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HBO to air film 'Temple Grandin' Feb. 6

February 1, 2010
By Melinda Swenson

Golden Globe-winning film, television, and theater actress Claire Danes ('Me and Orson Welles,' 2009; 'Romeo & Juliet,' 1996; 'My So-Called Life,' 1995) will play Colorado State University Animal Sciences Professor Temple Grandin in the HBO movie, 'Temple Grandin,' which airs Saturday, Feb. 6. Colorado State will show the film in the Lory Student Center East Ballroom at 6 p.m. (MT).

Actress Clare Danes as Temple Grandin. Photo by Van Redin, courtesy of HBO.

A whirlwind of a year

It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Temple Grandin, the CSU animal sciences professor, author, and lecturer who is now the subject of a TV movie: Temple Grandin.

She’s been interviewed for magazine features, traveled for book signings and lectures, and has been interviewed by numerous news outlets on her animal science expertise and how autism has affected her life.

Meeting Spielberg and Hanks

When Temple Grandin attended a TV Critics Association conference to talk about the film that HBO has made about her life, she met some Hollywood notables.

“Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks were at the event to talk about their war movie that’s coming up on HBO,” Grandin says. “Spielberg came up to me and said, ‘I’ve read your book, Thinking in Pictures, and I really liked it!’”

Most recently Grandin’s been traveling from Austin to New York and to Washington, D.C., to attend premiers of her film. Despite all the attention and acknowledgement of her extraordinary life and accomplishments, Grandin remains down-to-earth.

Behind the Scenes with Temple Grandin

I'll wear my Western shirts -- my regular clothes to premiers and receptions,” she says. “And I’m not going to watch the movie five times. I’ll go to the premiers but I’ll probably leave the theatre to meet and talk with people.”  

Grandin delighted with film

Grandin was delighted with the film when she first saw it at HBO headquarters in Los Angeles. She heaps praise on the actors and the film makers for doing “a really good job.”

“As an actor, Claire Danes is a genius,” Grandin says.

“She morphed into me; she became me. One day I was watching some raw footage and I saw her turn to Mick Jackson, the director, and say, ‘You forgot to give me my cue,’ and when she said that, she was still me. She was still in character.

“Watching Claire play me was the weirdest thing,” Grandin says. “It was almost overwhelming. I found that I couldn’t stand on the set and watch her; I had to watch her on a monitor.”

How Dane was chosen for the role

"Mick Jackson told me why he chose Claire for the part," Grandin says. "He was in New York City and Claire was in a theatre production playing the role of Christina Olson, a woman who was the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting called Christina’s World.”

Actress Clare Danes as Temple Grandin. Photo by Van Redin, courtesy of HBO.

Christina was a real person. She lived near Wyeth’s summer home in rural Maine and was paralyzed from the waist down from a degenerative disease, possibly polio. One day Wyeth looked out his window and saw Christina crawling across a field.

“He captured that moment,” Grandin says. “He painted this image of a young woman in a windswept field with her arm stretched out toward a gray, clapboard house in the distance.

“Jackson was there when they were filming a scene in downtown New York City in which Claire was playing Christina. She was dragging herself across the street,” Grandin says. “They’d stopped traffic and the camera was following her as she pulled herself along a crosswalk.”

“Jackson told me that in the scene, Claire had become Christina,” says Grandin. “And he was convinced that she could portray me.”

Pictures telling a story

According to Grandin, Danes used a voice coach and a movement coach to perfect her portrayal of her.

“She watched videotape of conversations that she had with me over lunch in her New York City apartment and she watched video that was taken of me lecturing on autism in the late 80s and early 90s. 

“The film shows how my mind works – my sensitivity to visual stimuli and how I process information with visual images in my head. When someone says ‘shoe,’ I see an array of shoes in my mind!” Grandin says.

Grandin’s ability to see 3-D pictures in her head and her understanding that, like her, cows mainly experience their world as visual stimuli, has enabled her to design livestock facilities that treat cattle more humanely.

The gifts of autism

Film premiere of
Temple Grandin movie
Feb. 6, 6 p.m., (MT)
Lory Student Center
East Ballroom

Perhaps the most important message in the film is that Grandin’s autism played a role in her success. She used the abilities it gave her, went up against the conventional, entrenched wisdom of the cattle industry, and prevailed.

Andrew Wyeth had this to say about Christina Olson, the partially-paralyzed woman in his painting: “The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless.”

The film, Temple Grandin, aspires to do the same in depicting Grandin’s life, and judging from the buzz around this film, HBO has hit the mark.

Watch the movie trailer.

Note: Feature image shows Temple Grandin, Ph.D., on left, and actress Claire Danes, on right. (Photo by Van Redin, courtesy of HBO)  

Campus movie showing

CSU's Feb. 6 showing of Temple Grandin is being sponsored by the CSU Alumni Association and the College of Agricultural Sciences.

HBO's Temple Grandin
Campus premiere
Saturday, Feb. 6
6 p.m.
Lory Student Center East Ballroom
Event is free. No tickets will be issued.
Reception will follow. Temple Grandin plans to be in attendance.
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Contact: Jim Beers
Phone: (970) 491-6401