Exclusive: Screenwriter John Ridley on Why the Ben-Hur Remake Will Be Different

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Remakes are fairy commonplace in Hollywood these days, but every once in a while some studio decides to remake a true classic as MGM and Paramount are doing with William Wyler’s 1959 epic Ben-Hur, one of the movies that helped make Charlton Heston a household name.

Shortly after winning the Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, screenwriter John Ridley was hired for rewrites on the film, which is about a different type of slave, and the project has been coming together with Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) directing and word that “Boardwalk Empire’s” Jack Huston is up for the title role with Morgan Freeman playing Ildarin, the man who trains Ben-Hur, and Toby Kebbell in talks for Messala.

Now thinking of Timur Bekmambetov, who directed some pretty crazy stuff in the “Night Watch” series and his last movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, taking on a classic piece of cinema like Ben-Hur made us wonder if this is going to be a very different type of Ben-Hur movie.

Over the weekend, ComingSoon.net spoke with Ridley about his new movie Jimi: All Is By My Side–an interview we’ll run later this week–so we had to ask that very question since it certainly seems to be going in a different direction than what might be expected.

“It’s going to be different in the sense that the original writer Keith Clarke wrote an amazing script and then went back to the Lew Wallace novel and really excavated the relationship between the two main characters, Ben-Hur and Messala,” Ridley told us. “It’s interesting to a degree. It’s kind of like going after Jimi Hendrix, because there are things about the 1959 movie that we think we remember, there are things that really happened, including obviously the chariot race, so it’s going to be different in the sense that we’re not really trying to completely chase the movie people remember but there are elements of that movie: the heart of the film, the emotional drive of the film that we want to try to bring to a whole new audience. I think it’s an interesting project. It’s certainly challenging. It’s certainly one that people are going to come into with expectations, but like anything you do, you gotta exceed those expectations to a degree and also not worry about them because at its core, we hope and believe that we’ve got something that’s unique.”

Look for the rest of our interview with Ridley later this week.