Charlton Heston is one of the most legendary actors of all time, and the man who died in 2008 at the age of 84 had starred in an astonishing 100 films in his distinguished career. As one of the most decorated actors in Hollywood, Heston was one of the main go-to stars for production companies in the 1950s. He is known for his exceptional performances in The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, but how would the former Asheville Community Theatre manager fare in the modern age of film? Here we discuss some of Heston’s finest work, and think about how it could be different in today’s cinema.
Prior to making a name for himself in Hollywood, Heston and his wife decided to manage a theatre in Asheville, North Carolina in 1947. At the time, the two of them wanted to make it on the stage and perhaps hadn’t envisioned how successful Heston would later become. The theatre also thrived, and is one of the top locations in Asheville to visit to this day. Of course, the city is also famous for its musical roots, and the annual Christmas Jam and other unmissable events. Heston’s time in Asheville turned out to be short-lived, as a year after moving there in 1948 he returned to New York to work on Broadway, in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Heston’s breakthrough movie in Hollywood was Dark City in 1950. The film noir directed by William Dieterle centred on a group of hustlers taking a man for $5000 in a poker game. A lot of the action in the legendary actor’s debut silver screen performance took place in bricks-and-mortar casinos, but if Heston were around to star in a modern-day version of the film the poker elements could take place online. Even prestigious venues like the Hippodrome Casino have branched out to cater for online clients now as well. It may be hard to replicate the dark and gripping feel of Dark City using an online format, though. A Heston film from the 50s which could be spruced up for the 21st century is The Naked Jungle. The 1954 film from Byron Haskin saw Heston as a cocoa plantation owner faced with a plague of army ants. Now imagine that classic recreated for the modern day, but this time the protagonist is wearing virtual reality headgear like the Oculus Rift, and battling against hackers in a virtual jungle. That could make for quite an interesting premise.
Planet of the Apes and Action Work
Although Heston was one of the busiest actors in America in the 50s, during the next decade it was a while before he appeared in a big hit. The Ten Commandments in 1956 made him, while his turn in 1959’s Ben-Hur earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. But after the William Wyler film it was nearly ten years before Heston starred in Planet of the Apes, one of the most iconic pictures of all time. The 1968 science fiction film from Franklin J. Schaffner saw Heston play an astronaut who ends up stranded on a strange planet where the apes rule over humans. The movie was so important, it was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry due to its cultural and historical significance. While we can only speculate about how other Heston films would be adapted for modern audiences, Planet of the Apes has been through two other incarnations since the original. The first remake was from Tim Burton in 2001, and the film led by Mark Wahlberg stayed fairly true to the source material. The 2011 reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Rupert Wyatt opted for a fresh approach and depicted the creation of the super-intelligent apes before they went on to take control of their own planet.
In the 1970s Heston’s career took a turn towards action, and he starred in a couple of disaster films. Earthquake in 1974 and Airport 1975 the following year were both successful hits. There have been plenty of disaster films for the modern age that Heston could have starred in if he was still around, or if he had been born in a different era of cinema. The end of the world films of today have focused on issues like global warming, but an even more up-to-date one could perhaps centre on a crash of the world’s economies caused by hackers.
There is no doubt that if Heston was born a few decades later he would still be one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. And it’s interesting to think what the modern-day versions of the classics that Heston appeared in would look like. Although we will never watch the late actor in anything new again, it may be nice to see some of his best films, like Ben-Hur, get re-released.