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Ben-Hur (1959) Poster

(1959)

Trivia

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The only Hollywood film to make the Vatican approved film list in the category of religion.
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.
During the 18-day auction of MGM props, costumes, and memorabilia that took place in May 1970 when new owner Kirk Kerkorian was liquidating the studio's assets, a Sacramento restaurateur paid $4,000 for a chariot used in the film. Three years later, during the energy crisis, he was arrested for driving the chariot on the highway.
The chariot race has a 263-to-1 cutting ratio (263 feet of film for every one foot kept), probably the highest for any 65mm sequence ever filmed.
The production cost MGM a massive $15 million and was a gamble by the studio to save itself from bankruptcy. The gamble paid off, with the film earning $75 million.
The desert sequences were all set to be filmed in Libya until the Muslim Libyan authorities realized that the film was promoting Christianity. The government ordered MGM out of the country, forcing the studio to shift filming to Spain, which has the only desert in Europe.
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.
Sheik Ilderim's white horses were brought in from Lipica, Slovenia, the original home of the snow-white "Lipizzaner" horse breed. Glenn H. Randall Sr. trained 78 horses for the film, starting months before photography began.
Paul Newman was offered the role of Judah Ben-Hur but turned it down because he'd already done one Biblical-era film, The Silver Chalice (1954), and hated the experience. He also said it taught him that he didn't have the legs to wear a tunic.
Charlton Heston had learned how to handle a two-horse chariot when he was making The Ten Commandments (1956). When he arrived in Rome, he instantly began lessons in four-horse chariot racing with the film's stunt co-ordinator, Yakima Canutt.
One of the very few (and very expensive) 65mm cameras in the world was wrecked during the filming of the chariot race.
[June 2008] Ranked #2 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Epic".
Several times during the film, Judah touches a box on the door frame of his home. This is a Mezuzah, a case containing a passage from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and and 11:13-21), which Jews traditionally affix to the door frames of their houses as a constant reminder of God's presence.
This is the first of three films to have won 11 Academy Awards, including the Best Picture Oscar. The second was Titanic (1997) and the third was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Several of the categories won by "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" didn't exist in "Ben-Hur"'s day, making its 11 wins that much more impressive.
William Wyler was a renowned stickler for detail. Charlton Heston recalled one particular scene where Judah Ben-Hur simply walks across a room upon his return from slavery. Such a simple scene required eight takes before the actor finally asked Wyler what was missing. The director informed him that he liked the first take where Heston had kicked a piece of pottery to give the scene its only sound. Heston, on the other hand, had assumed that Wyler didn't like the kicking and had therefore deliberately avoided doing it again.
Desiring as much authenticity as possible, real aristocrats were recruited to play patricians as guests at the party sequence. Among those utilized were Prince Emanuele Ruspoli, Count Marigliano del Monte, Duchess Nona Medici and Prince Raimondo of Italy, Count Santiago Oneto of Spain, Princess Nina Hohenlohe of Austria and her husband the Prince, Princess Irina Wassilchikoff of Russia and Baroness Lillian de Balzo of Hungary.
An infirmary was created especially for the filming of the dangerous chariot race scenes. However, in the end, very few injuries were actually sustained, most of them being sunburns.
It is the first movie remake to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The Departed (2006) became the second remake, 47 years later.
Martha Scott was 45 at the time of filming, only 10 years older than her screen son. She also played Charlton Heston's mother in The Ten Commandments (1956) three years before.
Shot over a period of nine months at Rome's Cinecitta studios. The outdoor set of the chariot race circus was the largest built for a film at the time.
Stephen Boyd, and several other actors playing Romans, wore dark contact lenses, so their eyes appeared brown.
Although William Wyler was Jewish, he particularly wanted to make a film that would appeal to all religious faiths.
The ten-square-block set that represents Jerusalem is an historically accurate one.
William Wyler used to joke that it took a Jew to make the ultimate film about Jesus Christ.
Burt Lancaster, a self-described atheist, claimed he turned down the role of Judah Ben-Hur because he "didn't like the violent morals in the story" and because he did not want to promote Christianity.
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.
Charlton Heston was initially offered the role of Messala.
