New Journal Guide: Faithful Remake of Oscar-Winning Classic Revisits Biblical Themes and Breakneck Chariot Race. It takes a lot of chutzpah to remake the Hollywood epic that won the most Academy Awards in history. But that’s just what we have in Ben-Hur, a fairly-faithful version of the 1959 classic starring Charlton Heston. The films are based on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a novel published in 1880 which quickly surpassed Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the best-selling American novel to date. The book’s author, Lew Wallace, was a Civil War General who had led Union soldiers at the battle of Shiloh.