In March, Paramount released the first trailer for its summer blockbuster, “Ben-Hur,” a remake of the Charlton Heston Oscar-winning classic, which follows the journey of a Jewish prince, named Judah Ben-Hur, who is betrayed, sent into slavery, and then seeks vengeance.
Like the Heston movie, the latest adaptation of the Lew Wallace novel, out Friday, hinges on a thrilling chariot race in which Ben-Hur (played in the latest film by Jack Huston) battles the person who betrayed him, his adoptive brother, Messala (Toby Kebbel).
Based on what you see in the trailer, you’d probably assume the race was shot in a Los Angeles soundstage with full green screen.
But the film’s director Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted,” “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) revealed to Business Insider that much of the sequence was done without computer graphics.
“Those are real horses, real actors driving real chariots on the track,” Bekmambetov told Business Insider. “That’s 42 horses driving neck-and-neck.”
According to Bekmambetov, the sequence, which lasts 10 minutes in the movie, took 45 days to shoot on location in Italy.
“It was a very intense experience,” said Bekmambetov, who noted that the actors spent over three months training for the chariot race, which includes 90 horses on a 1,000-foot-long set.
That’s not to say CGI is entirely absent from the sequence.
Many of the wide shots of the crowd were enhanced with computer graphics, and there’s a shot in the trailer of a horse that gallops into the crowd — done with, yes, CGI magic. (The shot is also in the movie.)
But Bekmambetov said the “goal was to do as much in-camera as possible.”
The lack of computer graphics in the sequence was something Bekmambetov pushed for. And the inspiration for it came from a project he produced, “Hardcore Henry.”
The unique action movie feels like a video game, with a point of view that comes entirely from a man who’s trying to save his wife from a warlord.
“You really feel you’re in that chariot driving it,” Bekmambetov said of the “Ben-Hur” scene.
Having seen it, we can tell you it’s one of the most thrilling parts of the movie.
Watch the “Ben-Hur” trailer below:
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