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'A Funny, Quirky Dude'

The actor who plays Billy Graham in a new movie has the utmost respect for the evangelist, but loved getting to know Graham's lesser-known personal side too.

Armie Hammer came very close to playing Batman, in George Miller's apparently now-defunct Justice League movie. But he got to play a superhero of a different sort when he took on the role of Billy Graham, one of the best-known and most widely-respected evangelists in history, in Billy: The Early Years, which opens Friday.

Hammer, who turned 22 in August, plays Graham from the ages of 16 to 31, before he became the world-famous preacher that he is today. The film covers Graham's conversion at a revival meeting in 1934; his courtship of Ruth Bell (Stefanie Butler), who he married in 1943; and his crisis of faith when his fellow evangelist Charles Templeton (Kristoffer Polaha, and later played as an old man by Martin Landau) became an agnostic in the late 1940s.

Hammer spoke to Christianity Today Movies from Nashville.

What was it like taking on Graham's voice for the film?

Armie Hammer: His voice was probably the most challenging thing about Billy Graham. I did a lot of research, and his accent was not concrete. It changed depending on who he talked to. If he thought his accent would help him a little bit, he'd lay it on a little thicker. If he was speaking to someone in New York, you'd almost hear no accent at all. It was very interesting, and when he preached, it was a completely different accent than when he just normally spoke. So his voice was actually one of the more difficult things that I had to work with.

We don't typically think of him speaking normally; we just think of the preaching?

Hammer: Yeah, and that's the amazing thing about this film, I feel. Everybody got a chance to know Billy Graham the preacher. But we wanted to, as a gift to the Grahams for everything that they've given, give them something that will allow ...

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