Back in January of this year, its pockets stuffed with cash from the box office windfalls of The Hobbit and Skyfall, MGM went on a small film-financing spree and began development on a new version of Ben-Hur. The company has been looking to lock down a director for a while, and Timur Bekmambetov is circling the idea.
Deadline is at pains to say that no deal has been made yet, and Bekmambetov may not end up in the director’s chair. But the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter man is in negotiations.
Assuming it all comes together, the new film would not remake the 1959 Charlton Heston classic, mostly because the weight of comparison would crush any contender. Instead, writer Keith Clarke has gone back to Lew Wallace’s 1880 tome Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ, which chronicles the younger days of Judah Ben-Hur and Messala, best friends growing up in Jerusalem before the Roman Empire takes over.
Ben-Hur is a Jewish prince and Messala is the son of a Roman tax collector sent to be educated in Rome for five years. Upon his return, he mocks our hero for his religion, and, after an accident he pins on his friend, even finds a way to have him sold into slavery. Cue a quest for revenge that culminates (at least in the Heston film) in the iconic chariot race.
It’s still early days for this one, so we’ll have to wait and see whether Bekmambetov actually becomes involved. One movie he’s definitely part of – as a producer, at least – is nutty-sounding horror pic Squirrels. Based on an idea from Bekmambetov himself, it finds squirrels’ becoming flesh-eating beasts after a natural gas company destroys their habitat. The tag line is “Hold on to your nuts” and the early sales trailer is lurking below. We always knew those furry little bastards were up to something...