A Star Is Shorn

Late actor's 'dream home' back on market after being gutted in incomplete renovation
Fridays on the Homefront
Here's the House that 'Ben-Hur' Built—with a lot of help from architect William Beckett. Actor Charlton Heston sits in his Beverly Hills driveway in his Jaguar XKE in the 1960s. Today, he is gone, and so is much of his former dream home, which has been gutted. It is now for sale. Photo: David Sutton (courtesy MPTV Images)

Like Norma Desmond in the classic film 'Sunset Boulevard,' a Hollywood legend is back on the market and ready for its closeup, having seen better days but yearning for a comeback.

"The House that 'Ben-Hur' Built" is what the home's first owner, actor Charlton Heston, used to call 2589 Coldwater Canyon Drive (1959), listed for sale in February at a tidy $14.9 million.

"The true architectural aficionado, they would be on the trail hunting for this," optimistically projects Brett Lawyer, listing agent on the unique property for Hilton & Hyland in Beverly Hills. Terming the design by noted modernist William Beckett "brilliant," Lawyer adds, "If you're a person who does see and appreciate the details, you're pretty blown away by it."

"The site, the elevation, and the architecture are just an extraordinary combination…" said Lawyer, who previously represented the owner, French filmmaker Luc Besson, when he bought the property in 2016 for $12.2 million.

Fridays on the Homefront
Heston House today.

"This was going to be their primary residence," he explained of the Besson family, adding, "They didn't realize it was going to take four years to get plans and permits."

Basically uninhabited since 2015, marketing photos confirm Lawyer's disclosure that the main house and most of the guesthouse have been gutted.

Heston was the action hero of 'Soylent Green' and several Hollywood epics, including the Academy Award winner for 'Best Actor' in 'Best Picture' of 1960, 'Ben-Hur.' The Illinois native lived in his dream house the last half of his life before leaving us for that great screen test in the sky in 2008.

The five-bed, six-bath home plus accessory dwellings look significantly different today than the property did for its own star turn in 2002, when filmmaker Michael Moore interviewed Heston on-camera there for his film 'Bowling for Columbine.'

Fridays on the Homefront
An example of the main house's gutting: some architecture fans are displeased.

"Someone who came to look to at it brought that up," Lawyer said of the 'Columbine' ending when Heston, an active Democrat and then-president of the National Rifle Association, abruptly ends the backyard interview by retreating indoors.

The actor purchased a 2.9-acre promontory on the southern precipice of Mulholland Drive in the late '50s and hired Beckett to design a truly unique estate.

Beckett was a Yale graduate and respected architect whose self-designed offices on Melrose Avenue received national acclaim. He married the socialite daughter of the preeminent banker in his native Kansas City, Missouri, designing numerous striking buildings there, and for the elite in Los Angeles, before passing at age 56 in 1977.

Beckett gave the star a star, literally, as that is the shape of the former Heston estate when viewed overhead. Within those celestial confines are a tennis court with observation tower, swimming pool, and three-story guesthouse/studio.

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