Charlton Heston was just as oblivious to the subtext of Ben-Hur, which had been arrived at through the collusion of the writer Gore Vidal, the director William Wyler and Heston’s co-star, Stephen Boyd, who played Ben-Hur’s friend Messala. The two characters’ rivalry lacked weight so Vidal suggested that Messala hoped secretly to rekindle a boyhood romance between them. “Don’t tell Chuck,” said Wyler. However, Vidal did tip off Boyd. “He agreed to play the frustrated lover,” Vidal said. “Study his face in the reaction shots in that scene, and you will see that he plays it like a man starving.” c

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