In my 4.23 story about the forthcoming Paramount-MGM remake of Ben-Hur (“William Wyler Turns In His Grave“), I used all my gunpowder trashing the hiring of the vulgar, sloth-like Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter) to direct. In so doing I overlooked Paramount’s signing of rightwing Christian producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (The Bible miniseries, Son of God) to guide the production. This is even more sickening. The idea of selling Ben-Hur to “faith-driven consumers” is just as phony a sales pitch as the one used when the original Ben-Hur author, General Lew Wallace, called his book “A Tale of the Christ.” As screenwriter Gore Vidal explained in a “Making of” documentary about the 1959 version, Ben-Hur is the story of unrequited love, betrayal and revenge between a Jewish boy and a Roman boy. Rage and bitterness are washed clean at the finale by Christ’s blood trickling into a stream, fine…but Ben-Hur never would have never been made into a film if the character of Judah Ben-Hur had followed the Nazarene’s teachings. If Judah (Charlton Heston) had returned from Jack Hawkins’ villa in Rome and decided to turn the other cheek and forgive Messala (Stephen Boyd) after learning that his boyhood friend had condemned his mother and sister to prison and the scourge of leprosy (instead of doing what he does in the film, which is to challenge and then defeat Messala in the chariot race, which results in Messala being trampled to death by horses), Ben-Hur never would have gotten the go-ahead. So don’t give me any of this religious thematic crap because Ben-Hur is about having your cake (i.e., sweet revenge) and eating it too (i.e., being re-born at the finale).