Recent Bible epics like Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings have been dogged by controversy for casting white actors in all the main roles — or at least in the most prominent roles. The makers of the newest version of Ben-Hur, however, may have steered clear of all that by announcing today that the first actor to sign on for the movie is none other than Morgan Freeman.
Deadline reports that Freeman will play “Ildarin, the man who teaches the slave Ben-Hur to become a champion caliber chariot racer.” Presumably the name “Ildarin” is a variation on “Ilderim”, which was the name of the Arab sheikh who sponsored Ben-Hur’s chariots in the original novel. In the 1959 film, he was played by Hugh Griffith, a Welsh actor in dark make-up who won an Oscar for his performance. In the 2010 mini-series, he was played by Art Malik, who hails from Pakistan.