In The Ten Commandments, I Performed All My Own Miracles
By Chalrton Heston
Whenever people talk about The Ten Commandments, a film I made 50 years ago with a fellow named Cecil B. DeMille, they go on and on about the impressive “special effects.” So let me take this opportunity to set the record straight: I performed all my own miracles in that picture, so if you’re going to praise someone, it should be me.
There was nothing in that movie that I didn’t make happen with my own two hands. I realize some of these so-called actors today rely on camera tricks and computers to do their jobs for them, but I’m not one to allow some punk editor to cut and paste me into the middle of a Red Sea I didn’t part myself. I rode a chariot in Ben-Hur for Pete’s sake, and you can be darn sure I’ll channel God’s power to move a little water about when I need to.
There was no soundstage. No on-site tank. Just good old-fashioned elbow grease. That’s the only way I know how to part a major body of water. I just stretched out my arm, delivered my line, and saved over a million Israelites from their certain death. Difficult? For some, maybe. But I got it in one take and took the crew out for lunch.
Of course, partial credit goes to the walking staff I was holding at the time, which I had the good sense to carve from a gypsy-cursed redwood and grant power over the earth and sea before the film began.
If you ask me, special effects are just Hollywood talk for cutting corners. If you really want to give the audience a show, you’ve got to do something risky like summon God’s 10 plagues on Egypt yourself. It was originally God’s idea, but the execution was all me, just like every other miracle in that film. That goes for the frogs, rivers of blood, locusts, pillars of fire, even the burning bush. Call me a traditionalist, but that’s all part of the job of an actor.
For the second half of the film, I also played the part of Yul Brynner.
That kind of dedication is why they signed me in the first place. I’m always willing to go that extra mile and personally rain down pestilence from the heavens, and I think the director saw that during casting. I even spent 40 years wandering in the desert just to grow an authentic beard. Not to mention I was the only SAG actor who had personally spoken to God.
But I suppose I’ve never been one to take the easy route. Most actors would have let the studio create the Angel of Death with trick lighting, but not me. I walked right up to DeMille, looked him square in the eye and said, “Give me a chance, Cecil. Let me do it my way.”
Naturally, I considered how much easier hovering over that village and single- handedly slaughtering all of Egypt’s firstborns would have been if I didn’t have to avoid all the households with lamb’s blood on their doors—but if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
Even though I am constantly telling interviewers and strangers at the grocery store how I turned my staff into a snake, which then ate the snake of Pharaoh’s court magician, they persist with this “special effects” nonsense. I’m starting to wonder why I bothered shrinking myself down and assuming the form of a small infant so that I could be placed in a basket and floated down the River Nile when they could have just substituted a stunt baby and no one would have batted an eye.
What has happened to artistic integrity? Am I the only actor left who cares about his craft?
When a director signs Chuck Heston, he knows he’s getting a pro. For Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil, I labored for weeks altering my genetic code to turn myself into a Mexican.
And when I was cast in Planet Of The Apes, I constructed the world’s first functioning time machine to travel to the future, where I spent six months living among an advanced society of apes in order to prepare for the role. Everyone warned me about the risks of fighting in the resulting revolution, but I went just the same. I even hunted down and brought back the futuristic primates to serve as extras, but that didn’t stop those jokers at the Academy from nominating the movie for Best Costume Design.
Unfortunately, I’m getting too old to keep up the pace I’ve set for myself. I’m ashamed to say it, but because of my age and deteriorating health, my agent would not allow me to re-eat hundreds of human beings for the 30th-anniversary DVD release of Soylent Green. I guess it’s time for me to hang up my hat and my magic cloak of invisibility, and retire to my lunar estate with my wife Cleopatra to live out my final days before the apocalypse on Aug. 2.