Ben Hur star says he is fine with fans imagining his character is gay
A star of the remake of Ben Hur has said he has no problem with fans imagining homoerotic undertones between two characters.
But Toby Kebbell, who plays Messala in the 2016 remake of the 1925 epic, has said he doesn’t think there is an “overtly gay” relationship between his character and Ben Hur.
Charlton Heston, who played the original Hur, was known to deny the subplot throughout his career, whereas screenwriter Gore Vidal has said the two were written to appear as exes.
Kebbell told the Independent: “In the 1925 version, and the play before that, there was never that element,” he said. “I think that was a thing about brotherly love.
“Brotherly love, with someone who is not your family member, who cares for you, is like any love. So, whether love between two men that becomes sexual or love between you and someone who becomes your family, it’s a very deep love. That’s really what was so important to have and put forward.
“In 1959, the word homosexual had some terrifying connotations to the globe in general. After all, it wasn’t long since it was illegal in England. It was a different place in time. It doesn’t have the same fear factor now, but you do a performance and people will interpret it to what it reflects in their own life.”
But he added that he doesn’t mind if gay people see the relationship between Hur and Messala.
“We don’t make out, so there’s no overtly gay relationship. But if a man is gay and goes ‘That’s the kind of love I want to have’, well, who are we to say different,” he said.