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Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur: 5 Quotes About the Iconic Role

Image: Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur: 5 Quotes About the Iconic Role
Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur (1959. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

By    |   Friday, 15 May 2015 10:12 PM

The chariot race in “Ben Hur” stands out even today, and Charlton Heston’s role as Judah Ben-Hur earned the actor his only Academy Award for acting.

The 1960 Academy Awards were a great tribute for the 1959 “Ben Hur,” which became the first film to earn 11 Academy Awards. So while Moses is perhaps Heston’s most iconic role, “Ben-Hur” set him on the path to greatness.

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The following are five quotes about Heston’s role as Judah Ben-Hur:

“Obviously, this particular film means a lot to me and my family. It was undeniably a watershed moment for my Dad. Not just in terms of his career as a star and winning the Academy Award, but his transformation as an actor, a serious actor, which is what he wanted to be.

“If you read the excerpts of his journal, which are included in the DVD set, you can see he was very concerned with the craft and quality of the process of acting. That was the kind of drive, the force, that informed everything he did on that picture.” – Fraser Heston, the actor’s son, during a September 2011 interview with Indiewire. 

“I had ridden before, but handling four powerful horses while standing erect in a half-ton chariot was something entirely foreign to me. The toughest part was learning to skid around the turns and if you looked back there was always a horse at your shoulder.

“At first, I couldn’t believe it when Bill Wyler, our director, told me it was impossible to overturn – that the chariots had been designed not to lift. But he knew what he was talking about and those that do flip in the picture had to be specially rigged with a powder charge.” – Charlton Heston, in 1959 to the Christian Science Monitor, discussing the infamous chariot-racing scene in the movie. 

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“Dad felt that he had not quite achieved a level of the sophisticated actor that is taken seriously as an artist — not just as a blockbuster hero like someone who does a C.B. DeMille epic, and he loved ‘The Ten Commandments’ and was thrilled to work with C.B. DeMille, by the way, and that’s a marvelous film, but ‘Ben-Hur’ was a different line of country. It was probably the first modern epic. And, of course, going into it, Dad had no idea whether it was going to succeed or whether he was going to be any good in it. And there were doubts and fears and second thoughts. William Wyler came to him halfway through the show and said, ‘Chuck, you need to be better in this part. I don’t know how to tell you to do that, but you need to dig down deep and find that character within you and bring it out.’ And Chuck went, ‘Wow, that’s scary!’ But it was the right thing to say to him at that time. And it got him motivated and he did dig down deep and, of course, both he and Wyler won an Academy Award.” – Fraser Heston on his father’s concerns and motivation for the role of “Ben-Hur” to jesusfreakhideout.com on the 50th anniversary of the film.  

“Listen to the gassy profundity of so many of today’s stars, analyzing their techniques, and then listen to (actor Richard) Widmark describing why John Ford liked making Westerns: ‘He enjoys working in the fresh air.’ Or listen to Heston, describing how he mastered the art of Ben-Hur’s chariot driving: ‘Actually, I played it by ear.’” – Roger Ebert

“Charlton Heston is excellent as Ben-Hur — strong, aggressive, proud and warm — and Stephen Boyd plays his nemesis, Messala, with those same qualities, inverted ideologically.” – Bosley Crowther for the New York Times

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The chariot race in "Ben Hur" stands out even today, and Charlton Heston's role as Judah Ben-Hur earned the actor his only Academy Award for acting. The 1960 Academy Awards were a great tribute for the 1959 "Ben Hur," which became the first film to earn 11 Academy Awards.
charlton heston, judah ben-hur, roles, actor, movies
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2015-12-15
Friday, 15 May 2015 10:12 PM
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