Billy: The Early Years

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Billy: The Early Years
Directed byRobby Benson
Produced byLawrence Mortorff
Martin Shiel
William Paul McKay
Written byWilliam Paul McKay
Jana Lyn Rutledge
StarringArmie Hammer
Stefanie Butler
Kristoffer Polaha
Cliff Bemis
Music byAnastasia Brown (music supervisor)
Scott Brasher (composer: score)
CinematographyDavid Rudd
Edited byRyan Folsey
Distributed byRocky Mountain Pictures
Release date
October 10, 2008
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.6 million
Box office$347,328

Billy: The Early Years is a 2008 American biographical film directed by Robby Benson. The film tells the story of the early life of evangelist Billy Graham, played by Armie Hammer. After almost a year and a half of delays, the film was released on DVD on March 16, 2010.

World Wide Pictures, the film distribution and production company that was created by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, did not work on the film's production.


A reporter (Jennifer O'Neill) is interviewing Charles Templeton on his deathbed. Told through the eyes of Templeton, the film shows Billy Graham’s life as a teenager during the Great Depression living at the family dairy farm in North Carolina. During this time, Graham becomes a Christian at a tent revival meeting. Later, Graham goes to Bob Jones College, then transfers to Florida Bible Institute after being identified as a failure by Bob Jones, Sr. Following his time at Florida Bible Institute, Graham goes to Wheaton College where he falls in love with classmate Ruth Bell, whom he ultimately marries. In the 1940s, Templeton and Graham become close until Templeton's scientific skepticism causes him to lose his faith and his friendship with Graham. The film finishes with Graham inviting his listeners to accept Christ as their personal savior in his Los Angeles crusade of 1949.




Screenwriter-producer William Paul McKay and producer Lawrence Mortorff originally wanted John Hagee to portray Mordecai Ham but director Robby Benson, concerned that Hagee's controversial public persona would cause a distraction, cast Cliff Bemis instead.[1]

To find the lead actor, producers held talent searches in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.[2]


The film was shot in Nashville and Watertown, Tennessee[3] with a production budget of $3.6 million.[1]



Advance screenings were held throughout the Bible Belt in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia and Arkansas.[4] Thomas Nelson published a novelization, Billy: The Untold Story of a Young Billy Graham and the Test of Faith that Almost Changed Everything, written by McKay and Ken Abraham.


Billy: The Early Years opened on October 10, 2008, less than a month before Graham's 90th birthday, grossing $192,042 in 282 theaters during its opening weekend. The film would eventually gross a total of $347,328.[5] In response to the film's box office reception, Mortorff said that Fireproof, an evangelical film which had been released around the same time, might have unintentionally hurt the film.[6] Mortorff also said that his team was planning a "second wave" of theatrical releases and looking forward to recovering its losses through DVD sales and TV deals.[6]

Although Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham, criticized the film, Gigi Graham, eldest daughter of Billy Graham, supported the film, saying that the film has the "Gospel of Jesus in there" and is "positive toward my parents and their ministry."[7] In a review of the film, critic Roger Moore commented that a "bland leading man in a movie without much of a biographical spark to it makes for a dull sermon indeed."[8]

A CBN review has described the film as having "a simple and unassuming charm about it, much like the man it honors."[9]

Award nominations[edit]

At the Epiphany Awards, Hammer's performance received a Grace Award nomination for most inspiring performance in movies & TV.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Roston, Tom (October 12, 2008). "An Odd Career Twist for a Former Screen Heartthrob". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  2. ^ "Billy: The Early Years Opens Nationwide Today". October 13, 2008. Archived from the original on August 20, 2009. Retrieved August 18, 2009.
  3. ^ Riley, Jennifer (May 7, 2008). "Film on Billy Graham's Life in Production". The Christian Post. Retrieved July 31, 2009.
  4. ^ Kimball, Josh (August 12, 2008). "Billy Graham Taps Bible Belt for Grassroots Support". The Christian Post. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  5. ^ "Billy: The Early Years of Billy Graham". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
  6. ^ a b Chattaway, Peter T.; Moring, Mark (November 11, 2008). "'Fireproof' Is Hot". Christianity Today. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  7. ^ Moring, Mark (August 21, 2008). "Franklin Graham Criticizes Film About His Dad". Christianity Today. Retrieved December 25, 2008.
  8. ^ Movie review: 'Billy: The Early Years' -- 2 of 5 stars
  9. ^ Elliott, Belinda. "Billy: The Early Years: Movie Review". Christian Broadcasting Network. 2008-12-25
  10. ^ Kimball, Josh (February 6, 2009). "'Epiphany Prize' Nominees for Most Inspiring Movie, TV Program Announced". The Christian Post. Retrieved December 3, 2010.

External links[edit]