Hollywood remakes are nothing if not a mixed bag. Every once in a while, filmmakers get lucky and turn out a product that is seen as much more entertaining (or merely competent) compared to the original that came before it. Other times (arguably most times), the do-over tends to lack what made the first take so exciting and fresh, instead coming off as either a shameless cash grab or a merely forgettable cinematic endeavor (2012’s Total Recall).
One such upcoming remake certain to face that uphill battle is Timur Bekmambetov’s Ben-Hur. While this new version of the classic tale will mix things up a bit (by including Judah’s encounters with Jesus Christ), it will still function mainly as a remake of the 1959 classic starring Charlton Heston; a film tied for the most Oscar wins (11). In other words, Bekmambetov and his team have quite a hurdle to clear. But he may have some superhero-level help before long.
That would be none other than Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot (Fast Five). According to the Hollywood Reporter, the actress is currently circling the part of Esther, a slave who wins the heart of Ben-Hur. It’s unknown at this point if there are other actresses also up for the role, although it seems as if the part is currently Gadot’s to lose.
This news comes as a bit of a surprise, since Gadot’s schedule is about to get a lot more crowded than it is currently. Having to balace filming Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, headlining her own solo vehicle not long after, appearing in Justice League Part 1, and (presumably) Justice League Part 2. That’s a lot of Diana in a very short time, which will raise some questions as to whether or not Gadot will have the ability to take on other films.
For now, though, it seems possible. Batman V Superman will be done filming by the time Bekmambetov starts rolling his cameras (he’s aiming for early 2015), and the DC part of Gadot’s life won’t get too hectic until 2017 when both Wonder Woman and Justice League are set to hit theaters. Seeing that Ben-Hur will be released in February 2016, that means Gadot should be more than able to take on all these commitments without problem.
Of course, this is considering Gadot would want to take on so many big-budget projects. This isn’t like Ben Affleck signing up for (relatively) smaller works like The Accountant in between Batman outings. The DC adaptations and Ben-Hur are all going to be large in scale, regardless of how sizable Gadot’s roles in them may be. She obviously feels confident in her time management skills if she’s willing to enter discussions, but it’s worth keeping this in mind as the story develops (even daughters of Zeus need a break now and then).
As for whether or not Ben-Hur will prove to be a solid pre-DC move for the actress? That’s admittedly hard to call. The film’s screenwriter, John Ridley, won an Oscar last year for penning 12 Years a Slave, so he has the ability to craft the kind of compelling character drama needed to supply the emotional core of a story this epic. In the end, it’s Bekmambetov that gives us pause, since his stylish action flicks like Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter are in a very different league from a Biblical epic.
Still, that doesn’t mean he can’t surprise. With an award-winning writer in tow and a high-profile cast jumping on board, it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on in 2016. Sure, the February release date doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, but not every winter release is awful (see: The LEGO Movie). The new edition of Ben-Hur may never reach the lofty heights of the film that preceded it, but it could still prove to be a solid bit of filmmaking on its own.
Ben-Hur will be in theaters February 26, 2016.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.