The remake, starring Jack Huston in the lead role and Morgan Freeman, has been prevented by Italy’s Minister of Culture from using the historic stadium as a shooting location. The City of Rome is not happy, telling Italian media that a two-week shoot there could have netted it $1.1 million (1 million euros).
Last year, Rome rented out the location for a Rolling Stones concert for $11,100 at the time (8,000 euros), which netted over $8.3 million for the band. Public outrage over the symbolic price tag prompted higher rental fees. Comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo later used the site for a three-day political rally.
While no official reason has been given, archeological experts speculate that a staged chariot race could potentially damage the landmark site. The city is still reeling from an incident in February when Dutch soccer hooligans rioted in the city, vandalizing the famous Barcaccia fountain at the foot of the Spanish Steps.
A scene was recently cut from the shoot for new James Bond film, Spectre in Rome, at the city’s Baroque Quattro Fontane. The four fountains, which are currently being restored, were deemed too fragile for a high-speed car chase. While a staging of the scene was called 99 percent safe, the 1 percent probability of damage to the historic landmark was deemed not worth the risk.
The Ben-Hur remake is currently being shot at Cinecitta studios after a location shoot in Matera, Italy. Sources close to the production say the chariot race scene will now be shot at Dino Studios at Cinecitta and remain there amid a deal between the film production and MGM studios.
The original film was shot at Cinecitta in 1957, and production went on for two years. The nine-minute chariot race scene, starring Charlton Heston, took a grueling three months to shoot and remains one of cinema’s most iconic sequences.