Jesus Christ was played by American opera singer Claude Heater, who went uncredited in his only feature film role, because he never spoke. He was born in Oakland, California.
Three hundred sets, five years of research and 14 months of labor were required for the sets.
At 2 hours, 1 minute, and 23 seconds, Charlton Heston's performance in this movie is the longest to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actor, and the second longest to win in any category.
During filming, director William Wyler noticed that one of the extras was missing a hand. He had the make-up department construct a prosthetic that included a protruding false bone to cover the man's stump for the scene where the galley was rammed by a pirate ship. Wyler made similar use of an extra who was missing a foot.
Director William Wyler decided that the Romans should have British accents, and that the four Americans in the cast would play the Judaeans. This was a technique later used in Masada (1981). There are, however, exceptions, such as Israeli actress Haya Harareet as Esther, and a British actor dubbing one of the Judaeans winching provisions down to the Valley of the Lepers.
While this film was occupying most of the stages and back lot at Cinecitta, Federico Fellini was shooting La Dolce Vita (1960) on a small corner there.
Of the three Academy Awards that Miklós Rózsa won, he cherished the one he won for this film the most, because of the score's size, intricacy, emotional content and its being a distillation of his more than 20 years' experience scoring films.
The process of amassing the more than a million props that were needed began in Rome two years before camera started rolling.
Upon reading Karl Tunberg's original script, William Wyler had written in the margins "awful . . . horrible". Consequently, he brought in Gore Vidal--who was under contract to MGM at the time and hated it--to rewrite the screenplay. Vidal also thought that Tunberg's script was dreadful and initially didn't even want to take on the project. He changed his mind when Wyler promised to get him out of the remaining two years of his contract. Christopher Fry then polished Tunberg's and Vidal's work on the screenplay and wrote a new ending. Neither Fry nor Vidal received screen credit for their work on the film, which infuriated Wyler so much that he leaked the story to the press.
William Wyler selected all the camera angles for the chariot race, but left all the details of its actual shooting in the hands of his second-unit directors Andrew Marton and Yakima Canutt. When he saw Marton and Canutt's work, Wyler remarked that it was "one of the greatest cinematic achievements" he'd ever seen. Wyler then supervised the editing of the sequence.
Stephen Boyd wore lifts in his shoes to make his height more on a par with Charlton Heston's.
Fifteen thousand extras were used in the chariot race scene.
Leslie Nielsen made a screen test for the part of Messala, part of which can be seen in the documentary Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic (1993).
Producer Sam Zimbalist offered William Wyler $1,000,000 to direct this film. This was the highest director's fee ever paid up to that time.
Sergio Leone was an uncredited second-unit director. In later years he claimed that he directed the chariot race scenes, but that is an apparently self-serving exaggeration (Leone had a reputation for stretching the truth).
For some sequences in the chariot race, some of the chariots had three horses instead of four. This enabled the camera car to move in closer.
By the time filming had finished, MGM's London laboratories had processed over 1,250,000 feet of 65mm Eastman Color film, at the cost of $1 a foot.
Miklós Rózsa wrote the musical score over a period of nearly a year. He was resident in Rome with the production while he composed, and recorded his music with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at MGM's Borehamwood studios outside London.
In the original novel, Ben-Hur's mother does not have a name; she is referred to as Mother of Hur. For the film, she was called Miriam.
According to his memoirs Stewart Granger was offered the role of Messala but claimed that he turned it down on the advice of his agent, who didn't want him to play a supporting role to Charlton Heston.
One of only four MGM films in which the studio's trademark Leo the Lion did not roar at the beginning of the opening credits, apparently because of the religious theme in the film. The others were The Next Voice You Hear... (1950) (another film with a religious theme), Westward the Women (1951) and North by Northwest (1959), in which composer Bernard Herrmann's growling music took the place of the lion's roar (the lion used in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was the new illustrated logo first used in the credits for that film, not a real lion. But this logo was discarded shortly afterward, so doesn't count).
Director William Wyler had served as an assistant director wrangling extras in crowds under action specialist B. Reeves Eason (aka "Breezy"), who directed the chariot race in MGM's mammoth silent version of the story, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925).
