BEN-HUR – FROM SCREEN TO STADIUM
MR BEN HUR – SPECTATOR AT THE SPECTACLE
Never mind 3D movies – the latest $15 million Ben-Hur ‘remake’ will be Live in
the Amphitheatre! (October 22, 23, ANZ Stadium, Sydney) narrated by Russell
Crowe, with a cast of 200, large scale music, big screens and a full 24 horse
chariot race. And in the audience will be a Sydney man called … Ben Hur.
The young Ben Hur from Bossley Park will witness the biggest theatrical event
ever seen in Australia. The dialogue of the actors tells the compelling story of
one man's fight for freedom. A narrator provides historical context and
character background, while a powerful musical soundtrack and a huge light show
add the oomph to the $15 million production – the same budget as the 1959 film
starring Charlton Heston.
"Ben Hur fever"
Ben Hur Yosana, the Bossley Park resident was born in Iran in 1960 – a time
when the world was in the grip of Ben Hur fever following the 1959 release of
the now-iconic film. Inspired by the film, as well as the fact her doctor’s name
was Ben, Mrs Yohana gave her son the name of a legend. She had already called
her first son Julius Caesar …
“In my early years, I wanted to change my name because I didn’t like the fuss
and reaction when people found out,” said Ben. “But around the age of 16, it
dawned on me that it was something special and actually something to be proud
Of Assyrian descent, Ben and his older brother Julius Caesar (another familiar
name) speak a modern derivation of the ancient Aramaic, the language spoken by
Jesus Christ and the apostles to preach the Gospel, to record the Scriptures (as
in Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of Christ). Like his mother, Ben is a huge fan
of the Ben-Hur movie. He has seen it 15 times and his family watch it together
every Easter when it is traditionally broadcast on television.
Ten years after his Sydney 2000 Olympic Opening Ceremony triumph, renowned
Australian horse trainer Tony Jablonski returns to ANZ Stadium for another
spectacular with Ben-Hur. Jablonski is selecting and training 35 Australian
horses, many for the famous chariot race. Jablonski is currently consultant and
Horse Master at Australia’s only world-class equine facility and live dinner
show – The Australian Outback Spectacular on the Gold Coast.
"It’s bigger than Ben-Hur"
It’s bigger than Ben-Hur … The cast of 200 is headed by the hero Ben Hur and
his childhood friend turned foe, Messala. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is one
of the climatic scenes. ANZ Stadium is transformed into a Roman Amphitheatre
with 1250 tonnes of crushed rock and sand forming the staging base. The total
performance area is 15,000 square metres - almost two football fields. Each end
of ANZ Stadium is occupied by massive stages representing the Roman Senate and
the Town of Judea.
Among the huge sets is a Roman Galley ship powered by 100 oarsmen; 24 horses
sourced and trained in Australia race in teams of four in the full-scale chariot
race. A stage crew of more than 200 works throughout the 10 action-packed
scenes. Hundreds of theatre lights and a massive sound and video installation
fuel the drama.
There are 400 costumes and hundreds of spears, swords and shields. The back
stage city requires:
•30 fitted dressing rooms
•12 administration offices
•12 phone lines
•600 meals per day
•70 hotel rooms for visiting actors and production personnel
Food provision for horses is a massive 100 kilograms of oats, 250 kilograms of
hay, 2,560 litres of filtered water per day for the stables.
The project was created for Stadefrance Live Events by French
actor/writer/director Robert Hossein, who has worked on stage as well as screen,
and directed classics such as Les Misérables and Jules César. Known for his
giant shows and historic stagings, he notched up a Guinness Book of Records
entry in 1983-84 when 700,000 people saw his show A Man Named Jesus. Ben-Hur
played to 300,000 people in its Paris premiere season.
The son of celebrated conductor Andre Hossein, Robert Hossein co-wrote the
script with former journalist Alain Decaux, and brought in Mario Luschari as
chariot racing stunt co-ordinator. Of his Ben-Hur preparation, Luraschi said:
“everything is measured to the millimetre. It is a true choreography”. In honour
of his late father, Robert Hossein transformed Hossein’s 1951 symphony on
Khayyam poems into the moving and powerful score for this event.
"a master of horse training"
Luraschi has been a master of horse training for more than three decades.
From his property in north-east Paris, Luraschi has dedicated his life to
producing stunt horses for movie production and equestrian entertainment.
A graduate of the prestigious Boule School, scenery designer Christian Vallet is
credited with styling Ben Hur with the utmost respect and precision. Vallet, who
has worked on a number of films including Ronin staring Robert De Niro, accepted
the challenge of recreating Ancient Rome with considerable pleasure.
Published August 19, 2010
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INFO & BOOKINGS
BEN HUR: THE STORY
THE SCREEN STORY OF THE STORY
Ben-Hur (1959 – 212 mins, 70mm)
Scr: Karl Tunberg (novel by Lew Wallace); Dir: William Wyler
Stars: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet
Won 11 Academy Awards + 1 nomination (Best Adapted Screenplay)
Biggest budget film at the time: US$15 million
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925 – silent B&W, 143 mins)
Scr: June Mathis (novel by Lew Wallace); Dir: Fred Niblo
Stars Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, May McAvoy (Clark Gable, Gary Cooper,
Joan Crawford, Douglas Fairbanks, Samuel Goldwyn and other screen luminaries
play uncredited extras, Carol Lombard and Myrna Loy play slave girls
Producers include Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg
Ben Hur (1907 – silent B&W x 15 mins)
Scr: Gene Gauntier (novel by Lew Wallace); Dir: Sydney Olcott, Frank Oakes Rose,
Stars Herman Rottger, William S. Hart