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Graham Film in the Works

Bel Air Presbyterian's drama department has mastered the art of making short films that are funny without being cheesy, and effective without being overwrought.

A Nashville production company is gearing up to make a movie about the early years of Billy Graham's ministry, starting with his teen-age years in Charlotte, NC.

Filming for Billy: The Early Years begins March 26, and is slated for release in fall 2008. The actor who will play Graham has not yet been named, but Oscar nominee Hal Holbrook will play the role of Graham's friend and mentor Charles Templeton. (Holbrook will play an elderly Templeton, reminiscing about his younger years with Graham.)

The movie, produced by Nashville's 821 Entertainment Group, will be filmed in Watertown, Tennessee, a small town just east of Nashville that producers said looks similar to Charlotte in the 1930s.

"We needed a location which could cover for North Carolina, Illinois, and other places where Billy lived and visited from 1935 to 1949," co-producer Larry Mortorff told The Tennessean.

The film will be directed by Robby Benson, perhaps best known for providing the voice of Beast in Disney's 1991 animated film, Beauty and the Beast. In more recent years, Benson has directed a number of TV shows, including episodes of Friends, Ellen and Dharma and Greg.

Benson told The Tennessean that the film is a "period piece," and that he's seeking local actors and actresses to play roles as extras.

Co-producer Bill McKay, who has already done two documentaries on Graham, told Nashville TV station WKRN that Graham was "too humble" to want a film focused on him.

McKay said that Graham was concerned that "the images that we might paint of Billy Graham … could eclipse the face of Jesus."

McKay also said, "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."

821 ...

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