Back in the Jurassic Age before Twitter, celebrities used to settle scores in public by writing letters to newspapers. One of the liveliest dust-ups in memory took place in the pages of the L.A. Times between actor
As a screenwriter and actor, Vidal had a hand in a number of movies, including "Suddenly Last Summer" and the epically awful "Caligula." But Vidal also was involved in a very different sword-and-sandals affair, the 1959 remake of
What triggered the smackdown between Heston and Vidal was the release of the 1995
According to Vidal, Heston was never let in on that twist, and the actor was not amused by Vidal's account in the film. In a March 17, 1996, letter to The L.A. Times, Heston asserted that Vidal had a minimal role in writing "Ben-Hur": Heston wrote that Vidal "produced a scene of several pages which Wyler rejected after a read-through."
"Vidal's claim that he slipped in a scene implying a homosexual relationship between the two men insults Willy Wyler and, I have to say, irritates the hell out of me," Heston concluded.
Vidal, never one to back down from a verbal brawl, responded to Heston's terse letter with a much longer elaboration of his role in "Ben-Hur," and taunting Heston as "the spokesperson for the National Rifle Assn."
"As for you, Chuck," he summed up, "just remember that wise saying, Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."
Read the entire back-and-forth: Counterpunch: Gore Vidal responds to Charlton Heston