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Heston, Charlton 2

Heston 'parts clouds' at Orem benefit

From the March 3, 1990, Deseret News

As he was introduced at a news conference Friday night, Charlton Heston looked out over the room full of reporters and commented on the cloudiness outside: "You notice the weather is clearing up?" Then after a pause for effect, added, "You are welcome."

Heston, along with artist Arnold Friberg, was guest of honor at a $30-a-ticket fund-raising event for Sharon's Cultural Educational Recreational Association, better known as the SCERA complex in Orem.

And Heston's humorous remark was in reference to what is arguably his most famous role, Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments."

Heston and Friberg introduced a special 70mm presentation of "The Ten Commandments," to kick off a $3 million expansion project.

Heston and Friberg both shared anecdotes with the audience.

On display in the lobby of SCERA theater were 15 of Friberg's paintings, commissioned by Cecil B. DeMille and used by the director for inspiration as he developed his film. Included was the huge mural depicting the parting of the red sea, perhaps the movie's most famous scene.

Heston, sporting a beard, said he was happy to come to Orem to support the SCERA arts project. But he said he also came to see the movie and the paintings. "I wanted to see the movie blown up the way it was made. It's shown a couple of times a year on TV but this is the way it was meant to be seen."

It had also been a long time since Heston had seen Friberg's actual paintings. "I wanted to see Arnold's paintings again. His version of the parting of the Red Sea is better than we did it in the movie."

Asked about the possible future of Biblical epics, Heston said such films are just too expensive to make today. "`Pee-wee's Big Adventure' cost more than "Ben-Hur,' " he said, pointing out that the budget of "The Ten Commandments" adjusted for inflation and costs of today's filmmaking would be $121 million.

Friberg highly praised DeMille as a filmmaker and said working for him was artistically inspiring but also quite demanding. After doing hundreds of sketches Friberg had to do all the oil paintings within a seven-month period.

"I hope I never have to work that hard again," he said, but he added, "My talents have never poured out like they did for DeMille."

Also on display in the lobby were memorabilia from Brigham Young University's Cecil B. DeMille collection, including original lobby cards, costume designs, set designs, one of the original scripts and miniature reproductions of the two commandment tablets, made of granite taken from Mount Sinai.

Even the refreshments at a reception maintained the theme; a large pink cake was made in the shape of the tablets.

Heston, a longtime supporter of the arts, waived his normal $15,000 speaking fee to participate in the event, which marketing director Branden Miller said amounted to a $15,000 donation to the SCERA Foundation.

The 756-seat theater was sold out for the event, and though the exhibits are now gone, a commercial run of the 70mm "The Ten Commandments" begins Saturday at the SCERA.