'The Bible' producers Mark Burnett, Roma Downey join MGM/Paramount 'Ben-Hur' remake

By Daniel S Levine,

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, who could be held responsible for the resurgence in Biblical material in Hollywood, have boarded the religious-themed Ben-Hur project at MGM and Paramount. The two studios are co-producing a new adaptation of Gen. Lew Wallace’s novel.

The studios said that Burnett and Downey will be executive producers on the project, reports TheWrap. Burnett, a reality television mogul, and his wife, actress Downey, were the force behind the History Channel’s successful The Bible miniseries. They released the portion of the series centering on Jesus Christ as the film Son of God, which grossed $67.6 million worldwide, Box Office Mojo reports.

“The film returns to the heart of Lew Wallace's epic novel focusing on the nature of faith,” Paramount and MGM explained. “The story follows a falsely accused nobleman who survives years of slavery to take vengeance on his best friend who betrayed him. Both must come to choose between retribution or forgiveness.”

MGM has been working on a new version of Ben-Hur since at least January 2013. In August 2013, Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov was assigned to direct. Keith Clarke (The Way Back) wrote the first draft, which was re-written by John Ridley (12 Years A Slave).

Ben-Hur centers on the story of Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur, who becomes a Roman slave when Rome takes over Judea at around the time of Christ. Judah’s relationship with Roman soldier Messala is a key part of the story, as the two go from close friends to rivals.

The story was first adapted by MGM in 1925 and then again in 1959. The ‘59 version featured Charlton Heston and was directed by William Wyler and won 11 Oscars. Those two films are actually owned by Ted Turner, but the novel is in the public domain.

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