When the screenplay credit went to arbitration, the WGA accorded sole credit to screenwriter Karl Tunberg, despite Gore Vidal's rewrite and Christopher Fry's nearly year-long presence on set re-writing the script..
Gore Vidal was uncredited as a screenwriter, although producer Sam Zimbalist promised him that he and Christopher Fry, who worked on the script independently from Vidal and was on-set with director William Wyler all during shooting, would get screen credit. Karl Tunberg, who wrote the original screenplay that had been very much rewritten into a shooting script by Vidal and Fry, claimed the credit. Zimbalist died before the film finished production and thus could not testify at the WGA (Writers Guild of America) arbitration hearing. Tunberg won the credit but failed to win the Oscar. The film had been nominated for 12 Oscars, and won a record (at the time) 11. The movie's sole loss was for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, and usually is attributed to the fallout from the credit dispute, which Vidal made widely known.
Director William Wyler took on the project because he wanted to do a Cecil B. DeMille type of picture.
Audrey Hepburn visited the set during the filming of the chariot race (she was in the midst of shooting The Nun's Story (1959)). This led to the false legend that she was an extra in the crowd scenes, as a favor to William Wyler, who gave Hepburn her first starring role in Roman Holiday (1953), for which she won the Oscar. Hepburn, one of Wyler's favorite actresses and people, would make two more films for him, The Children's Hour (1961) and How to Steal a Million (1966)
Charlton Heston had about a month to learn how to drive a chariot properly. Stephen Boyd - who was cast much later in the production - only had two weeks to do so.
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Such was the expense of the film that nervous MGM executives flew out to Rome on a weekly basis to check on the production's progress.
Final film of Cathy O'Donnell. NOTE: She was married to Robert Wyler, director William Wyler's brother. She would thereafter work only in television.
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Originally William Wyler had planned only to film the first unit and leave the second unit duties to producer Sam Zimbalist. These plans had to be scrapped after Zimbalist's premature death. MGM persuaded Wyler to see the film through to completion by offering him a greater financial stake in the film.
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Stuntman Cliff Lyons worked as a stuntman/chariot driver in both Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) and the remake Ben-Hur (1959).
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Director William Wyler_ began his career at Universal Pictures directing one western per week, each budgeted at $2000--the same amount it cost MGM for every hour spent on shooting this film.
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According to Gore Vidal's interview in The Celluloid Closet (1995), Ben-Hur and Messala were former lovers and Messala betrayed Ben-Hur because their relationship ended. According to Vidal, he discussed this with Stephen Boyd (Messala) ahead of shooting, but this information was hidden from Charlton Heston because it was felt that he could not handle it. After Vidal's interview, Heston vehemently denied that Ben-Hur had any homosexual subtext or that Vidal had any real involvement with writing the script. Vidal responded by quoting extracts from Heston's 1978 autobiography "An Actor's Life", in which Heston admitted that Vidal had written much of the finished screenplay.
The first of only three films to win 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It also has the highest percentage of winning Academy Awards. In 1960 there were only 12 categories. 11/12 & 11 of 12 = 91 & 2/3%.
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With a final cost of $15 million, this was the most expensive film ever made up to that time.
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MGM offered Universal $750,000 for the loan-out of its contract star Rock Hudson. Hudson seriously considered accepting the part until his agent explained to him that the film's gay subtext was too much of a risk to his career.
The film's credits appear with the Sistine Chapel ceiling as background. Charlton Heston would later play Michelangelo, the painter of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, in the film The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965).
In Christian tradition, Balthasar of the Three Wise Men is the black or dark-skinned one. In this movie, however, he is depicted as white and played by Scottish actor Finlay Currie, while Melchior, traditionally white, is dark-skinned in the film, and played by an uncredited Reginald Lal Singh.
