Miklós Rózsa wrote the musical score over a period of nearly a year. He was resident in Rome with the production while he composed, and recorded his music with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at MGM's Borehamwood studios outside London.
In the original novel, Ben-Hur's mother does not have a name; she is referred to as Mother of Hur. For the film, she was called Miriam.
Leslie Nielsen made a screen test for the part of Messala, part of which can be seen in the documentary Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic (1993). Audrey Hepburn visited the set during the filming of the chariot race (she was in the midst of shooting The Nun's Story (1959)). This led to the false legend that she was an extra in the crowd scenes, as a favor to William Wyler, who gave Hepburn her first starring role in Roman Holiday (1953), for which she won the Oscar. Hepburn, one of Wyler's favorite actresses and people, would make two more films for him, The Children's Hour (1961) and How to Steal a Million (1966)
According to his memoirs Stewart Granger was offered the role of Messala but claimed that he turned it down on the advice of his agent who recommended Granger not to play a supporting role to Charlton Heston.
During filming, director William Wyler noticed that one of the extras was missing a hand. He had the make-up department construct a prosthetic that included a protruding false bone to cover the man's stump for the scene where the galley was rammed by a pirate ship. Wyler made similar use of an extra who was missing a foot. |