Exclusive new look at Ben-Hur’s chariot race

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by Phil de Semlyen |

Ben-Hur is back, this time with visual effects galore and all the resources at Hollywood’s disposal to help bring the epic. But someone still has to get up on the chariot and take the reins, and those someones are Toby Kebbell and Jack Huston. The new issue of Empire has an exclusive new look at the latest take on cinema’s most famous chariot race. Giddy-up!

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“Our technology is now far away from what they had previously,” director Timur Bekmambetov 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."

We won’t be, thankfully. That’s down to Kebbell, here frantically channelling his War Horse experience as snooty Roman type Messala, and Huston as his childhood pal and hero of the story, Judah Ben-Hur. A fateful encounter with Jesus of Nazareth (Rodrigo Santoro) has set him on the path to righteousness. But will it get him around the track without being squished underfoot by a giant stallion?

“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,” Huston explains. “It would be the equivalent of a Formula 1 race. "It's overwhelming and incredibly scary. But 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 and it becomes just part of the job.”

Following in the sandal steps of William Wyler (and several others) is Wanted man Bekmambetov. Can he cram in all the family drama, visual pyrotechnics and widescreen scope of the 1959 version into this new take on Lew Wallace’s novel? Find out when Ben-Hur screeches into our cinemas on August 26.

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