The 2000-year-old Circus Maximus chariot racing stadium would have been the ideal place to film the famous action chase scene for the new Ben Hur remake starring Morgan Freeman, Rodrigo Santoro and Jack Huston. But alas, it seems it is not to be.
And it’s not just Hollywood producers who will be left disappointed – the mayor of the city, Ignazio Marino, is also thought to have seen the decision by cultural authorities as a missed opportunity for Rome.
“The aim of the city administration isn’t so much to raise revenue in exchange for the use of public space, but to give back to Rome the role of being a big international set, which is in our history and our tradition,” the mayor’s office told the Guardian.
The local economy would have benefited from one million euros in rental fees if filming had been allowed at the original location, reported Corriere della Sera.
It is understood Ben Hur film executives sent the shooting request in December last year, but a source told Italian publication Il Messaggero that it was turned down due to ‘technical reasons.’ The Italian Culture Ministry has so far declined to comment on the situation.
Already in Italy, the film crew and cast has resorted to building a set of the Circus Maximus at Rome’s Cinecittà studios.
Apparently, the Circus Maximus is currently under refurbishment and Roman artefacts are still being found in the area, including pots, coins and wheels.
The news comes after the Rolling Stones booked the venue for just €8,000, for a concert of 70,000 people, in 2014. Lady Gaga, Bob Geldof’s Live 8 concert and Genesis have also played at the historic setting in the past.
Filming will continue in other parts of Italy, including Matera, famous for its sassi (stone houses etched into the stone cliffs).
The remake of the classic 1959 Ben Hur film will be released in February 2016.
See the chariot race from the original film below: