SCREENLIFE:

A clas­sic re­turns 57 years af­ter Ben-Hur won 11 Os­cars

Life & Style Weekend - - WELCOME // INSIDE TODAY - With Seanna Cronin

JACK Hus­ton takes on the role of a life­time in MGM’s re­make of Ben-Hur. Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Charl­ton He­ston in his Os­car-win­ning role, 33-year-old Hus­ton plays Ju­dah Ben-Hur, a prince who is sold into slav­ery af­ter be­ing falsely ac­cused of trea­son by his adopted brother.

In this Q&A the ac­tor re­flects on the very phys­i­cal role, re­cre­at­ing one of cin­ema’s most iconic scenes and work­ing with Mor­gan Free­man.

Q: How did you deal with the knowl­edge that another great per­for­mance had al­ready pre­ceded yours?

A: If any­thing that makes you want to go out and do a great job. It’s not some­thing you want to take lightly. And even if you try not to think about it, you will al­ways have at the back of your head that the last Ben-Hur from 1959 was this gi­ant that won 11 Os­cars. So you want to play homage to it in the sense of go­ing out and mak­ing some­thing truly beau­ti­ful and spe­cial. And if my senses are right I feel that we did that, which is quite amaz­ing. Q: Who is Ju­dah Ben-Hur in your eyes?

A: He is a prince that in his youth shied away from pol­i­tics and re­li­gion, but who then is forced into a life that makes him ques­tion ev­ery­thing. This jour­ney sort of takes him through to be­come a man. The story is an awak­en­ing for him.

Q: How did you con­nect with the char­ac­ter?

A: In its essence there is a real beauty to mak­ing some­thing like this, be­cause we are hu­mans and in time go through the same emo­tions. We have fam­i­lies and best friends, and we also suf­fer tragedies and fall­outs, but the great les­son is to know how to over­come that. And, no mat­ter whether you are re­li­gious or not, I be­lieve you can take some­thing out of this in a rather beau­ti­ful way.

Q: What was it like film­ing that leg­endary char­iot race us­ing real chariots and horses?

A: I grew up with horses, and with all the re­spect I have for them I have to ad­mit that they are still some­what wild an­i­mals. When you put four to­gether and at­tach them to a char­iot you can be in dan­ger­ous ter­ri­tory, but we had such an amaz­ing crew that took very good care of us. There is some­thing so mag­i­cal

about be­ing on a char­iot with four horses run­ning in uni­son and feel­ing the power of that. Q: Did you es­pe­cially train to pre­pare for the race?

A: Yes, we had a month of pre-pro­duc­tion which in­cluded in­ten­sive train­ing, and we re­ally were go­ing at it. We started with one horse, then moved on to two and grad­u­ally worked our way up to four. It was im­por­tant to feel com­fort­able in the char­iot and know what it could do.

Q: What is it like to work with an ac­tor of the cal­i­bre of Mor­gan Free­man?

A: Un­be­liev­able! The first day we worked to­gether he had to do this mono­logue, but had not re­ceived that page in his script. So Timur gave it to him on the spot, Mor­gan stepped into his trailer with it and then came back out 10 min­utes later and nailed it ver­ba­tim. I had one line af­ter­wards, but I think I didn’t say any­thing in the end.

Q: Je­sus has a big­ger pres­ence in this new ver­sion? A: Yes be­cause in the 1959 ver­sion you never saw his face, even though you felt his pres­ence; but we have come up with some­thing new, so Je­sus has a larger pres­ence. Ro­drigo San­toro, who is just a phe­nom­e­nal ac­tor, brought some­thing very spe­cial to the part. There were tears in our eyes dur­ing the cru­ci­fix­ion.

PHO­TOS: PHILIPPE ANTONELLO

Jack Hus­ton plays Ju­dah Ben-Hur in the movie Ben-Hur.

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