Temple Grandin, in her own words
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Q&A: 'O'Keeffe' writer Michael Cristofer
The animal scientist whom Claire Danes embodies in HBO's original telefilm "Temple Grandin" reveals how it felt to see her life play out on the screen, what it really feels like to be autistic and her plans for the Emmys.
"When I found out Claire was playing me, I had to look her up on the Internet. You know, I don't follow those things. So I typed her name in, and there was this pretty blonde girl. You would have never known it was her in the movie! I saw the movie four or five times--she literally became me. The way she walked, talked, everything was me.
I only spent a day with her, but gave her five hours of old VHS tapes of me doing cattle-handling to watch. She put the audio on her iPod. There was an interview on NPR with Claire doing my voice, and then me talking. It was really weird; I could barely tell the difference.
Watching the movie was like going back to the '60s and '70s in a time machine. I really did all those projects they showed, like that gate I built when I was 15, and the squeeze machine. They even used some of my own drawings. I was really eating yogurt and Jell-O all the time. That was before antidepressants, which changed my life. And the part with the bull testicles really happened, too.
My biggest concern was that they be clinically accurate about autism. I read some early scripts and they had me as too much of a savant. I had a fit. I wanted them to capture my sound sensitivity, high level of anxiety. They captured perfectly my visual thinking. I watched it and thought, 'That's how I think!'
I teach livestock handling at Colorado State. I still do some slaughterhouse work, too. Does it make me sad? Well, no. Everything dies. Nature can be harsh. Those cattle wouldn't have existed had they not been bred. There have been a lot of speaking engagements since the movie. I've had a lot of parents and kids write me letters.
But there are still misconceptions about autism. It's very variable. You have geniuses -- (from) people probably in the movie business, to people who can hardly talk. The continuous trait along the autism spectrum is creativity.
I think Claire deserves the Emmy. She went above and beyond what anyone else would have done. I've been invited to the (Emmy) show. I may go, I'm not sure. Right now I have it on the calendar with a big question mark."