From the Guardian:

First he turned the torments of France's great leader into an interactive stage spectacular called De Gaulle, the Man Who Said No, then he tackled the lives of Jesus and the beheaded queen Marie Antoinette. Now the veteran French impresario Robert Hossein, who once acted alongside Jean-Paul Belmondo and Brigitte Bardot, is undertaking his most ambitious show: a re-enactment of Ben-Hur in France's biggest football stadium.

The sword-and-sandal epic in which Charlton Heston swept to victory after cinema's most famous chariot race is to be staged on an epic scale at the arena where France won the football World Cup in 1998. A cast of several hundred will recreate naval battles between the Roman fleet and Mediterranean pirates, and stage ancient Roman gladiator fights and a live chariot race.

Hossein's stage shows, including his interpretation of the life and times of French revolutionaries Danton and Robespierre, have often been frowned upon by highbrow Paris critics.

When he set a crowd of gladiators in horse-drawn chariots rampaging past the Eiffel tower last month to publicise his latest offering, commentators reserved judgment. But others are in awe of his ability to draw huge audiences in a city whose mainstream theatre scene is dominated by slapstick comedies and bedroom farce.

Hossein's epic A Man Named Jesus was seen by 700,000 people and he wants Ben-Hur to pack the Stade de France in Paris for five nights later this month. Among the techniques used to pull crowds is a plan to sell more than 1,000 "m-tickets" which spectators can download by mobile phone.

Hossein, almost 80, the Paris-born son of an Iranian composer and a Russian pianist, places himself in a long tradition, stretching back to vaudeville and popular melodramas of 19th century Parisian théâtres de boulevard.

Ben-Hur, the story of the Jewish Prince Judah Ben-Hur's triumph over his Roman persecutors, based on a novel by American civil war general Lew Wallace, has been the subject of a huge publicity campaign rivalling the hype around another big theatre piece of the autumn, Sam Mendes's Tony-winning production of Cabaret in a French language version at the Folies Bergère.

Jean-Christophe Giletta, of Stade de France Productions, which is putting on the show, said: "Ben-Hur is universal, it's international, everyone knows what it is. But no one had dared to put it on up to now." He said negotiations had begun to send the show abroad, including to the US and Asia.

Training the horses for a 14 minute chariot race in which Ben-Hur's enemy, the Roman Messala - played by Alain Delon's son, Anthony - must fall from his chariot and be dragged along in the dirt, has taken nine months at a special equestrian centre outside Paris. "It's not like in the cinema, where if you miss a shot you can do it again. Here, it's going to be a live chariot race every evening," Mr Giletta said. "Horses... you can train them all you want, they're still horses. "

That is seriously cool ...