Shooting of the remake of the epic historical drama Ben Hur began early this week in Matera, the city in southern Italy famous for its UNESCO-listed ancient cave dwellings known as Sassi.
The movie’s director, Timur Bekmambetov, selected Matera to double as Jerusalem, hometown of Ben Hur, and to film in the area of the caves for early scenes in the story.
As many as 1,000 extras have been selected to play Roman soldiers in the remake of the 1959 blockbuster that starred Charlton Heston and Jack Hawkins and that won 11 Oscars. Residents of Matera, which has been selected as 2019 European Capital of Culture, are among the extras in the film.
Tourists visiting these days may get a chance to spot some of the film's stars, including Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston.
Filming is expected to continue for about a month among the Sassi, which have already been used as a location for Hollywood films, including the famous “Passion of the Christ” directed by Mel Gibson.
The production is scheduled to move to Cinecittà in Rome next month.