Wednesday, August 25, 2010





1.    The film was one of the first to involve huge marketing tie-ins, including hundreds of toys as well as 'Ben-His' and 'Ben-Hers' towels.

2.    The chariot race required 15,000 extras, on a set constructed on 18 acres of backlot at Cinecitta Studios outside Rome. Tour buses visited the set every hour. Eighteen chariots were built, with half being used for practice. The race took five weeks to film.

3.    Director William Wyler decided that the Romans should have British accents, and that the four Americans in the cast would play Hebrews. This was a technique later used in "Masada" (1981).


4.    It was the first "remake" to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The Departed (2006) became the second "remake" to do so, 47 years later.

5.    Director William Wyler had previous experience with Ben-Hur. He served as an assistant director under action specialist Breezy Eason (B. Reeves Eason) who was one of the directors for the chariot race in MGM's mammoth silent version of the story, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925).

6.    The only Hollywood film to make the Vatican approved film list in the category of religion.

7.    Wyler left all the details of the chariot race - every shot, crash and stunt - in the hands of his second-unit director Andrew Marton. When he saw the final version of Marton and lead stuntman Yakima Canutt's work, Wyler remarked that it was "one of the greatest cinematic achievements" he'd ever seen.


8.    Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins and all other actors, that had the role of a Roman,  had to wear darkened contact lenses, if their eye color was not brown. William Wyler didn't want his two leading men to have the same eye color. Boyd's lenses constantly irritated and scratched his eyes, often leading to days where shooting had to be halted to allow the actor's eyes time to recover.

9.    Stephen Boyd wore lifts in his shoes to make his height more on a par with Charlton Heston's. When he was cast as Messala, Stephen Boyd grew a bushy beard for the role, only to be told that fashionable Roman men of the time didn't wear beards.

10.    The chariot race was shot without sound. This was added in post-production when the decision was also made to not have any music throughout the sequence.


11.    In the Roman galley scenes, Ben-Hur is referred to as "number 41." In the original General Lew Wallace novel, he is "number 60" (Book 3, Chapter 3, page 123, Harper Brothers 1922). In the Dell Movie Classic comic book, he is referred to as "number 40" (Dell Comics #1052-5911, 1959, pages 15 and 16). And in both Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) and the 1958 Classics Illustrated comic book there is no reference to any number, either by scene decor, dialogue, or intertitle.

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