Although actor Toby Kebbell has played a range of different roles throughout his career, it wouldn’t be surprising if he quickly becomes known for being “that guy who plays villains.” He recently reprised his role as warmongering ape Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and next year can be seen playing Doctor Doom in Josh Trank’s reboot of Fantastic Four.
Now it seems that Kebbell may be gearing up to take on another villain role, this time in the religious-themed epic Ben-Hur, which is being brought to the big screen once more by Night Watch director Timur Bekmambetov. Boardwalk Empire star Jack Huston was recently cast in the lead role, but a chariot race isn’t that much fun with just one person.
According to Variety, Kebbell is currently in early talks for the role of Messala, a childhood friend of Judah Ben-Hur who becomes a commander in the Roman Garrison. The two old friends develop divergent ideologies in later life, with Messala becoming devoted to the Roman Empire and Ben-Hur committed to the freedom of the Jewish people. Messala (spoilers? Not really.) eventually makes an example out of Ben-Hur by having him condemned to slavery and his family sent to a leper colony.
Ben-Hur is based on the novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” by Lew Wallace and was famously adapted by William Wyler in 1959, with Charlton Heston playing Ben-Hur and Stephen Boyd as Messala. Many would probably argue that the 1950s version of Ben-Hur is the only one that needs to be made, but since the new film is on its way regardless, it can’t hurt to give Bekmambetov’s retelling a chance.
If Kebbell does end up taking the role then he’ll be the third cast member to join Ben-Hur, since Morgan Freeman recently signed on to play Ildarin, a slave who teaches Ben-Hur the art of chariot-racing. This character appears to be based on the Arab Sheik Ilderim from the original novel – and the fact that he’s been slightly altered suggests that screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) may have made some other changes in his adaptation.
Ben-Hur opens in theaters on February 26th, 2016.