Rodrigo Santoro, the 39-year-old Brazilian actor is best known for his portrayal of the Persian monarch Xerxes in the hit films 300 and its sequel 300: Rise of an Empire. He will also be seen in next month’s Jane Got A Gun and Focus. However, the big news is that he will star next as Jesus Christ in Paramount Pictures and MGM’s remake of the 1959 classic, Ben-Hur.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov from a screenplay written by Keith R. Clarke and John Ridley based on Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel ‘Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,’ the reboot movie also stars Jack Huston as Judah Ben-Hur, Nazadin Boniadi as Esther, Toby Kebbell as Messala, Morgan Freeman as Sheik Ilderim, Sofia Black D’Elia as Tirzah, Ayelet Zurer as Naomi, Marwan Kenzari as Druses, and Pilou Asbaek as Pontius Pilate. The movie which began filming January 12 is expected to be ready for release to theaters by February 2016.
Paramount Pictures and MGM have announced that the project is being co-produced with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the duo responsible for the History channel’s hit miniseries The Bible, which also became the best-selling miniseries DVD of all time. Burnett and Roma also produced the 20th Century Fox-distributed film Son of God and are currently producing A.D., a new drama series for NBC, and The Dovekeepers, a four-hour miniseries on the story of Masada for CBS, both to air within this year.
Wallace’s Ben-Hur follows the story of the wealthy Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur who is betrayed into slavery at Rome’s galleys by his former friend, the Roman citizen Messala, who also orders his mother mother, Miriam, and his sister, Tirzah, thrown in prison. Vowing vengeance, he fights his way to freedom. After regaining his freedom and most of his wealth back, Ben-Hur returns to his home in Jerusalem to look for his mother and sister. Unfortunately, the two contracted leprosy while in prison and were cast off away from the city. Following the climactic chariot race with Messala, he learns from the dying Roman that he can find his mother and sister in the Valley of the Lepers. With their friend Esther, Ben-Hur and with mother and sister began to follow Jesus Christ until the final moments of his crucifixion. During the rainstorm following the death of Christ on the cross, both Miriam and Tirzah miraculously were healed.
Director William Wyler’s 1959 movie adaptation of Wallace’s story won a record 11 Academy Awards, including for Best Picture, for Best Director, and for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Charlton Heston for his moving portrayal of Ben-Hur.