Ben-Hur has found his Esther! Nazanin Boniadi of TV’s Homeland has been tapped for the female lead in the upcoming chariot epic, according to Deadline.
Boniadi, who portrays a CIA operative on Showtime’s Emmy-winning series, will replace Gal Gadot. Gadot had been rumored for the role for some time but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Other actresses considered for the role were Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Natalia Warner (the upcoming Learning to Breathe), and Moran Atias (The Next Three Days).
Boniadi will be Esther to Jack Huston’s Judah Ben-Hur. Huston has seen his career take off since his memorable turn on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, having since appeared in Not Fade Away, Kill Your Darlings, and American Hustle. Huston originally read for the role of Messala, Ben-Hur’s friend turned rival, but director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) thought Huston had both the sympathy and grit to be the perfect Ben-Hur.
Morgan Freeman (the upcoming Ted 2) toplines the supporting cast. The MGM and Paramount Pictures production is set to begin filming in 2015, with an eye toward a February 26, 2016 release date.