Interview: Ray Liotta (The Identical, 2014)

identical-rayliotta2From Something Wild to Goodfellas and this year’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Ray Liotta has played a lot of crazy, criminal and disreputable characters — but he’s also played his share of decent characters, too.

One of the most decent of them all is Reece Wade, a preacher who adopts a boy at the height of the Great Depression and watches his son grow up to choose music over the ministry in The Identical, the latest film to be pitched to the “faith-based” market.

The film opens this weekend, and I had a chance to speak to Liotta over the phone. Here is an edited transcript of our interview.

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Robert Redford may play Oral Roberts in a movie about the protégé who stopped believing in Hell

Robert Redford is in talks to play Oral Roberts in a movie about Carlton Pearson, a Pentecostal minister who was a rising star within his denomination until he revealed that he no longer believed in Hell.

The Hollywood Reporter says the film, which was originally being developed for director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Machine Gun Preacher) under the name Heretics, is now being developed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Rachel Getting Married) under the name Come Sunday.

Jeffrey Wright, who has had key roles in the James Bond and Hunger Games franchises, is in talks to play Pearson himself. The script is by Marcus Hinchey (All Good Things), and it is based on an episode of This American Life that first aired in 2005.

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Flashback: My interview with Armie Hammer

He first caught the eye of most moviegoers by playing the Winklevoss twins — both of them! — in The Social Network (2010). He has since delivered impressive supporting performances in J. Edgar (2011) and Mirror Mirror (2012). And now he’s going to play one of the most iconic characters of all time in The Lone Ranger, which opens this week.

But before all that, Armie Hammer played Billy Graham in the independent biopic Billy: The Early Years (2008). I interviewed him shortly before the release of that film, and, to mark the release of his newest, biggest film to date, I have re-posted that interview here.

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Review: Billy: The Early Years (dir. Robby Benson, 2008)

Billy Graham has appeared in many movies over the years, most of them produced by World Wide Pictures, the movie studio that he founded through his evangelistic ministry in the 1950s. But apart from a handful of parodies, no actor has ever played him before, and certainly no film has tried to show what kind of person he was prior to becoming the internationally recognized preacher that he is today. So there was lots of fertile ground for Billy: The Early Years, the first major Graham biopic, to explore. Too bad, then, that the film does such a poor job of bringing his story to life.

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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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Billy Graham’s Top Five / A handful of World Wide Pictures films worth watching.

The Hiding Place (1975)
One of the best and most ambitious Christian films ever made, this moving, realistic, and superbly-acted historical epic — based on Corrie Ten Boom’s account of how she was sent to a concentration camp with her sister for hiding Jews from the Nazis — doesn’t flinch from some of the more graphic and disturbing aspects of the Holocaust. Yes, Minister’s Nigel Hawthorne has a bit part as a cowardly pastor.

Joni (1979)
Based on Joni Eareckson’s popular account of how she found a deeper faith after a diving accident left her a quadriplegic, and filled with subtle visuals and silences, this just may be the most “cinematic” of World Wide’s films. Eareckson, playing herself, proves she is a more than capable actress as she recreates some of the most traumatic experiences in her life. Ghostbusters’ Ernie Hudson plays one of the hospital orderlies.

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