[By Jennifer Riley - Christian Post Reporter]
A film on America’s favorite evangelist, Billy Graham, is being produced in Nashville, Tenn., where one of the featured cast members is Graham’s first cousin. The biopic, Billy: The Early Years, focuses on Graham’s life, starting with his teenage years in Charlotte, N.C. Besides Nashville, the film was also shot in Watertown, Tenn.
Graham in his older years will be played by his first cousin, Bill Graham, who is also a preacher, according to The Tennessean.
But for most of the movie, Armie Hammer, who is said to have a strong resemblance to the renowned evangelist, will play young Graham.
"They've never made a movie about this guy, and beyond any sort of spiritual reasons or anything like that, he is really an iconic figure of the 20th century," said Hammer to The Tennessean.
"He's gone places and done things that no one else has been able to do, and he can do it all with such grace,” reflected Hammer, who is the great-grandson of industrialist/philanthropist Armand Hammer. “From an acting standpoint, that is such a difficult role to try to emulate.”
Hammer expressed his commitment to capturing the character of Graham – from his accent and movements to even his motivation. He said he spent hours studying videos of Graham’s sermons. "I've been going to church and reading my Bible and doing a lot of other spiritual work to get in that right headspace to even start to play someone like Billy Graham," Hammer revealed. In addition to Hammer’s efforts, the hair stylist reportedly spends about two hours shaping Hammer’s hair to resemble Graham’s wavy locks. Co-producer Bill McKay, who has already done two documentaries on Graham, said the preacher was concerned that “the images that we might paint of Billy Graham … could eclipse the face of Jesus.”
"Most of the evangelists I've met, I wouldn't give you two nickels for. But when I sat down with Billy Graham, it was an entirely different experience," McKay said on Nashville TV station WKRN.
The movie also features Oscar nominee Hal Holbrook in the role of Graham’s friend and mentor Charles Templeton, according to Christianity Today. "It's like this is a message that he continued to get out his entire life," Hammer said, referring to the movie’s focus on Graham’s proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ. "Now that he is getting older and he can't get the message out, we're doing it for him. "We're taking his story and his message and staying very true to that and getting it out."
Filming for Billy: The Early Years began March 26 and, according to schedule, will run through May 10. The movie is slated to be released in fall 2008.