Pope blesses Rodrigo Santoro, the actor playing Jesus Christ in Ben-Hur remake

Rodrigo Santoro, who will play Jesus Christ in an upcoming adaptation of the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, has received a blessing from Pope Francis in Rome. During a break from production in Italy, the actor attended the Papal Audience with his Ben-Hur co-star Nazanin Boniadi, and met with the Pope. The papal blessing was captured in a photo by Nazanin, who plays Esther in the new movie.

Rodrigo Santoro is blessed by Pope Francis

Brazilian star Rodrigo, 39, is best known for playing Laura Linney's love interest in Love, Actually, and has appeared as Xerxes in 300 and its sequel 300: Rise of an Empire. He was also a series regular on the TV series Lost, playing Paulo.

In his latest project, he takes on the role of Jesus, alongside Boardwalk Empire's Jack Huston as Judah Ben-Hur, Toby Kebbell as Messala and Morgan Freeman as Sheik Ilderim.

With Rodrigo Santoro (Jesus in #BenHur) at the #Vatican. Thanks for an incredible experience @romadowney! #Rome

A photo posted by Nazanin Boniadi (@nazaninboniadi) on

Rodrigo Santoro and Nazanin Boniadi at the Vatican

The 2016 release tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a nobleman accused of treason by his childhood friend Messala. He is sold into slavery as a chained oarsman and later returns home and rebuilds his life as a chariot racer, vowing revenge on the man who betrayed him.

It is not the first time the novel has been adapted for the big screen. In 1925 a silent film was made based on the book, but it is often the 1959 version, starring Charlton Heston, which audiences remember.

An audience with the #Pope. #Vatican #Rome

A photo posted by Nazanin Boniadi (@nazaninboniadi) on

Nazanin Boniadi waiting to meet the Pope

The new historical epic is being directed by Timur Bekmambetov – and the shoot has not been without its difficulties. In March, Italian officials banned producers from shooting inside Rome's Circus Maximus, the chariot-racing site that so famously featured in the 1959 Ben-Hur film. The crew was forced to re-create the ancient site in a local studio instead.

Nazanin, 34, shared some other photos from the actors' visit to the Vatican this week; one shows her and Rodrigo standing together in front of St Peter's Basillica, and another shows the pretty brunette smiling as she waits to meet the Pope.

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