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.
The first thing we notice is that Jack Huston will apparently be the first actor to play Judah Ben-Hur with a beard during the non-slave part of the story.
The next thing that comes to mind — given the position of the actors and the fact that other actors dressed as Roman soldiers were riding horses below — is that they were probably filming the scene in which a tile slips from Judah’s house, thus injuring the Roman governor and leading to the punishment of both Judah and his family.
But then you notice the person with the bow and arrow in this shot:
It seems a safe bet that director Timur Bekmambetov, who specializes in stylized violence, is going to make a more action-oriented version of this story than we’ve seen before. (It already seems pretty clear that he’s going to beef up the role of one of the rebels who were crucified with Jesus — and come to think of it, the person holding the bow and arrow could be Moisés Arias, the actor who is playing that rebel.)
So my guess is that, in this version of the story, Judah and his family are punished not just because a tile slipped from their roof, but because a Zealot or some such person was inconveniently spotted close to them at the time of the accident.
As ever, though, we shall see.
Update: The Daily Mail has some new photos that show Judah Ben-Hur and his love interest Esther, played by Nazanin Boniadi, wearing modern-looking pants: