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Billy Graham - the movie

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Variety reports that a Billy biopic is in the works...

I wish they'd use the Swirling Eddies song about him in the soundtrack...

Wait... Robbie Benson is directing? Isn't that the guy who was the voice for Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast?

Edited by Overstreet

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Link to the thread on films made BY Billy Graham.

FWIW, I blogged this film a month ago, when the only cast member who had been announced was Hal Holbrook as the old, agnostic, post-Christian Charles Templeton, looking back on the days when he and Billy Graham had co-founded Youth for Christ and done evangelism tours together.

But there is no mention of Holbrook in the Variety story, so either the script or the casting may have changed since then, who knows.

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There has been buzz here in Nashville for a couple months about this being shot here, but I hadn't heard very many details about it yet. The article says that Scott Brasher is the composer for the film. Scott has done a couple other indie feature films and a lot of smaller projects, but has also played keyboards on the road for Michael Card for many years. I have a couple friends that are trying to get on the crew of this project, so I'll keep my ears open.

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Alan Thomas wrote:

: Well, by keeping it to "the early years", that allows them to keep out all the Nixon and antisemitism unpleasantness. Or does it set up a sequel?

FWIW, when news of the film first broke a month and a half ago, I searched the IMDb for other films that might have had fictionalized versions of Billy Graham, and the only thing I could find was early-'70s parodies like Tricia's Wedding (1971) and White House Madness (1975).

Also FWIW, someone posted a comment at my blog the other day saying that Charles Templeton is being played by 31-year-old actor Kristoffer Polaha (star of the 2003 TV-movie America's Prince: The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story) and Hal Holbrook is no longer in the film (assuming he ever WAS in it).

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The official website.

And a photo of Martin Landau as Charles Templeton that leads me to think they really ARE going to give him a deathbed conversion, though I am not aware of the real-life Templeton undergoing any such thing. Templeton, who co-founded Youth for Christ with Graham in 1944 and declared himself an agnostic in 1957, published Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith in 1995, at the age of 80, and he died of complications from Alzheimer's in 2001, at the age of 86.

billy10.jpg

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Billy Graham biopic shows at Bible belt churches ahead of October release

On September 2, up to 750 pastors and church workers are expected to crowd into the sanctuary at Calvary Church in south Charlotte, North Carolina - some of them driving in from as far as 60 miles away.

They're coming not to sing, pray or hear sermons, but to watch a movie.

Billy: The Early Years - the new feature film about Charlotte-born Billy Graham - won't hit theatres until October 10. But the movie's producers, based in California and England, are hoping to build some buzz in the coming weeks by holding more than 50 such sneak peeks for evangelical "opinion makers" across the Bible belt. . . .

Good reviews from critics are nice, but the thumbs-up producers of Christian films want most these days are from pastors urging their flocks to head for the theatre. . . .

Finally, producers are busily trying to get the blessings of Billy Graham and his family, including son Franklin, who was publicly peeved that he and the family, ever-protective of the elder Graham's legacy, were never shown a script before the movie was made.

Producer Larry Mortorff says copies of the finished film were delivered to Franklin Graham and the family. Franklin Graham has seen it, his spokesman said, but has been too busy travelling lately to comment. . . .

A spokesman for Billy Graham, who's now 89, in frail health and living in Montreat, said he has not yet seen it.

Billy Graham's daughter, Gigi Graham, has seen it - and is publicly praising it. In fact, Mortorff said she's been hired as a consultant for the film. She plugged the movie's merits at an August 3 screening at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia - the church founded by the late Reverend Jerry Falwell - that attracted 4,500 people. . . .

Guardian, August 11

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Franklin Graham Criticizes Film About His Dad

But his older sister says Billy: The Early Years is faithful to their father.

ChristianityToday.com, August 21

- - -

FWIW, as I note at my blog, it's a little funny that Franklin Graham would be criticizing a movie for its seemingly minor creative liberties, given that the BGEA has produced its own "true story" movies -- such as Wiretapper (1955), The Hiding Place (1975) and Joni (1979), to name the first three titles that come to mind -- and I would be very, very surprised if those films had taken no such liberties themselves.

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FWIW, my interview with Armie Hammer, who plays Billy Graham in the film.

Just wondering: Does anybody here know what sort of policy Wheaton College would have had regarding the playing of rock'n'roll in the cafeteria (or some such place) in the early 1940s? I mean, assuming rock'n'roll had existed that early, that is. Whatever the equivalent of rock'n'roll would have been in the early 1940s. Or perhaps what their policy was by the time rock'n'roll came along in the 1950s. I'm thinking evangelical schools like Wheaton wouldn't have been so ducky with it, but I wasn't around back then -- heck, my PARENTS weren't around back then -- so what do I know.

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Shouldn't the thread title be changed to reflect the title of the film?

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Just wondering: Does anybody here know what sort of policy Wheaton College would have had regarding the playing of rock'n'roll in the cafeteria (or some such place) in the early 1940s? I mean, assuming rock'n'roll had existed that early, that is. Whatever the equivalent of rock'n'roll would have been in the early 1940s. Or perhaps what their policy was by the time rock'n'roll came along in the 1950s. I'm thinking evangelical schools like Wheaton wouldn't have been so ducky with it, but I wasn't around back then -- heck, my PARENTS weren't around back then -- so what do I know.

Peter, I'm not sure, but my guess would be that Wheaton would not have allowed rock'n'roll or popular big band music, etc., to be played in the cafeteria. Is there a scene in the movie where it does?

