Will Graham can do a great impersonation of his late grandfather Billy Graham. But for his role in the upcoming film “Unbroken: Path to Redemption,” he was given strict orders: Don’t do an impression.
“The director said: Don’t imitate your grandfather,” Graham told Baptist Press. “… My grandfather back then preached extremely fast. But the director said, ‘Don’t preach fast. Preach slow and be yourself.'”
The movie, scheduled to hit theaters Sept. 14, follows the story of Olympian and World War II prisoner Louis Zamperini, who returned home a hero but nearly saw his life and marriage ruined due to PTSD, thoughts of revenge against his captors, and dependency on alcohol. A visit to the 1949 Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles changed his life forever. He accepted Christ and later became an evangelist and founded Victory Boys Camp, an outreach for at-risk youth.
The PG-13 film is a follow-up to the 2014 movie Unbroken, which focused on Zamperini’s war heroics. The new movie stars Samuel Hunt (“Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.”) as Zamperini and Merritt Patterson (“The Royals”) as his wife Cynthia. Graham plays Billy Graham.
Matthew Baer, who produced both movies, said he was “blown away” by how similar the cadence of Billy Graham’s voice and Will Graham’s voice is. The younger Graham, though, said any similarities weren’t intentional.
“He and I, we sound alike, but he says a few words different than I would,” said Graham, a vice president and associate evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association who earned his master of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and his bachelor’s degree from Liberty University. “What you’re seeing there is actually not [a] Billy Graham [impersonation]. That’s just me.”
One of the ‘greatest stories’ of forgiveness
Will Graham grew up hearing about Zamperini’s conversion at the crusade, but it wasn’t until he read the bestselling book by Laura Hillenbrand about Zamperini’s life that he fully appreciated the story’s depth.
“It’s one of the greatest stories of forgiveness outside of the Bible,” Graham said. “… Louis received forgiveness, his life was restored, his marriage was restored, his nightmares went away, his drinking went away.”
But, just as significantly, Graham added, is that Zamperini then extended forgiveness to others.
“Louis said he didn’t know if what God did in his life was just a fad or if it really changed him,” Graham said. “And he said he wouldn’t know that until he went back to Tokyo to meet his former captors.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press, Michael Foust