Claire Danes circles autism biopic

10:00 PM PST 08/14/2008 by Borys Kit, AP

Mick Jackson to direct film based on Temple Grandin's life

HBO's long-gestating Temple Grandin project is moving forward, with Claire Danes in negotiations to star and Mick Jackson set to direct the biopic.

Grandin, one of the leading speakers on autism, overcame the limitations imposed by the disorder to become one of the top scientists in humane livestock handling.

High school was especially harsh for Grandin, who was called "tape recorder" by other kids because she repeated things over and over. She also was hypersensitive to all sorts of sensory stimulation. She eventually graduated with degrees from several universities, going on to write influential essays on animal welfare and designing humane slaughterhouses. Grandin appears regularly on the news talk show circuit and was the subject of a BBC documentary titled "The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow" and Errol Morris' "First Person: Stairway to Heaven."

Danes will play Grandin from her high school years to her post-academic period.
Christopher Monger wrote the script, and an October start date in Austin is being eyed.
Emily Gerson Saines, Gil Bellows, Anthony Edwards, Dante Di Loreto, Paul Lister and Allison Owen are exec producing, while Scott Ferguson serves as producer.

If everything falls into place, it will be a project nine years in the making for Saines, a one-time agent and now manager-producer for whom this has been a passion project. Saines has seen several directors, including David O. Russell and Moises Kaufman, come and go.

"I made a commitment to Temple that I was going to make it and make it right," said Saines, who has a son with autism. "I never pushed to get it made until now, because now we got it right.

"When I first brought this to HBO, and I started talking to Richard Plepler about the increasing (number of people with autism), he turned to me and said, 'Your numbers have got to be wrong, otherwise it would be an epidemic.' And I told him it is," she added.

Saines credited such past and present exec chiefs at HBO as Colin Callender, Keri Putnam and Jenny Sherwood for championing the project. "It's a testament to the material on which this is based that no one ever gave up on this," she said.

Danes will next be seen starring in Richard Linklater's "Me and Orson Welles," which premieres in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. She is repped by ICM and Signpost Management.

Jackson, repped by ICM, has credits that include "The Bodyguard," "Traffic" the television series and HBO's "Live From Baghdad."
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