'Ben-Hur' inspired by Jesus Christ's crucifixion and forgiveness, producer Mark Burnett reveals

The value of forgiveness highlighted in the movie "Ben-Hur" was inspired by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, according to Christian producer Mark Burnett.

(REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)Executive producer Roma Downey and her husband producer Mark Burnett pose at the premiere for the movie 'Ben-Hur' at TCL Chinese theater in Hollywood, California U.S., August 16, 2016.

"Ben-Hur" producer Burnett explained that the movie's story is set at the same time that Jesus was crucified. He said watching Christ die on the cross made the main character (Jack Huston) realize that he and his brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) have to forgive each other, Christian Today relays.

"And Ben Hur witnessing the crucifixion and hearing Jesus forgive those who crucified him. It made him realize, what am I doing?" said Burnett. "What is Messala doing, my own brother? My adopted brother but my own brother? And he goes and they forgive each other as a result of that. It's completely unique."

For Burnett, Lew Wallace's 1880 novel "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" is the most Christian novel ever. The novel, on which the movie was based, flawlessly combines Jesus' story and Judah Ben-Hur's adventure. It chronicles one brother's experience of being enslaved because of the other brother's doing and his attempt to exact revenge for it.

"The worst of the worst. The chariot race is a combination of this but at the end it becomes a story of forgiveness because it coincides with the crucifixion of Jesus," Burnett added. "And Jesus's words of forgiving those who are crucifying, father, forgive them they know not what they do."

However, the movie's Russian director Timur Bekmambetov lamented the failure of many people to grasp the main message of "Ben-Hur." In fact, he blamed the theme of forgiveness for the film's failure to take off at the U.S. box office, The Hollywood Reporter details.

In an interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Bekmambetov said Hollywood movies usually do not inspire people to forgive their enemies. For many people these days, revenge is a much more attractive prospect compared with forgiveness and this, he said, is the main factor which drove the box office performance of the faith-inspired film.

"Ben-Hur" was produced by MGM and Paramount on a budget of $100 million. However, it only grossed $26.4 million when it opened in U.S. theaters in August 2016.