MGM and Paramount’s remake of the 1959 epic Ben-Hur has a script, a director, a release date, and now finally, an actor for the lead role. According to a Deadline exclusive, British actor Jack Huston has been cast in the titular role, where he will play opposite Morgan Freeman, who stars as Ildarin, the man who teaches Ben-Hur to become a champion chariot-racer. The role of Messala, Ben-Hur’s former best friend turned mortal enemy, has yet to be cast.
Interestingly, Huston originally went in to read for Messala, but director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) was impressed with the actor’s sympathetic manner and grit, and decided he’d be better suited for the lead. Thus, the part that fellow Brit Tom Hiddleston had at one time been in talks for, was awarded to Huston. Whether Hiddleston stays in the picture, possibly taking the Messala role, remains to be seen.
This is clearly a huge break for Huston (the nephew of actors Anjelica Huston and Danny Huston), who will take over the role Charlton Heston made famous and for which he won the Best Actor Oscar. After roles in smaller films and TV shows on both sides of the pond, Huston caught his first break when he was cast as the memorable war-scarred veteran Richard Harrow in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. He has since had roles in Not Fade Away, Kill Your Darlings, and American Hustle. With his career beginning to take off, his name has appeared a lot lately as he’s been cast in a number of movies. He recently signed on for parts in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, as well as the Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Longest Ride, and the thriller The Trust opposite Nicolas Cage.
The film is set to go into production next year in Europe, with a February 26, 2016 release date.