Director Timur Bekmambetov insisted that the chariot circus be built for real, and be realized with as little computer-generated imagery as possible. He felt it was absolutely necessary to make the chariot race look and feel realistic.
Director Timur Bekmambetov explained the film's adaptation in a interview with Collider: "When we say "original Ben-Hur," we have to be very concrete about which original version we are talking about. There were two big screen versions made, in 1925 and 1959. These are the two most famous ones. There was also a Broadway stage version at the beginning of the [20th] century. There have been a lot of television versions. The Ben-Hur story reminds me of "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet," and any story written by Chekhov. It is timeless, so every new generation wants to go back to it in order to adapt it for the new world. The screen version made in 1959 runs for four hours, and there is only a small number of people who can actually stay through the whole movie. It is about people different from us. And it's normal, because people used to be different. The audience was different, too, as well as the cinema language the film was made in. The 1959 movie was about revenge, not about forgiveness. For me that was the main problem, as I think that the novel is mainly about forgiveness, about the fact that a human being learned how to forgive. I got so excited about the project when I read John Ridley's script. I understood that John's vision of the story has so much light to it, and that he shares the same thoughts about a certain morals as I do. We talked with him about our modern world, which actually reminds me very much of a huge Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire, the most important important values were pride, rivalry, power, strength, the dictatorship of power and self-love. This kind of world does not have any prospects today. Humanity has to learn how to love and forgive. This would be our only solution."
The role of Pontius Pilate is played by Pilou Asbæk. The role was originally given to Pedro Pascal before Asbæk was cast. Both of these actors have been in Game of Thrones (2011), Asbæk as Euron Greyjoy in season 6, and Pascal as Prince Oberyn of Dorne, in season 4.