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The second of two films shot in the MGM Camera 65 process (eight more would be shot after the process was re-named Ultra Panavision). It was intended to be the first, but production delays led to MGM using it first on Raintree County (1957). Like the Todd-AO format (introduced in 1953), MGM Camera 65 used 65mm negative stock that was then printed to 70mm film for roadshow release prints, or optically printed down to 35mm for general release. Unlike Todd-AO, though, Camera 65 operated at a standard speed of 24 fps from the beginning and utilized 1.25x anamorphic lenses to optically squeeze an aspect ratio of 2.76:1 into the 2.20:1 Todd-AO frame. These lenses were developed and manufactured by Panavision, a natural evolution on its work to improve the quality of anamorphic camera and projection lenses for the CinemaScope system. The extra 5mm of film between the 65mm negatives and 70mm prints was comprised of 2.5mm outside the perforations on either side of the film, allowing for up to four stripes of magnetic oxide carrying up to six discrete channels of sound--offering greatly superior sound quality in comparison to the mono optical tracks on 35mm prints at the time. When MGM sold its camera department to Panavision in 1961, the Camera 65 process was renamed Ultra Panavision 70 but remained technically identical. The complexity of anamorphic photography and post-production, however, meant the system was short-lived--especially due to the use of unique 1.25x anamorphic lenses rather than the 2x power used for CinemaScope--and the process was last used for Khartoum (1966). Most of the cameras were used on Super Panavision 70 productions--Panavision's exact copy of the non-anamorphic 24 fps Todd-AO process--before being replaced by the Panaflex 65 cameras used in Panavision System 65. Notably, due to the complexity and cost of projecting anamorphic 70mm prints, recent re-issue 70mm prints of "Ben-Hur" have been printed from optically unsqueezed negatives to allow their projection on normal 70mm equipment with only slight cropping of the sides of the picture.
Robert Ryan was considered for the role of Messala, with Burt Lancaster as Ben-Hur.
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MGM commissioned over 40 scripts for the film over a period of six years.
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William Wyler missed just two days of the lengthy shoot, due to influenza.
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In 1880 Lew Wallace--author of the novel on which this film is based--told his wife that they might receive as much as $100 in royalties per year for his novel, After years of refusing to sell theatrical rights, Wallace finally acquiesced.
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Six of the newly developed Camera 65 units, each valued at $100,000 were loaded onto two ships in Califonia and transferred to Italy.
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The shot where Messala's body is dragged behind and under his own chariot was tried first with a dummy, but it looked bad. Stephen Boyd was protected with some steel pads and did it himself.
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Shiek Ilderim's four horses' names are Aldebaran, Altair, Antares and Rigel. Their mother's name is Mera.
Final film of May McAvoy. NOTE: She also appeared in the 1925 silent version, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925).
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Producer Sam Zimbalist died two months before production completed. William Wyler handled the remaining production duties.
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In the Roman ship galley scenes, Judah 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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Initially there were queries over whether William Wyler was the right director for the job, as he'd never tackled a film of this scale before. One of the doubters was Wyler himself.
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Marlon Brando was considered for the role of Judah Ben-Hur.
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Cesare Danova screen-tested to play Ben-Hur.
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Adjusted for inflation, this would be the 13th highest-grossing movie of all time.
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The city of Jerusalem set took up 10 square blocks. Altogether, the production used about 40,000 cubic feet of lumber, more than a million pounds of plaster, and 250 miles of metal tubing.
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Ben-Hur's house was constructed of wood frame covered with stucco painted to look like stone.
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Kirk Douglas was offered the role of Messala. He turned it down, because he didn't want to play a "second-rate baddie". He wanted to play Ben-Hur, but Charlton Heston had already been cast. Douglas later made Spartacus (1960) in response.
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After shooting, the studio ordered the dismantling of all the sets (at a cost of $150,000), partially to sell off whatever could be salvaged and partly to prevent Italian epic producers from using the same materials.
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One thing William Wyler was completely unable to do was get his leading man to cry on-screen. During Judah Ben-Hur's crying scenes, Charlton Heston simply covered his eyes.
Nervous at the expense and trying to cover all its bases, MGM executives dissatisfied with the script hired Ben Hecht to "polish" it during shooting. They flew him to Rome, set him up in a house and paid him approximately $15,000 for a week's work. It's not known if any of Hecht's dialogue made it into the final film.
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Although the original release was in Technicolor, the 1974 release was in MetroColor.
