Mercy, grace, sacrificial love needed for such a time as this
Mercy, grace, sacrificial love needed for such a time as this
Courtesy of Paramount Studios/MGM

On July 11, Broadway World announces that Matt Lapinskas has joined the cast of the live "Ben-Hur" at Reading Rep as Messala. In the UK, this live "Ben-Hur" will be an ambitious, large-scale community project that will mark the opening of Reading 2016 Year of Culture’s "Made in RDG" showcase. It will feature a community cast from across Reading and the surrounding region. This stage adaptation of "Ben-Hur" is by award-winning playwright Hattie Naylor. The live production will run at The Hexagon from 1-3 September 2016. This is a timely, popular classic story that is being retold in various forms.

This production follows the opening of the new epic "Ben-Hur" movie throughout the world in August and the introduction of the updated "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" novel by Dr. Carol Wallace, who is the great-great-granddaughter of General Lew Wallace, who wrote the original "Ben-Hur" novel. Out in July from Tyndale as a tie-in to Paramount Studios/MGM’s major motion picture, this update of the novel has a first review from Publishers Weekly which says, “The epic novel, spanning about 12 years of Ben-Hur’s life, will be relished not only by fans of Christian fiction, but any reader who craves historical accounts of high adventure, action, and drama."

In a live simulcast to which AXS was invited on July 10, producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett introduced their new Paramount Studios/MGM "Ben-Hur" with Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Ken Ulmer. They presented during this simulcast footage from the movie along with interviews with principals associated with the movie. They highlighted the timeliness of the movie's eternal themes of reconciliation, restoration, and redemption. The simulcast concluded with the appropriate song for such a time as this "Cease Fire" by King and Country.

Mark and Roma in the simulcast spoke of the connections with this new updated movie of “Ben-Hur” and the 1959 film version with Charlton Heston. Mark told how their movie worked with the same Roman studio and location as the 1959 version. Roma told that the sons of the 1959 film version’s horse trainer and hair/makeup artist worked with their movie.

However, they also addressed in the simulcast how their movie is unique and updated. Roma talked about the “modern approach” that their director, Timur Bekmambetov, took. Mark and Roma shared how the 800 small cameras were placed on the horses and chariots in the chariot race to enable the audience to feel as if they are part of the action. Timur also said in an interview with AXS at a recent premiere screening of Paramount Studios/MGM's "Ben-Hur" that although the action is important, what the action of the movie “says” is even more important.

Roma and Mark talked in the simulcast about how Christ and especially his actions are more highlighted in this movie than in earlier versions as Christ enables Ben-Hur in pivotal encounters to release his hateful vengeance to experience reconciliation, restoration, and redemption. Mark told how in the earlier versions audiences never saw Jesus’ face and why they “… decided to let people see Jesus and to experience the love of Jesus.” Mark addressed the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation. He said, “ If we don’t forgive, the Father will not forgive us…if we ever needed reconciliation it is now.” Roma told how Jack Huston with "strength and dignity" as Ben-Hur released a rock in his hand and dropped to his knees at the foot of the cross. Rick Warren then discussed the many kinds of rocks we all need to release.

In interviews with AXS at a recent premiere screening of Paramount Studios/MGM's "Ben-Hur," Roma Downey has said that "...it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness" and Nazanin Boniadi (who plays Esther in the movie) has said, "...love drives out darkness." This classic story with its universal themes of reconciliation, restoration, and redemption is especially significant for such a time as this. See posters, news, trailers, as well as featurettes with principal interviews for the movie "Ben-Hur" on IMDB. Stay tuned for more from exclusive interviews with "Ben-Hur" principals with AXS.