Temple Grandin to be on HBO

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Well-known member
Jan 20, 2007
LaRue, Ohio
Temple Grandin Talks About Her Upcoming HBO Biopic
Oct 31, 2008 3:43 PM, by Joe Roybal

Temple Grandin seems a bit embarrassed, but simultaneously flattered, by all the hullabaloo about her life and accomplishments. A world-renowned designer of livestock handling facilities, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, and one of the world’s highest functioning autistics, the most recent chapter of her life is being written right now, or filmed to be more specific, in Austin, TX. The completed work – a biopic on her life and experiences over the decades of the 1960s and 1970s – is set to air next spring in a two-hour production on HBO.

Grandin tells BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly that filming is about half completed, with a wrap-up expected in mid to late November, though she hasn’t actually visited the set as yet. She expects to visit the set later in filming and will appear in the film to provide an epilog on the years following the film’s period.

Grandin is portrayed in the film by Claire Danes, a Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated film, television and theater actress. Danes and Grandin spent a half-day lunching and visiting in Danes’ New York City apartment as part of Danes’ research, she says. Grandin’s assistant, Mark Deesing, who has visited the set during filming, told Grandin that Dane’s depiction of her is so convincing that it "sent a shiver down my spine."

Grandin says the script was developed via in-person interviews and her various published books and writings. The working title of the film is “Temple Grandin - Thinking In Pictures,” which also is the title of the 2006 book that chronicled her childhood and life with autism.

She worked with the writer to ensure the chronology on this latest project. “I read over the script and they changed things that I hated. I was adamant that they depict me as I was. I wouldn’t stand, for instance, for my character to swear in the movie because I don’t swear. I want to make sure that they not present me as doing something out of character,” she says.

Some fictionalization occurs in the script, she adds, owing to the fact that two decades had to be condensed into a two-hour movie. Thus, at least one character depicted in the movie is a composite.

Throughout the process, however, she has insisted that “the cattle have to be right. I don’t want Holstein calves or a situation like in the movie ‘City Slickers’ where the cattle weren’t right.” She says the producers even bought a parcel of Angus calves for the production in order to ensure authenticity.

Grandin says the story begins in the 1960s when she was expelled from her high school for throwing a book at a female classmate who had been tormenting her. The biopic ends in the 1970s after Grandin has established her business – Grandin Livestock Handling Systems, a vehicle through which she's designed one-third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the U.S.

Grandin says the experience has had its fun, and funny, times. One central scene that appears in the movie chronicles her experience in designing a cattle dip tank for a now-defunct Arizona feedyard. Once a common feature in feedyards, dip vats were long, narrow vats, about 7-ft. deep, filled with insecticide solution. Cattle were forced single-file into the vats to swim through the solution for lice and tick control.

Grandin’s design featured a tractioned ramp for the cattle to calmly walk into the vat; the cowboy crew thought the traction was unnecessary and removed it. The resulting slick surface caused cattle to panic with some calves drowning after ending up upside down in the liquid. Grandin replaced the traction and the crew was amazed at the calmness with which cattle stepped off into the ramp.

However, depicting such a scene involving live animals in the movie was problematic, Grandin says. So rather than use live (which isn’t allowed) or even dead animals, the crew built a remote-controlled robotic calf that weighs about 400 lbs. – think about the shark in "Jaws" here.

Incidentally, the dip tank used in the movie was built based on a photo of a dip vat used at John Wayne’s Red River Feedyard in Arizona.

Having her life of four decades ago recreated has been an interesting experience, Grandin says. For instance, the dorn-room setting for her undergraduate days at Arizona State University is replete with her posters of the day.

She expects to be doing promotional interviews in print and broadcast ahead of the spring release. “I have to remind myself not to get a big head,” she says. “You know what happens. Just look at statues of famous people; they all have pigeon poop on them.”

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Well-known member
Jul 29, 2007
Central Lower Michigan
I have had the extreme privelege of "hanging out" with Temple Grandin at the last annual Lowline National show/sale/banquet in Denver in, I believe, 2002, that I was responsible for.  I was "in charge" of the banquet/annual meeting and decided I'd like a speaker that would be credible and knock everyone's socks off.  I wasn't sure she would agree to do it so I called her CSU office.  She called me back and was happy to be a part of our "festivities" as she was going to be at Denver anyway and amazingly had that night free.  She was fantastic!  I "hosted" her (which means I got her room, met her in the lobby, got her to the banquet on time, and turned her loose!) and never have been so impressed with anyone before or since.  If anyone ever has a chance to hear her speak, don't miss it.  She's just as down to earth as you can imagine.  I was so honored that such a world respected "celebrity" would agree to come to our "small potatoes" banquet.

OH Breeder

Well-known member
Feb 14, 2007
Ada, Ohio
You Tube has some of her lectures you can download and watch. I watched several of her lectures one evening. Very interesting lady.


Well-known member
Jan 10, 2007
Here is more on Temple:

Temple Grandin Awarded "Sharp Cleaver" Award     

Animal Sciences professor Temple Grandin was recently awarded the annual “Sharp Cleaver” award by the Colorado and Wyoming Associations of Meat Processors for her service to the Colorado and Wyoming meat industry. The award presentation was on Saturday, March 14th in Fort Collins. Dr. Grandin specializes in designing equipment and facilities for the humane treatment and slaughter of livestock. Dr. Grandin, who has published several books and hundreds of articles on topics from animal restraint systems to her life with autism, is also the subject of an upcoming movie. The film, in which she will be portrayed by actress Claire Danes (Romeo & Juliet, Shopgirl), is to be released in 2010. For more information about the movie and its filming, see the recent Today article at www.today.colostate.edu/story.aspx?id=730.

The Northern Colorado Writers will be hosting Dr. Grandin for a speaking engagement on Monday, April 27th, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the NCW writing studio (108 East Monroe in Fort Collins, next to Chico’s).  Visit the Northern Colorado Writers website for more information and to register.

For more information on Dr. Grandin’s life and work, visit her website at www.templegrandin.com.