Chariot-racing Romans take over Stade de France

21st September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 21, 2006 (AFP) - 'Ben-Hur', the sword and sandal epic portrayed on the big screen by Charlton Heston, is set for a return — in a live version staged at France's biggest sport's stadium.

PARIS, Sept 21, 2006 (AFP) - 'Ben-Hur', the sword and sandal epic portrayed on the big screen by Charlton Heston, is set for a return — in a live version staged at France's biggest sport's stadium.

*sidebar1*Behind the 13-million-euro show is the veteran Paris-born director Robert Hossein who unleashes horse-drawn chariot races and a cast of hundreds on the Stade de France from Friday.

No stranger to large-scale productions, the 78-year-old director is particularly known for his historic stagings and notched up a Guinness Book record in 1983-84 when 700,000 people saw 'A Man Named Jesus'.

"The films on Ben-Hur have always made me dream," Hossein said last year, referring to the 1959 William Wyler version that starred Heston, as well as the silent version by Fred Niblo in 1927.

"Our show will be something different but it will also be a tribute to these productions," he added.

The sports stadium, north of Paris, which was the venue of France's 1998 World Cup victory against Brazil, spans some 15,000 square metres, equal to the arenas of ancient Rome, such as the Colosseum.

Around 300 actors have been hired to help portray the gladiatorial tale of Judah Ben-Hur and Messala played here by two little-known actors, Christophe Heraut and Franck Semonin.

Like the Wyler movie which carried off 11 Academy Awards, a naval battle between the Roman armada and pirates, as well as the finale chariot race are set to be the dramatic high points.

"A chariot race is always rather risky. There have been some falls during rehearsals but considering the plan, that seems logical," the show's press service commented.

The project has seen Hossein again collaborate with historian and academic Alain Decaux who adapted into 10 tableaux the novel written in 1880 by the American Lew Wallace.

Last month in an eye-catching city centre publicity stunt for the show, five Roman horse-drawn chariots carrying toga-clad gladiators paraded past the Eiffel Tower.

About 245,000 tickets have already been sold for the five shows which look set to out-do the audiences of French rocker Johnny Hallyday, Canadian singer Celine Dion or U2, the Irish rock band.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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