TCA Tour: A Chat with Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is a Doctor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, a consultant to the livestock industry in animal behavior, and a best-selling author. She’s also autistic, a fact which you may have already known if you happen to have a connection to someone with autism, be it first-hand or indirectly. For instance, I came to know about her, as you’ll soon read, through my wife, who works with autistic students and is the proud owner of a copy of one of Grandin’s books, The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s.

When an advance screener of the new HBO movie based on her life – entitled, appropriately enough, “Temple Grandin” – landed on our doorstep in advance of the TCA press tour, you can imagine that we popped it into the player post-haste, and I’ll tell you right now, I was blown away: Claire Danes gives a phenomenal performance as Grandin, but director Mick Jackson ties for MVP with his visual presentation of how Grandin’s mind works. I immediately went about trying to set up interviews in connection with the tour, and although Danes was unavailable, when HBO asked if I’d like to chat with Grandin herself, you’d better believe that I didn’t hesitate for a moment before saying, “You bet!”

Bullz-Eye: I just wanted to start off by telling you that my wife works with autistic children.

Temple Grandin: Oh, okay.

BE: She hadn’t actually trained in the field, but she ended up stepping into a job as a substitute teacher in a special education classroom, and she had such aptitude that the teacher gave her a gift: a copy of your book. She basically said, “Not everyone has the heart and the temperament to work with children who need a little extra effort, but I really think you do, and I think you’d get a lot out of reading this.”

TG: Which book was it?

BE: “The Way I See it.”

TG: All right.

BE: So as soon as she found out that I was going to be speaking with you, she immediately passed it on to me and said, “You’ll be wanting to read this.” (Laughs) But we also watched the movie together, and I thought it was fantastic. How did that first come about? Did someone read your book, then come to you and pitch the idea of making it into a movie?

TG: Well, that’s actually been going on for a good long time. Emily Gerson Saines started working on this about nine years ago and went to, like, two different directors and writers. Then, finally, it came together with the right people.

BE: Did you get final say about who would play you in the film?

TG: Well, that was just decided. Claire Danes did an absolutely brilliant job. Absolutely brilliant. I met with her for about six hours, and I gave her the oldest VHS tapes I could find of me, where I’d be more autistic-acting. Like, in old programs from the late ‘80s, where I was on a TV show, and some lectures from the early ‘90s. We dubbed those over onto DVDs, and she had those to practice with. I didn’t have any video older than that. Or movies. We didn’t do movies as a family, so I didn’t have that.

BE: I thought the visual aspects of the film, which try to give the viewer an understanding of how your mind works, were outstanding. I guess that was Mick’s idea…?

TG: I thought that was absolutely brilliant, the way Mick showed all of that. Wonderful. Like, the scene where it shows all of the shoes coming up…? That’s exactly how I think. Mick was absolutely brilliant with that.

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The Scream Awards go down the rabbit hole (updated)

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There was a time in this world when young people were frequently slightly ashamed of being bigger than average fans of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and especially comic books. I, personally, wasn’t embarrassed …and I paid a price. Those days may be over. In any case, the capacity crowd that showed up for Spike TV’s Scream awards, largely in costume and largely dramatically over- or under-dressed for a nighttime outdoor show after a very warm day, seemed more like club kids and less like the kind of uber geeks who become entertainment bloggers and film critics and stuff like that.

The Scream Awards are, in their fun/silly way, a big deal. Big enough to attract a good number of stars and even a few superstars like Tobey Maguire, Jessica Alba, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp and his living legend “Pirates of the Caribbean” muse, Rolling Stone Keith Richard.

I, however, am not such a big deal and was reminded of that fact when, prior to the show I found myself with the less fashionable members of the not-quite paparazzi on the “red carpet” (actually a checkered walkway) with my little digital camera and even smaller digital recorder device, wondering whether I’d really get a chance to ask a question of one of the super-famed folks, knowing that the only question I could think of at the time would be something in the nature of “What’s it like be the most notorious rock and roll star in the world, having your blood changed, and snorting your late father’s ashes?” That probably would have been inappropriate, especially if I asked it of Jessica Alba.

What actually seems to happen at events like this is that, if you’re a small-timer especially, most of the big stars either go through another entrance or walk right by you at warp speed. Meanwhile, folks who are a bit more anxious to meet the press find their way to you with the help of PR types. As an example, for about half a second, I was almost able to talk with actor Karl Urban, who did such a great job homaging DeForest Kelly while putting his own hilarious stamp on “Bones” McCoy in “Star Trek.” However, within a nanosecond he remembered he was in a big hurry and politely scurried off.

After a few odd reality show people I didn’t recognize, and the pretty young actress who assays the part of “Female Addict” in “Saw VI,” our first actual notable was statuesque model turned actress Tricia Helfer. Helfer is, make no mistake, a true superstar to TV sci-fi fans and is best known as Number Six, aka “the hot blonde cylon” on “Battlestar Galactica.” The actress appeared with her significant other, the owner of a British accent and a Giaus Baltar-style beard, but I’m sure that’s a total coincidence. I had a not terribly consequential discussion with her — lost because I apparently forgot to press the “on” button on my digital recorder. One would expect no less an effect from Number Six. UPDATE: Yeesh! As pointed out by my PH compatriot John Paulsen, the actress was actually Kate Vernon, who played the lady-MacBeth-like Ellen Tigh. It is true, all statueseque blonde women in shiny dresses look alike to me! My apologies to all concerned or unconcerned.

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