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According to Charlton Heston,William Wyler was not reluctant to change his mind about an approach to a scene or character, resulting in frequently conflicting direction. He also noted in his diary: "I doubt [Wyler] likes actors very much. He doesn't empathize with them--they irritate him on the set. He gets very impatient, but invariably they come off well. The only answer I have is that his taste is impeccable and every actor knows it."
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Judah Ben-Hur personally killed five men during the course of the film. First he slew two Roman guards while he was trying to escape from prison. He choked the Roman ship commander Hortator to death after the ship was rammed. Shortly after freeing the imprisoned galley slaves, he climbed to the deck of the ship and speared a Macedonian pirate, which knocked Roman soldier and temporary ship commander Quintus Arrius off the ship into the sea. He then set fire to the face of another pirate to protect Quintus, then dove into the sea to rescue him.
According to text in the film's souvenir program, the film used over 1,000,000 props, though this is likely a studio publicist's exaggeration.
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The chariot arena was built by more than 1,000 workers beginning in January 1958, according to some reports. It was 2,000 feet long by 65 feet wide and covered 18 acres, the largest single set in motion picture history to that time. Reputedly, 40,000 tons of white sand was imported from Mexico for the track.
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Because the main set for the chariot race was still being built, an identical track was constructed next to it to train horses and drivers and lay out camera shots.
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The chariot scene alone cost about $4 million, or about a fourth of the entire budget, and took 10 weeks to shoot.
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The pace and scope of the production, combined with miserable summer heat, began taking a toll on everyone, although it was never so bad that, as MGM publicity claimed, a 20-bed hospital staffed with two doctors and two nurses was on hand. Veteran General Manager Henry Henigson was forced to take a vacation on Capri, but he returned after four days, too involved with the production to stay away.
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54-year-old producer Sam Zimbalist collapsed and died of a heart attack 40 minutes after leaving the set complaining of chest pains.
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After a few days of shooting, Andrew Marton discovered the most effective way to shoot in the arena would be to have the cameras right in the midst of the race, necessitating a camera car that moved with the chariots. He also noted that the best shots on the curves were done using a specially built camera chariot with rubber tires.
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During a shot of chariots swinging around the large curve, two of the vehicles smashed into the cameras, which were fortunately protected by a wooden barricade. Nevertheless, production was held up for small repairs and testing on the cameras. No cast, crew or horses were badly injured in the mishap.
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Charlton Heston mused years later if "Ben-Hur" and Anthony Mann's El Cid (1961) would not have been improved if the directors were reversed.
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Sculptors cast more than 200 pieces of statuary to supplement the thousands of props used from Cinecitta's warehouse.
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Famed stuntman Yakima Canutt was brought in to coordinate all the chariot race stunt work and train the drivers. Charlton Heston was among the first to begin training, arriving on location a few months ahead of scheduled shooting. He was also there to do costume fittings.
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Stephen Boyd had difficulty driving the chariots. His hands and wrists blistered, and rest time had to be scheduled.
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Although only about 36 horses would ever be seen on screen during the race, 82 animals (to cover for accidents and rest periods) were brought in from Yugoslavia.
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According to Andrew Marton, who directed the chariot race, the track was constructed of steamrolled ground rock debris covered with 10 inches of ground lava and finished with eight inches of crushed yellow rock to make the surface hard enough to hold the weight of the chariots and horses while still having enough give not to make the horses lame (which Marton said was achieved by a top of sand). After one day of shooting, the upper layer of rock was removed because it had slowed the pace of the race considerably. The lava layer, which Marton and Yakima Canutt had initially opposed, proved to be the most workable element.
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Andrew Marton had three 65mm cameras at his disposal for shooting the race. The larger format film proved to be an issue. The standard close-up lens for 35mm photography was 100mm; it became, in the wide-screen process, a 200mm lens, which could not be focused closer than 50 feet. So he had to use a 140mm lens, requiring him and his crew to move closer to the dangerous action of the race.
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The heat of Rome proved to be a serious drawback for the action scenes. Horses could only make about eight runs a day at most. Because of this, most of the shots in the race were done on the first take.
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William Wyler kept up a 16-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week schedule for the nine months it took to shoot
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The 65mm cameras were extremely heavy. It took four men with steel bars to move them, so William Wyler ended up using a crane most of the time.
