It’s no small feat to step into shoes already worn by Charlton Heston. Luckily for Jack Huston, he had a couple aces up his sleeve. For one thing, the English actor, 33, is Hollywood royalty: His aunt is Anjelica Huston, his uncle is Danny Huston, his grandfather is John Huston and his great-grandfather is Walter Huston. Even better, he’s known Fraser Heston, Charlton’s son, since he was a kid. Before taking the lead in the new remake of “Ben-Hur,” he asked Fraser for his blessing, and got it. And so here Huston is as 2016’s own Judah Ben-Hur, the Jewish nobleman who seeks revenge on the friend (played by Toby Kebbell) who destroyed his family. That also means having to endure the film’s centerpiece: a redo of the famed chariot race, which took three grueling months to shoot.
You have to play Judah Ben-Hur in two very different stages: When he’s wealthy and fancy-free and when he’s starving and ripped. It must be particularly rough not eating great food when you’re shooting in Rome.
If you’re in the galleys of a slave ship, you’re not going to be eating three-course Italian meals. You’re just rowing every day. So I went a little Method and managed to drop down to 155 pounds. That’s pretty nuts.
How did you do that?
It’s kind of a funny story. The studio gave me a chef who’s also a nutritionist. He was this wonderful Italian man named Giuliano, who loved cooking and had the best heart. And he was just in a state of disarray every day. He’d come in to hand the food out, and I could see he wanted to cry every time. He had to make me the most bland, boring food — proteins and veg and no salt. It was tearing him apart inside. He really wanted to cook me the most extravagant pasta dishes with the best wine. Instead he was under strict instructions not do give me any food with any flavor.
Did you go out and gorge once you were done?
I did. I ate the equivalent of four meals in one go. I actually laid down after it. I was convinced I was going to vomit. It was a transcendent moment.