WONDER WOMAN: Jim Schembri’s interview with Ben-Hur uber-producer Roma Downey
WONDER WOMAN: The star of Touched by an Angel, Roma Downey, is now one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers. And she has God on her side.
After the success of The Bible mini-series, Roma Downey and her producing partner Mark Burnett (producer of Survivor and Downey’s husband) were asked by MGM to remake the classic film Ben-Hur.
Their initial reaction was less than enthusiastic – their jaws hit the floor, she recalls – yet the opportunity of introducing the story to a new generation of filmgoers proved too tempting.
Speaking from the Beverly Hills Four Seasons on a slightly scratchy mobile phone line, Downey is boisterously proud of the film, despite the cynicism she expects will greet it.
Horse play: The famous chariot race from the 1959 film is recreated with added vividness and scale in the new version.
Born in Northern Ireland, Roma Downey became famous for her lead role in the faith-based TV series Touched by an Angel, which ran for nine seasons from 1994 to 2003.
She then moved into production with Burnett (who also produced Shark Tank, The Apprentice and The Voice). Together, and in bold defiance of industry cynicism, they made the 2013 mini-series The Bible; over its 10 lavishly produced episodes the show drew a massive audience of around 100 million viewers.
Raised Catholic, Downey is a spiritual person and president of Lightworkers Media, MGM’s production division dedicated to making faith-based programs.
Downey is nothing if not devoted to the idea of mass media making the world a better place.
In this interview, in which Downey’s sense of humour is clearly on show, she discusses Ben-Hur, its centrepiece chariot race, its message of peace and how she discovered the power TV and cinema can have on people’s lives.
Please enjoy this special interview – the average quality of the phone line notwithstanding.
Click play for the Roma Downey interview
Click play to view a trailer for Ben-Hur