BREAKING: After scoring huge ratings with the miniseries The Bible and carving out a second theatrical hit with the same footage in Son Of God, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Paramount Pictures’ Ben-Hur. Deadline has long been telling you about this ambitious new adaptation of the Lew Wallace 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale Of Christ, with script by Keith Clarke and Oscar winning 12 Years A Slave scribe John Ridley, and Timur Bekmambetov directing.
Paramount signed on to co-produce and distribute, and after the rocky time the studio had with the Darren Aronofsky-directed Noah convincing the faithful that the Biblical epic didn’t blaspheme the Old Testament tale and having the film banned in Muslim territories, it’s not surprising that they would add Burnett and his wife, the former Touched By An Angel star Downey, to help steer the project with producer Sean Daniel. The film will be released February 26, 2016. Faith-based audiences turned the Mel Gibson-directed The Passion Of The Christ into the biggest-grossing independent film ever, but the recent turn of audiences from Biblical epics to films about the existence of heaven and faith in general, shows that these audiences want faithful adaptations of the Bible stories they want to see celebrated onscreen. The next big Biblical epic coming is the Ridley Scott-directed Exodus with Christian Bale starring as Moses. Fox opens that film December 12 and if it even approximates the ticket sales of 1956’s The Ten Commandments, it will be a huge blockbuster story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
The film consists of the core story that drove the 1959 William Wyler-directed MGM film that starred Charlton Heston as the falsely accused nobleman who survives years of slavery to take vengeance on the best friend who betrayed him, as both have to choose retribution or forgiveness. In the backdrop is the journey of Jesus Christ, leading up to him being crucified. It is sensitive stuff, and a guiding hand from those producers can be like a Good Housekeeping seal to a faith-based audience that has been flocking to sleeper hits like Heaven Is For Real. Noah has crossed $300 million in worldwide grosses.
“We are thrilled to have Mark and Roma join the production team to bring such an indelible classic story to the big screen,” said MGM’s Gary Barber. “Their unrivaled passion, creativity and success in the faith based content space, will be a huge asset to the film and we look forward to working together.”
“A timeless film of this scale and scope requires an incredibly dedicated team of filmmakers and the opportunity to have visionary talents like Mark and Roma be a part of the making of the film, and knowing their incredible dedication to their own faith, made them the ideal partners to help bring this story authentically to life,” said Rob Moore, Vice Chairman Paramount Pictures.