ByTom Cox, writer at Creators.co
Staff writer for Moviepilot. Tweet me @thomascox500
Tom Cox

Car chases've got nothing on the adrenaline of hurtling at breakneck speed behind a pack of slavering horse with wind whipping through your teeth a few feet over the stony track.

The first images of Jack Huston chariot racing in the title role have been released via USA Today, and they are hot with the promise of gripping race scenes. And Morgan Freeman being wise.

Visit the famous chariot thrills from the 1989 original:

The British 33-year-old actor spoke to USA Today about the concept behind the forthcoming Paramount and MGM movie:

“There’s something really beautiful about it, especially in the current climate of the world, about different religions and people being at odds against each other. How do we find our way out of this, how do we forgive, how do we forget, how do we move on, how should we treat our fellow human?”

The movie sounds like it may build on the pressing topical issue of how Western countries should treat the millions of migrants forced to flee their home countries.

Timur Bekmambetov
Timur Bekmambetov

Director Timur Bekmambetov, of Day Watch and Wanted, said he chose Huston because he is awesome at riding horses and might have been born in this Roman era of the 1st century AD:

"I wouldn't be surprised if some of Jack's many famous ancestors took part in an actual fight between Romans and Judaeans we depict in our film.”

Quite a claim. Huston's great-great-grandmother was from a Jewish family, so it's not impossible. Accompanying Huston will be Morgan Freeman as a sheikh who trains Ben-Hur; Toby Kebbell as traitor Messal; Nazanin Boniadi as Esther; and Rodrigo Santoro as Jesus. The son of God will play a more central part than in the previous version.

The new movie is going to be more similar to the book than the 1959 picture. The 1880 novel by Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ, is an American fictional best-seller about the adventures of a Jewish prince named Judah Ben-Hur who is enslaved by the Romans after a betrayal and becomes a Christian and charioteer.

Bekmambetov's reimagining won't be over three hours long like its epic predecessor but it will have the classic chariot scene. Bekmambetov has a lot to live up to as the 1959 movie set the bar high by winning 11 Academy Awards.

The hero racing in the 1959 'Ben-Hur'
The hero racing in the 1959 'Ben-Hur'

Huston also revealed to USA Today how he spent over two months rehearsing the chariot race for its filming in Italy. At the climax there were 32 horses galloping at one time on the course:

“You get in with two horses on a chariot, which blows your mind, and then you put four horses on the end of your reins. It would be the equivalent of a Formula 1 race.
"After the first day where you think every second, ‘I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die,’ you decide to put that out of your brain for good."

The original thrilling chariot sequence, filmed before the advent of CGI, drove it deep into film history. Here are some of the jaw-dropping facts from the historically accurate production:

  • The 18-acre chariot arena, the largest film set ever at that time, was hewn from an oval rock quarry by a thousand workmen over a year
  • The 460m-long track boasted grandstands five stories high.
  • 40,000 tons of sand were dumped in from Mediterranean beaches
  • 78 horses were imported
  • 18 chariots weighing 410kg each were built
  • The race took 320km of galloping
  • 7,000 extras were hired to cheer in the stands
  • Nobody died during filming, but a stunt man was chucked into the air accidentally

Get a peep into 'Ben-Hur' with these new photographs:

Huston smashing life | Source: Philippe Antonello
Huston smashing life | Source: Philippe Antonello
Huston greets Freeman | Source: Philippe Antonello
Huston greets Freeman | Source: Philippe Antonello

'Ben-Hur' will be released on August 12, 2016

Are you excited about the new movie?

Source: USA Today

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