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BenHur-After

Charlton Heston in his Academy Award winning role as Judah Ben Hur in Ben Hur

I was at  Charlton Heston‘s home. It was in the mid 90s. We were discussing an upcoming role about a down-and-out man who had nothing left but his fading  looks and his charm. He was a teacher at a dance studio. The man had a way with  older women and swindled them so he could survive.

Charlton and I sat around his coffee table and someone brought in late morning coffee. There was a white carafe and a canary yellow plate of muffins.  I remembered how surreal the moment was for me.  I grew up in a good Christian family in Ohio and went to  movies like Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. Here I was sitting with the man who had starred in those motion pictures.  He had wept at Jesus’ feet, his mane of lion hair and beard went white when he saw the face of God. Now he was pouring coffee into the cups high on a mountain in Beverly Hills.

“I have played noble,” said Charlton Heston in his deep theatrical voice. “ I have made a good living playing noble. But I have never played charming. Charm? I think it eludes most heroes.  I want to show you something.”

And then he took me to a secret place, a vanilla-painted wall outside the  master bedroom.  There was no boasting in the tour, it was his proof of  his statement. There upon the wide expanse was a carefully curated collection of a hundred water-colored  portraits. They were  framed in plain wood and contained every role Charlton had  ever played. Of course, there was Judah Ben Hur and Moses, but there was  also Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Richelieu, Marc Antony, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson.

“Look,” he said, reinforcing his statement. “Not a twinkle amidst the bunch.”

Several days later, we  decided that the role and Charlton could not mesh.

For years, I thought of that conversation with Charlton Heston It made me profoundly sad. He was right, however. Nobility and charm  seldom played well together in the landscape of the hero. We see it  most notably in Bond and Indy.  However those elements can be found in the wide express of the epic stories , as in projects like  The Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars.

 

Note: This was an early first insight into the project, The Barefoot Prince