The Definition Of An Epic: 1959’s Ben-Hur

Considered one of the greatest period historical epics of all time, Ben-Hur continues to marvel audiences who are conditioned to CGI daily. It’s a mix of religion, violence, and heroism that has kept everyone on the edge of their seats since 1959. See why this film is at the top of the few to win a record-breaking number of Academy Awards, and why it’s still considered to be the definition of “epic” in film.

William Wyler Turned Down The Directing Position, At First

When director William Wyler was initially offered to direct the 1957 production of Ben-Hur, he turned it down. However, after reading the script, he didn’t think much of it until he realized that it was a story worth telling.

William Wyler in a directors chair
Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

On top of that, in directing the Biblical epic, he also saw an opportunity to one-up The Ten Commandments from director Cecil B. DeMille, as the two had a rivalry for quite some time. If that wasn’t enough, MGM was offering the biggest pay ever offered to a Hollywood director at the time of $350,000 – plus eight percent of the gross or three percent of the net profits, whichever was more.