Chariot of fire
Hide your oscars, Ben-hur is back
here are few sequences in cinema history as spectacular as the chariot race from 1959’s Ben-hur. remaking it seems like an act of folly, but Timur Bekmambetov, the brave soul who’s giving it a go with the new Ben-hur, has an ace up his sleeve. and, surprisingly, it’s not just a CG ace. “Our technology is now far away from what they had previously,” the russiankazakh director tells Empire, “and the rigs we have are unbelievable. The goal for me is to shoot these action scenes so realistically that the audience feels that they’re in the chariot, driving.”
Empire bears witness to the filmmaker’s ambition, from the stands of a newly constructed Circus Maximus built at rome’s Cinecittà Studios. The story’s two great rivals, Judah Ben-hur (Jack huston) and Messala (Toby Kebbell) snap and snarl as their racing rigs, with super-small wheels, are dragged behind camera trucks, while hundreds of extras clap and cheer in the stands. Later on, real horses replace the trucks. “and these chariots have got no suspension, no brakes,” continues Bekmambetov. “we have eight drivers, 24 horses, all running together. The dust and shit flies everywhere. It is scary.”
The ’59 Ben-hur, the first film to win 11 Oscars, has been remade before (heston voiced a 2003 animation), but filling epic sandals isn’t easy. “The last film was this giant, so you don’t want to make a crappy movie,” says huston. “You want to make something special. I feel we’re doing that.” The race is on.
ben-hur is out on august 26.