Franklin Graham Criticizes Film About His Dad
When Franklin Graham made a recent statement that somewhat criticized Billy: The Early Years—an upcoming movie about his father—Franklin's oldest sister came to the film's defense and questioned her brother's judgment.
"I don't want to say anything wrong about my brother, but I just don't see it the way he does," Gigi Graham, the oldest of Billy Graham's five children, told Christianity Today. "Franklin called me and said he thought the movie was dorky. But I think it's good and positive, and I think it honors the Lord and my mother and daddy.
"I don't know why Franklin felt like he had to make a public statement. I wish he'd just left it alone."
Billy: The Early Years chronicles Billy Graham's teen years, young adulthood, and calling to the ministry. Directed by Robby Benson and starring Armie Hammer, the film doesn't hit theaters until October 10, but a rough cut is already being shown to pastors and churches to get the early buzz going.
Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, released a statement on the organization's official website, saying that the BGEA "has not collaborated with nor does it endorse the movie, Billy: The Early Years."
Mark DeMoss, Graham's spokesman, told CT that Graham was simply trying to clarify what was becoming many pastors' misconception—that the film was authorized by the BGEA.
"We've been hearing about a lot of confusion, particularly at these early screenings, about the BGEA's affiliation with the film," DeMoss said. "Some folks promoting the movie have said things that foster that impression, and it's a false impression. The BGEA didn't have anything to do with this film. It's an independent film."
Billy Graham has made no public statement about the film.
DeMoss said the BGEA rarely endorses any product unless it's made by the organization.
Bill McKay, one of three producers on Billy: The Early Years, said he understands the reason behind Franklin Graham's statement.
"That's been his consistent concern, that our film would mistakenly be associated with the BGEA," McKay told CT. "We knew from the beginning that they had a policy about no endorsements. And I respect that policy."
The film does include a disclaimer in the opening credits that it is not affiliated with the BGEA, but Franklin Graham apparently had other concerns. His official statement said that the move "lacks my father's greatest passion: to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world," but his sister begs to differ.
"Franklin says it doesn't portray Daddy's passion for preaching, but I think it does," said Gigi Graham. "Besides, I'm not sure Daddy ever had a passion for preaching. Daddy had a calling, and he accepted that calling and faithfully followed it."
Franklin Graham's statement also said the movie "depicts events that never happened or are greatly embellished." Graham didn't elaborate on any specifics, but DeMoss, who has not seen the film, said Graham gave him some examples.
The one that concerned Graham the most, said DeMoss, is a scene where Bob Jones Sr., then president of the fundamentalist Bob Jones College, yells at a young Billy that he will "never amount to anything" and that he sees "nothing ahead for you but failure!" (The scene is included in this trailer for the film.)
DeMoss told The Charlotte Observer this week that Franklin Graham thought the scene "completely misrepresented Bob Jones," and that Franklin has written a letter to Bob Jones III, current president of Bob Jones University, to say that "we didn't collaborate on the film."