…a friend passed along a Cinecitta anecdote from no less a personage than Charlton Heston. Heston had told him “that the majority of shots were taken from a single side of the set, to simplify camera placements.” Oh, for God’s sake!
HE reply: “Be that as it may…okay, fine. But why in heaven’s name would William Wyler build a full-sized stadium and arena with a huge middle island with those four kneeling warrior sculptures…a massive, full-sized stadium and chariot racetrack with acres and acres of room on all sides…why build this massive outdoor set if the plan was to mainly use one side of the racetrack for filmimg?
“Common visual logic (i.e., the attached photos) tell us there were no physical obstructions or logistical advantages to emphasizing one side or the other…talk about an illogical scenario.
1st AD to Wyler: “Uhm, Willy, we’ve taken a hard look at things and the ample size and massive scale of this hugely expensive outdoor set notwithstanding, we’ve figured it’ll be simpler to mainly shoot on just one side of the arena.” Wyler to 1st AD: “You’re fired.”
BTW: This morning I re-watched the chariot race sequence from the 1926 version of Ben-Hur, and there’s a great shot around the 2.25 mark that Wyler’s 1959 version didn’t have. It was apparently taken from inside a dug-in hole in the track, and shows several chariots thundering directly overhead.