Ben-Hur news round-up: How big a success will it be?

Ben-Hur news round-up: How big a success will it be? July 4, 2016


Another week, another quick round-up of Ben-Hur-related news stories.

Christian Retailing reports that a 20-minute preview of the film was shown at the Christian Booksellers Association’s Unite 2016 retail show last week:

Another movie highlight at the show was an exclusive, 20-minute Ben-Hur preview that followed the Sunday Worship Him! service. The preview included comments from Roma Downey, executive producer of the film and president of LightWorkers Media.

[Kevin] McAfee, founder of the Golden Rule Association and GR Advisors president/CEO, introduced the preview.

The Passion of The Christ was being worked on when I was doing End of the Spear and Beyond the Gates of Splendor, when I was with the Hobby Lobby Corporation as their CEO, and I’ll never forget Mel Gibson talking about that film and trying to get people to come to it,” McAfee said. “When I saw the film, I was immediately impacted, and I said this is going to be enormous, it’s going to be wonderful. I can tell you that the second-biggest motion picture in faith-based films, behind The Passion of The Christ, I believe will be this movie.”

Hmmm. Right now, the second-biggest “faith-based film” — not counting the Narnia movies, which were basically generic fantasy epics that deviated in ways both big and small from the novels — is Heaven Is for Real, which grossed $91.4 million.

Ben-Hur comes out on August 19. Only four films released in the second half of August have earned over $90 million: Superbad, Inglourious Basterds, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Can Ben-Hur join their ranks?

Meanwhile, Davar Ardalan of the Iranian-American Women Foundation spoke to actress Nazanin Boniadi, who plays the female lead in the film:

Nazanin Boniadi, later this summer, you will be appearing as the love interest of Jack Huston in a new remake of Ben-Hur. Tell us about your role and also the message of Ben-Hur at a time when there is so much divisiveness in our world.

I have always wanted to be in a period piece set in the Biblical era, so it was a real dream come true to play Esther. As an activist, I was drawn to her optimism and hope for a better and more just world. Her shortcomings are overshadowed by her sheer determination and moral compass. There is nothing more exhilarating than playing a woman of great strength and conviction.

Ben-Hur is ultimately a story about forgiveness and redemption, making its appeal both universal and timeless given the ongoing turmoil, intolerance and injustice in the world. It is a story that inspires hope and change and leaves us with the feeling that love can truly conquer hate. And of course it helps that it is also thoroughly entertaining — that chariot race is spectacular! I’m also very pleased to be part of such a diversely cast film which underlines the global appeal of this story. Our director, Timur Bekmambetov, is Russian, and we have principal cast members from Iran, Israel, Turkey, Brazil, Columbia, Holland, Denmark, as well as the UK and the US.

Finally, Christian Today talked to producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey:

Burnett said they did their homework before embarking on the shows “The Bible” and “A.D. The Bible Continues.” He said he told himself before embarking on his last project: “It better be authentic and you better not cross any lines.”

“When you’re dealing with Jesus in a screenplay, it’s not really the time for improvising,” added Downey.

Christian Today also talked to Paramount VP Rob Moore, who had a rough ride a couple years ago when the controversial Noah movie came out:

Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore sought the help of Burnett and Downey in making a remake of the film, whose first version [sic] was done way back in 1959, to “really help to make sure the telling of Christ’s story in the movie worked well together as a great story.”

The movie is based on the original book written by Lew Wallace, which tells the story of a Palestinian Jew who was wrongfully framed by his Roman friend Messala. “Our hope is that it is a new and different journey that people will enjoy,” Moore said.

It’s worth noting that the new Ben-Hur does give Jesus dialogue that is not found in the Bible (“God has a plan for you,” etc.). Is that “authentic”, or “improvising”?

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