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It was estimated that 500 journalists visited the Ben-Hur set during production.
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By the end of photography, approximately a million and a quarter feet of the expensive 65mm Eastmancolor film had been exposed, and processed at a cost of roughly $1 per foot.
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One of the problems William Wyler and director of photography Robert Surtees encountered was composing shots for the wide-screen process. They had to figure out how to avoid empty screen space, wanting neither to film two actors in a vast screen void nor fill the frame with pointless, distracting elements.
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Stephen Boyd's contact lenses caused him terrible pain, forcing a rescheduling of scenes so he could rest his eyes.
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Judah Ben-Hur was called "41" seven times total. The first five were by Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins), the sixth was by slave 42 (John Glenn), the seventh was by Quintus Arrius as he and Ben-Hur floated on the debris from the sunken ship.
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Final film of George Relph.
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More than 300 sets were built on location at the Cinecitta studios in Rome. They were constructed following 15,000 sketches and covered more than 340 acres.
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Charlton Heston noted favourably that William Wyler, who had no experience with such a large-scale movie, was "no more awed by a $10-million-plus production than he is by a $3-million one."
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According to William Wyler's wife, as soon as photography was done and he and his cast left Rome, he started getting migraines, which lasted until the film opened in November 1959.
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Charlton Heston made a big blunder early on by composing a lengthy memo outlining his ideas about his character in the first scene with Messala. He later noted that it took him considerable time to get back in William Wyler's good graces after doing that and may have had something to do with the rough time the director gave him during production. He also wrote that Wyler once told him he wished he (Wyler) could be a nice guy on the set but that "you can't make a good picture that way."
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The film's budget ballooned to $10 million, nearly 50% higher than the original budget. Joseph Vogel president of Loew's, MGM's parent company, came over from New York to say that there was growing concern among the board and stockholders over the picture. He asked William Wyler if there was anything he could do to help; the director politely answered "No, thank you," and continued shooting. Vogel left for a five-week European business trip. When he returned to the set, Wyler had returned to pick up the scene he had been shooting on Vogel's last day before his trip, now improved by some new wording from Fry. The nervous company boss wondered if they had been filming the same scene the entire time.
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Sidney Franklin had initially been courted to direct the film.
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One of the models of the Roman ships was on display at the amusement park Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri. It was outside and exposed to the elements for many years.
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When Esther is at the bottom of the sermon on the mount there are already a large amount of people crowded at the top. In the next scene she is right at the front listening to Jesus.
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Cameo 

May McAvoy:  Esther from the original Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) is the only member of the original MGM film to appear in Ben-Hur (1959) as well. She's an extra in a crowd scene.

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

When Ben-Hur confronts a dying Messala after the chariot race, William Wyler insisted on multiple takes. He wanted Ben-Hur to show complete indifference to his dying former friend, something that Charlton Heston found hard to deliver.
The chariot race segment was co-directed by legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt (with veteran second-unit director Andrew Marton). Joe Canutt (Yak's son) doubled for Charlton Heston. During one of the crashes, in which Judah Ben-Hur's horses jump over a wrecked chariot, the younger Canutt was thrown from his chariot onto its tongue because he failed to heed Yak's instructions as to how to grip the railing as the chariot hit the top of the hidden ramp leading up to the debris. He managed to climb back into his chariot and bring it back under control. The sequence looked so good that it was included in the film, with a close-up of Heston climbing back into the chariot. Canutt got a slight cut on his chin, but it was the only injury in the incredibly dangerous sequence. Stuntman Nosher Powell, who worked on the film, states in his biography that Yak went pale as a ghost when the chariot crashed. The crash was not planned, and everybody--including Yak--believed that Joe had died.
The rumor that Stephen Boyd's double was killed during the chariot race is false. According to second-unit director Yakima Canutt, the "Messala" that was run over, a Roman soldier standing on the center island who was hit by a chariot and the driver of a spilled rig who jumped out of the way of one chariot but was immediately run over by another one were all articulated and weighted dummies (made with movable arm and leg joints), so when they were hit they "reacted" the way a normal human body would in that situation. A combination of adroit placement and expert editing made the dummies look like real people being run over.

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