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Roma Downey's $100m Ben Hur remake is box office bomb

By Claire McNeilly

Published 26/08/2016

Relative unknown Jack Huston starring in Ben Hur
Relative unknown Jack Huston starring in Ben Hur
Roma and husband Mark Burnett

Roma Downey has admitted to feeling "empty and drained" following the financial failure and critical lambasting of her big screen remake of the biblical epic Ben-Hur.

The Londonderry-born actress and producer was "walking on air" less than a fortnight ago after being inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But she has been brought back to earth with an almighty bump after Ben-Hur bombed at the US box office.

The reworking of one of Tinseltown's most successful movies of all time - which starred Charlton Heston and Glengormley native Stephen Boyd, and won 11 Oscars in 1959 - recouped less than a tenth of its $131m budget on its opening weekend.

It now looks certain to be the biggest cinematic flop of the summer, with industry insiders predicting it to make a loss of $100m. Downey's husband and the movie's co-executive producer Mark Burnett - the man behind hit reality show The Apprentice - is now facing an uncertain future as president of MGM, which put up most of the finance for the ill-fated movie.

Former Thornhill College pupil Downey, a devout Christian, said she was seeking God's support during what looks like the lowest point of her career.

She uploaded a picture on her Facebook page and wrote "Fill me up Lord, I am on empty!"

It was followed by the hashtags "give me strength, praying, more of you less of me, and I love you Lord."

Downey and Burnett - who refer to themselves as "the noisiest Christians in Hollywood" - had hoped that the third film version of Lew Wallace's 19th century novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ would inspire Christian cinema-goers with its themes of forgiveness and redemption. The couple gambled, and clearly failed, on casting a virtual unknown actor, Jack Huston, to play the title role for which Hollywood legend Heston won an Academy Award.

And the Timur Bekmambetov-directed reboot attracted savage reviews from Hollywood critics.

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles times called it "a dull and lethargic piece of work", while Variety's Owen Bleiberman described it as "sludgy and plodding".

Todd McCarthy, of the Hollywood Reporter, asked: "What were they thinking?"

On the influential movie websites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, Ben-Hur scored a demoralising 29% and 37% respectively.

Belfast Telegraph

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