Interview: Armie Hammer (Billy: The Early Years, 2008)

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) became an agnostic in the late 1940s.

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Canadian box-office stats — October 5

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Blindness — CDN $278,272 — N.AM $2,002,000 — 13.9%
My Best Friend’s Girl — CDN $2,050,000 — N.AM $17,628,000 — 11.6%
Burn after Reading — CDN $5,740,000 — N.AM $51,641,000 — 11.1%
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist — CDN $1,290,000 — N.AM $12,000,000 — 10.8%
Religulous — CDN $377,463 — N.AM $3,519,000 — 10.7%

Eagle Eye — CDN $4,670,000 — N.AM $54,605,000 — 8.6%
Nights in Rodanthe — CDN $1,900,000 — N.AM $25,075,000 — 7.6%
Lakeview Terrace — CDN $2,380,000 — N.AM $32,140,000 — 7.4%
Appaloosa — CDN $312,277 — N.AM $5,570,000 — 5.6%
Beverly Hills Chihuahua — CDN $1,370,000 — N.AM $29,000,000 — 4.7%

A couple of discrepancies: Blindness and My Best Friend’s Girl were #9 and #10 on the Canadian chart, respectively (they were #12 and #17 in North America as a whole), while Fireproof and An American Carol were #8 and #9 on the North American chart, respectively (neither film has been released in Canada).

Larry Norman — the documentary cometh.

I don’t live anywhere near Wheaton College, but perhaps some of my readers do. This is an e-mail I got two days ago from David Di Sabatino, director of Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher (2005):


Well, at long last, the documentary about Larry Norman is done.

We are holding a pre-screening of FALLEN ANGEL: The OUTLAW LARRY NORMAN at Wheaton College on Thursday, October 16th, 2008. The documentary is Di Sabatino’s attempt to understand a man that was both influential in the Christian community for a season and tremendously difficult to fathom at times. It is Di Sabatino’s second film. His first documentary, on the life of Jesus freak evangelist Lonnie Frisbee, entitled Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher, was broadcast on San Francisco PBS-affiliate KQED’s “Truly California” documentary show before garnering an Emmy nomination. The film is presently playing nationally throughout PBS affiliate stations.

Randy Stonehill will be in attendance that night, performing a mini-concert as well as participating in a Q&A; session afterward.

There will be an announcement later in the year as to when and how the film will be released. The film & music night will take place at 7:00 pm at Barrows Auditorium on the Wheaton College campus. Tickets are $7.00. There is limited seating available. For more information, please contact Larry Eskridge at

This will be followed up by a front cover story in the OC WEEKLY on October 17th about the documentary and some of the behind-the-scenes goings on.

Thanks for your continued support.


David Di Sabatino

Norman, for those who don’t know, is widely credited with being “the Father of Christian Rock”, because he was one of the first Christian musicians to think it was perfectly okay to spread his faith through rock’n’roll.

This had its good consequences and its bad consequences, of course: on the one hand, thanks to the trailblazing of Norman and others, evangelical musicians now had more freedom to experiment with musical genres, especially those that had a backbeat; and on the other hand, once there was a proven market for “contemporary Christian music”, as it came to be called, it led to a burgeoning subculture dedicated to lame, pale rip-offs of whatever happens to be hot and trendy in the mainstream music world.

Norman, thankfully, was too eccentric and independently-minded to be that sort of commercial sell-out. But his eccentricity led to other problems, as well. And he did play a direct hand in promoting one other rather problematic aspect of modern evangelical culture, namely an obsessive interest in a certain view of the end times which is less than two centuries old but which many evangelicals, influenced to a great degree by Norman and other artists of his ilk, now believe is an essential part of biblical Christianity.

It might be going too far to say that Norman coined the phrase “left behind”, which went on to become the title of a phenomenally popular, and badly written, series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, which in turn led to a trilogy of end-times movies starring Kirk Cameron. But Norman certainly popularized the phrase, in a song called ‘I Wish We’d All Been Ready’, and that song, in turn, began showing up on the soundtracks to end-times movies as early as A Thief in the Night (1972).

For what it’s worth, I saw Norman in concert once, in the early ’90s, when he came to my church; that concert was later released as a video called Live and Kicking — so named because he had some health problems at the time and it was widely reported that this could have been one of his last public gigs.

As it turned out, he lived another decade and then some, and performed some more concerts, before dying earlier this year. S. Brent Plate wrote an interesting obituary for The Revealer, and he links in turn to other worthy obituaries at Christianity Today, GetReligion and Entertainment Weekly.

They’ve encased the cake in carbonite.

I had a birthday the other day, and a wee party with family and friends a few days later. And this is the cake my wife made! Admittedly, she got the idea from this website, which a number of blogs and other sites linked to a few weeks ago. But still, am I a lucky guy or what?

Sexy puritans and righteous foxes.

Without meaning to imply anything whatsoever about the current political scene, I was intrigued by an article that Tom Perrotta — author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher, if you’re looking for a film angle — wrote for Slate recently on Sarah Palin and the “Sexy Puritan” archetype that she embodies. It reminded me of an article that appeared in The Door several years ago, on how, for hormonally driven Christian teenage males, Amy Grant once embodied the “Righteous Fox“. Note how the secular writer makes the righteousness the substantive term and the sexiness the qualifier, while the religious writer does the opposite.

Religulous — the review’s up!

My review of Religulous is now up at