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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The Ben-Hur remake has started principal photography

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The third feature-film adaptation of Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur started principal photography in Italy today. The press release doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about the cast, but it does let us know a bit more about the crew behind the camera. Check it out below the jump. (The studio did not release any pictures from the film’s first day on set, so the picture above comes from the 1959 film.)

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How do you promote a Bible epic when you’re not religious?

Ridley Scott first revealed that he was making a life-of-Moses movie while promoting Prometheus last year. I’d been hoping that he would spill even more details about the film, now called Exodus, while promoting his latest film, The Counselor, but alas, that film didn’t get much of a promotional push (and it ended up having one of the worst opening weekends of Scott’s career).

A few tidbits about Exodus have trickled out, however. First, Scott told The New York Times: “I’m an atheist, which is actually good, because I’ve got to convince myself the story works.” And then, he told Empire magazine the film will be “fucking huge.”

Suffice it to say, this is not how Bible epics have generally been promoted in the past.

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Newsbites: Quick updates on two upcoming Jesus movies

Last month, I noted that hyper-stylized scifi-fantasy action-movie specialist Timur Bekmambetov was in talks to direct MGM’s latest version of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (the studio previously adapted Lew Wallace’s novel in 1925 and 1959; other studios made their own adaptations in 1907 and 2010). Today, Deadline reports that the studio and the director have “closed their deal”. There is no word yet on when the studio hopes to release the film, or what sort of angle Bekmambetov will approach the material from. But last month it was said that the studio felt Bekmambetov had “a strong grasp on the story’s themes of revenge and redemption.” And presumably the studio is hoping that the three — count ’em, three! — Bible movies coming to theatres next year will whet everyone’s appetite for even more entries in this genre.

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Timur Bekmambetov in talks to direct Ben-Hur remake

Seven months ago, we learned that MGM was developing a new adaptation of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, the classic Lew Wallace novel that had previously been adapted by the studio in 1925 and 1959. Now comes word that Timur Bekmambetov — the Kazakh director of Night Watch (2004), Wanted (2008) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) — is in talks to direct the film, apparently because the studio feels he has “a strong grasp on the story’s themes of revenge and redemption.”

At first glance, Bekmambetov — who specializes in heavily stylized adaptations of comic books and horror-fantasy novels — would seem an odd fit for this story, given the ancient setting and the sincerity or earnestness with which earlier films have tackled the novel’s themes. But this news sort of makes sense in light of the fact that studios have been trying for years now to imitate the success of 300 (2006), a heavily stylized adaptation of a graphic novel about the Persian invasion of Greece.

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