Snapshot, 1958: Ben Hur, doing it the Roman way

It’s 1958, and Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd are at Cinecittà Studios, shooting the monumental film ‘Ben Hur’. But it wasn’t just the movie’s chariot race in which things got a bit intense between the two, as their duel continued after shooting ended — but this time, in modern Roman style…

At this time, Charlton Heston and his British colleague, Stephen Boyd, don’t know that Ben Hur will be one of the most successful and famous films in Hollywood for the next half century. But one thing is for certain: the production has been tremendous from the outset. Planning for the film started in 1953 and, to bring it to life, the production team is currently keeping track of over 50,000 extras, one million props, and 40,000 tonnes of Mediterranean sand. During the filming of the now famous racing scene, where Ben Hur (Charlton Heston) triumphs over his Roman adversary Mesalla (Stephen Boyd), six of nine wagons suffered total damage. But at least the two title heroes escaped unscathed, and also rather undeterred, continuing their battle even after shooting ended — this time with a Vespa and bicycle serving as substitutes for their demolished chariots. And just as in the film, Jewish Prince Ben Hur, now on his scooter, brought down the mighty Roman tribune. By the way, Vespasians can breathe a sigh of relief, as no scooters were seriously damaged in the making of this film.

Photo: Pierluigi Praturlon / Reporters Associati & Archivi / Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images