HBO Movie Filmed at Southwestern Premieres Feb. 6
Film depicts the life of Temple Grandin
The HBO movie on the life of Temple Grandin that was filmed at Southwestern in the fall of 2008 will premiere on Saturday, Feb. 6, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
HBO sponsored a screening of the movie in Austin Feb. 4 that was attended by 1,200 people, including people who had participated in the making of the film, families affected by autism and animal welfare advocates. Grandin also attended the screening and took questions afterwards.
Grandin was diagnosed with autism at age four and doctors told her parents she would never speak. Her parents refused to take doctors’ advice that she be institutionalized and pushed her to get an education. She attended a private boarding school in New Hampshire, and then earned her undergraduate degree from Franklin Pierce College (now Franklin Pierce University) in New Hampshire. She earned a master’s degree in animal science from Arizona State University and Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She currently is a professor at Colorado State University and a noted leader in both the animal welfare and autism advocacy movements. She used her insight into the minds of cattle to help design more humane slaughterhouses. Livestock handling facilities she has designed are used worldwide to help reduce stress on animals during handling.
The HBO movie, which was 10 years in the making, begins the summer before Grandin entered college and covers the period through when she received her master’s degree and gained her first recognition as an expert in her field. “Watching Claire (Danes) was like watching me go back in a time machine,” Grandin said at the screening. Danes plays Grandin in the movie. Other stars in the movie include David Strathairn, who plays Grandin’s high school science teacher and mentor, Julia Ormond, who plays Grandin’s mother, and Catherine O’Hara, who plays Grandin’s aunt.
The movie opens with the scene shot at the Georgetown airport, which was used to depict the airport in Tucson, Ariz. Grandin spent the summer before she went to college working on her uncle’s cattle ranch in Arizona.
Southwestern was used to depict Franklin Pierce College and is featured very prominently in the film. There is a scene of Grandin’s mother dropping her off at college, which was shot outside the Mood building, a scene where she gets called to the dean’s office, which was shot inside the Mood Buidling, a French class scene shot in the Cullen Building, and her college graduation, which was filmed on the Academic Mall.
“Who would have thought we could film New Hampshire in Texas,” said Bob Hudgins, director of the Texas Film Commission.
Several Southwestern students, faculty and staff participated as extras in the movie, and several can be seen, especially in the graduation scene. A great dane owned by 1979 Southwestern graduate Lisa Pelosi Butterfield also can be seen in the movie portraying her mentor’s dog.
HBO bought its own herd of 30 cows to make the cattle scenes in the film, most of which were filmed at the Schwertner Ranch in Schwertner. Owner Jimmy Schwertner said he met Grandin in the 1990s and uses equipment she designed at his ranch. “Anyone who is smart uses her technology,” Schwertner said.
The movie ends with a scene filmed at the Austin Convention Center, where Grandin is seen speaking at a conference on autism.
“Autism is extremely variable, which is what makes it difficult to study,” she said at the screening. She added that the worst thing parents can do is nothing. “Early care is important,” she said.
For more information on the movie, go to http://www.hbo.com/movies/temple-grandin.
Southwestern graduate Shawn Pipkin served as second assistant director on the film.