My great-grandfather moved to Wheaton in 1940 so his six daughters could attend Wheaten and marry Baptist pastors, and they all followed that plan. I'll ask my grandmother when I see her this weekend what kind of music was allowed on campus. She also frequently tells stories about Billy and Ruth, so it would be interesting to see this movie with her.

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Stephen Lamb wrote:

: Peter, I'm not sure, but my guess would be that Wheaton would not have allowed rock'n'roll or popular big band music, etc., to be played in the cafeteria. Is there a scene in the movie where it does?

Yes. When Billy is trying to woo Ruth in the cafeteria, or some such place, we hear Roy Orbison's 'In Dreams' in the background. And I know I'm not imagining this, because Orbison's song is one of many listed in the end credits. (Note: Billy and Ruth married in 1943. 'In Dreams' came out in 1963.)

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I asked my grandmother about this last weekend, and she said they didn't play any kind of popular music over the loudspeakers in the cafeteria. She wasn't sure what the popular music would have been during those years, and when I said "Frank Sinatra," she said, "No, he wasn't known by a lot of people then." So it's obvious they didn't allow popular music on campus then.

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Top hits of 1943, FWIW--Glenn Miller, Harry James, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, Dinah Shore, etc. I expect the producers figured today's audiences would have no response at all.

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BethR wrote:

: Top hits of 1943, FWIW--Glenn Miller, Harry James, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, Dinah Shore, etc. I expect the producers figured today's audiences would have no response at all.

Oh tosh. Audiences respond to the EMOTION of a song, first and foremost. And I wonder how many of the people in this audience would be any more familiar with a 45-year-old song than they are with a 65-year-old song.

It's interesting, though, to see how films aimed at an evangelical audience make use of secular music these days.

Recall how, in the End of the Spear thread, I noted how THAT film -- a dramatization -- used 1930s jazz and classical music in its portrayal of these missionaries living, working and dying in the 1950s, while the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor -- directed and produced by several of the same people -- used classic rock'n'roll from the 1950s (and the 1970s, in the epilogue dealing with the son of one of those missionaries).

So in THAT case, the classic rock was good enough for a documentary but had to be obscured by big-band jazz in the drama. But in THIS case, i.e. Billy: The Early Years, even though big-band jazz would be quasi-appropriate (for the period, that is; let's set aside the fact that Wheaton wouldn't have allowed such music on-campus), the film uses classic rock to set the mood instead.

Fascinating, I think.

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In Movieline's interview with Armie Hammer about The Social Network, guess what came up.

Many people tend to overlook that you earned recognition a couple years ago playing a young Billy Graham. Hollywood’s often accused of marginalizing people of faith; do you think that film and your role deserved a wider audience?

No, because I don’t think the movie turned out that great, to be honest. I think what [director] Robby Benson and I were trying to do… I probably shouldn’t say this on the record, but every day we’d pretty much throw away the script they’d written because it was one of those blatantly obvious pictures of faith as opposed to a beautiful story about a man who came out of obscurity — who was told his entire life he’d never amount to anything, and all he wanted to do was become a professional baseball player — and how that man later became essentially the father of modern-day Christendom. I mean, it’s really a fascinating, crazy story. And Billy Graham didn’t want it. Every step of the way, he was aiming for something else, but he just kind of fell into it. The story itself, to me, was great, and it deserved to be told. It just got turned into a cheesy Christian movie, is the problem. I can’t blame it for having a small audience; it had the audience the producers were aiming for, regardless of how much Robby and I wanted to widen the audience.

Do you consider yourself a person of faith? Is that distinction a legitimate problem in Hollywood?

No. I mean, I am definitely a person of faith. I am a spiritual person, for sure. I enjoy that, for me, this physical world isn’t everything. I’m convinced there’s more out there, and I love that idea. But you know, it doesn’t conflict with me at all. At the same time, I’m just a dude. I’m not perfect. I’m not the pope. I don’t feel like I have to live a perfect life; I don’t feel necessarily that any religion requires you to do so, either. I think just because I’m a person of faith — or because anybody’s a person of faith — you still have to do what you love. You still have to do what you’re passionate about. That’s what Winston Churchill said, right? If you find a job you love, then you never have to work another day in your life. So I don’t think Hollywood and faith are mutually exclusive in any way.

That’s refreshing. Most folks in the industry aren’t comfortable addressing faith unless they’re satirizing it.

Which I think is fine, too! Satire is a great form of communication, and if the only one you can find… I mean, movies like Religulous are fantastic. I may not agree with everything Bill Maher says, but he still took that chance and made that movie. Good for him.

Having played real-life — and still living — people twice now, what’s your sense of responsibility to them? How much do you want to know about them? How much do you not want to know?

Obviously with Billy Graham I had more of that responsibility — not just because I wanted to know what people knew about him, but also because I knew that by playing Billy Graham, I was playing a dude who, realistically, a billion people on this planet have heard or seen. They know how he walks, they know how he talks — they know his cadence. So I had to be truer to that for that project, whereas for Social Network, the Winklevoss twins do have an Internet presence — you can find pictures of them rowing boats and stuff. But it’s 2010; I could probably find a picture of you rowing a boat. They don’t have the digital footprint that a Billy Graham or even a Mark Zuckerberg has. No one know who these twins are. No one know how they walk, no one know how they talk. So I have a little more freedom to bring to life the characters Aaron Sorkin wrote rather than being fettered to the real guys and feeling like I need to do a bad impersonation of them.

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