Charlton Heston rounded off the year with Ben-Hur, which if anything proved that stunt work was still required, and was still incredibly risky. Here, Charlton Heston did all of his own stunts except the most dangerous which came in the films climactic chariot race. Legendary stunt co-ordinator Yakima Canutt was bought onboard to put the sequence together and created one of the most thrilling, and most talked about action sequences in movie history.
Canutt was given over a year to prepare for the scene, and utilised 78 horses, with a full production team to train the animals, build the chariots and train the actors. Charlton Heston had chariot lessons for three hours a day once he arrived on-location in Rome, and as an experienced horseman picked it up quickly. Canutt filmed the whole scene as a wide shot with his stunt team and presented it to director William Wyler so he had an idea what the sequence would look like and where to place the close-ups of the main cast.
The scene was considered so dangerous that an infirmary was built next to the set, to care for anyone who got interested, although there was the only serious incident which involved Yakima Canutt’s own son Joe Canutt, who was doubling for Heston.