Newsbites: A.D.! Ben-Hur! Wilde Salomé!

burnett-downey-unitedartists1. First Mark Burnett and Roma Downey partnered with MGM (and Paramount) on producing the next big-screen version of Ben-Hur. Now the trades are reporting that MGM has bought a majority stake in the production companies run by Burnett and Downey — and, thus, a majority stake in their Bible-themed projects (as well as Burnett’s reality-TV shows, etc.).

Along the way, the trades mention that Burnett and Downey have started principal photography on A.D., their follow-up to The Bible, and that they could not be reached for additional comment because they are currently working on A.D. overseas.

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Jack Huston to play title role in upcoming Ben-Hur remake

jackhustonLast month it was rumoured that Tom Hiddleston was being courted for the upcoming remake of Ben-Hur, but those rumours were scuttled today when it was announced that Hiddleston is going to star in the King Kong spin-off Skull Island instead. No matter, the makers of Ben-Hur have an announcement of their own to make: namely, they have cast Boardwalk Empire co-star Jack Huston in the title role made famous by Charlton Heston in the 1959 film.

Huston, as it happens, is the grandson of legendary filmmaker John Huston, who played both Noah and the voice of God in The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966), which he also directed. The younger Huston played Flavius in the 2004 TV-movie remake of Spartacus — it was based on the same Howard Fast novel that the 1960 Kirk Douglas film was based on — and he played Lord Alfred in Al Pacino’s Wilde Salomé (2011). So he’s had a bit of experience with movies set in the ancient Roman empire. Nothing quite on this scale, though.

Al Pacino taking his Salome movies to the UK in September

A film that I’ve been waiting almost a decade to see… is going to be screened in England later this year.

The first time I wrote about Al Pacino’s plan to make a movie about Oscar Wilde’s Salome — mixing behind-the-scenes footage with dramatized sections of the play — was in April 2006, only a year or so after I started this blog. At the time, the film was going to be called Salomaybe?, and it was set to star Pacino as King Herod, Kevin Anderson as John the Baptist and Jessica Chastain as Salome. (This was five years before The Tree of Life and The Help put her on the map.)

Then, in March 2007, the film was in post-production.

Then, in February 2009… the film was still in post-production.

Shortly after that, I went on a bit of a blogging hiatus that lasted about three years, until I joined Patheos in 2012. But apparently the film was eventually finished and it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2011, under a new title: Wilde Salomé.

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