The chariot race scene from the 1959 Oscar winner, Ben-Hur, is one of the most iconic moments in modern cinematic history, so when producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey decided to re-imagine the Biblical drama, they knew they had to pull out all the stops!
“Everyone’s going to think that this is some big CGI feat that we’ve managed to construct, but it’s not at all,” says star Jack Huston in an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette from the upcoming film. “We decided early on that every time you see us with those horses, that’s us with those horses.”
Huston stars as the film’s titular character, Judah Ben-Hur, who was played by legendary actor Charlton Heston in the 1959 adaptation. In the epic chariot race scene, Ben-Hur races against his adoptive brother Messala (Toby Kebbell, in the new film) to avenge his honor, after Messala falsely accused him of treason, leading to a five-year slavery sentence.
“It’s grounded. It’s very real,” director Timur Bekmambetov says of the scene. “Everything’s very visceral.”
To film the race, the cast and crew actually guided horses and chariots around a real-life track, adding a pulse-pounding element that Bekmambetov admits was “very scary.”
“There’s no airbags, no brakes,” he says. “It’s like today’s NASCAR. People enjoy the speed, the attention, but most of all, when somebody will crash.”
Ben-Hur, also starring Morgan Freeman and Rodrigo Santoro, opens August 19.
Check out the clip below to learn more about how producing partners, and real-life spouses, Burnett and Downey work so well together.