Billy: The Early Years is a 2008 American biographical film, directed by Robby Benson. The film recounts the story of the world renowned evangelist, Billy Graham, played by Armie Hammer, creating a portrayal of Billy’s life from the mid-1930s to the late 1940s when Billy Graham finds himself speaking in his famous Los Angeles crusade. World Wide Pictures, the film distribution and production company that was created by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), did not in any way help with the production of this film. After almost a year and a half of a delayed DVD release, Billy: The Early Years was released on DVD on March 16, 2010.
Screenwriter-producer McKay, and producer Larry Mortoff, had originally wanted Texas Televangelist and Preacher John Hagee to play the part of Mordecai Ham in the film; however, director Robby Benson replaced him with another actor. Recent to the filming of Billy: The Early Years, John Hagee had endorsed the 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain.
In order to find the actor who would take the role of Billy Graham, the film's producers held a national talent search in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Armie Hammer convinced the film's producers to give him the role with his audition, after another actor, who had originally been given the part, left the project due to a conflict in their schedule.
The story begins with a reporter (Jennifer O'Neill) interviewing Charles Templeton on his deathbed. Told in the eyes of Charles Templeton, the film proceeds in showing Billy Graham’s life as a teenager during the great depression living at the family dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina.
During this time, Graham is seen becoming a Christian at a tent revival meeting.
Later, Graham is seen going to Bob Jones College, which is now Bob Jones University, but Graham goes to Florida Bible Institute after being identified as a failure by Bob Jones, Sr. Following his time at Florida Bible Institute, Billy Graham goes to Wheaton College where he falls in love with his Wheaton classmate Ruth Bell to whom he ultimately gets married.
In the 1940s, Charles Templeton, becomes a really close acquaintance of Billy Graham; however, Charles Templeton, who is a young, gifted preacher, leaves his faith when he is challenged by scientific skepticism, leading Graham and Templeton to part. Billy continues to evangelize in his crusades and believe that the word of God is infallible.
The film finishes with Graham inviting his listeners to accept Christ as their personal savior in his Los Angeles crusade of 1949.