Downey are co-producing.

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Review: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (dir. Fred Niblo, 1925); Ben-Hur (dir. William Wyler, 1959)

General Lew Wallace had lived a colorful life of his own before his novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was published in 1880. By then, he had defended Washington, D.C. from Confederates during the Civil War, served on the court-martial that tried Lincoln’s assassins, and, as Governor of New Mexico Territory, dealt with outlaws like Billy the Kid.

But what he really wanted to do was write — and so he wrote his novel about a Jewish prince who is betrayed by a Roman tribune during the time when Jesus lived. Ben-Hur was spurred by Wallace’s love of stories like The Count of Monte Cristo, but it was also motivated by an encounter with Robert Ingersoll, a famous agnostic who was passionately opposed to Christianity. Until that meeting, Wallace had been indifferent towards religion, but afterwards, he felt he needed to research Christianity for himself — and thus he became a believer.

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