In only a few months, people across the nation will get the unique opportunity to peer into the life of evangelist Billy Graham before his rise to prominence as one of the most influential and admired religious leaders in the world.
The highly anticipated film, "Billy: The Early Years," is set to release in theaters across the country on Oct. 10 - less than one month before Graham's 90th birthday. With 21-year-old actor Armie Hammer playing the part of Graham, the movie captures the essence of Graham's journey from a young man at the crossroads of faith and doubt to ultimately facing the moment of decision that gave way to one of history's most influential evangelists.
"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," Hammer told The Tennessean after filming for the movie commenced on Mar. 26.
"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.
Graham is believed to have spoken face-to-face with more people in more places than anyone in history, having preached to over 210 million people in over 185 countries.
He has been a friend to every U.S. president since Harry Truman and has been listed by the Gallup organization as one of the "Ten Most Admired Men in the World" an unmatched 51 times (44 consecutive).
Before making a personal commitment to Christ at the age of 16, however, Graham was simply a young man who, like many his age, wanted a career as a professional baseball player.
Even after making his decision for Christ, Graham struggled with doubt - a struggle captured in "Billy: The Early Years."
Starting with Graham's teenage years in Charlotte, N.C., the upcoming film paints a vivid portrait of Graham and his life before international prominence.
The film includes the legendary series of revival meetings in Charlotte led by evangelist Mordecai Ham, which ultimately led to Graham's conversion in 1934. It also provides a glimpse into Graham's relationship with Ruth Bell - the woman who Graham would eventually marry - from the time of their meeting to their engagement.
Also captured in the film is Graham's relationship with the evangelical star of the 1940s, Charles Templeton, a gifted young preacher who would eventually reject the Christian faith after a long struggle with doubt. In the film, Templeton comes to personify the rising tide of disbelief into which Graham launched his evangelistic crusades.
Since last month, the trailer for the movie has been posted in numerous Christian websites, including the increasingly popular GodTube.com website, which has already tallied nearly 30,000 viewers of the Graham movie trailer after about a month of exposure.
In addition to Hammer, who will star as the upcoming Batman/Bruce Wayne in the new film "Justice League: Mortal," "Billy: The Early Years" features Oscar-winner Martin Landau (Mission: Impossible, Ed Wood) and Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman); as well as Stefanie Butler (CSI: NY), daughter of ex-Atlanta Brave Brett Butler; Kristoffer Polaha (North Shore) and platinum selling country sensation Josh Turner ("Long Black Train") as singer George Beverly Shea. John Carter Cash, son of John and June Carter Cash, serves as music producer and the film's director is veteran actor/director and Golden Globe nominee Robby Benson, who many know to be the voice of the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
"Billy: The Early Years" was filmed in and around Nashville with a 90 percent Tennessee crew, according to the film's promoters.
On the Web:
The Movie Trailer for 'The Early Years of Billy Graham' at GodTube.com
The Official Movie Website at billytheearlyyears.com