Claire Danes plays autism activist Dr. Temple Grandin in a new HBO film about the doctor's life. Grandin herself was diagnosed with autism and had to cope before there were commonplace methods in effect. Danes herself had a bigger support system in place for playing the autistic woman. She is married to actor Hugh Dancy, who had just completed the film Adam.

"My husband played an autistic person six months before I did this," Danes said. "So that was curious. It just so happened he'd done all this research before me so I had a bookshelf already stacked with all the reading material that I needed. We did sort of compare. We definitely did. He was a great help."

That research gave Danes a bigger picture of autism than what is popularized by movies like Rain Man. "Autism is on such a vast spectrum and there are so many different expressions of it. It's so particular to the person. In Temple's case, she's autistic but she's also brilliant and not every autistic person is. She's also incredibly resilient and imaginative and I think that's just her spirit and her personality."

Of course, Adam was a fictional character, and there is nobody in the real world or the fake one like Temple Grandin. "Temple is no ordinary autistic person. She's a superstar. She's a pioneer and the first person to write about it as somebody who has it, and that was radical. That was by definition impossible because they weren't able to communicate with others and she managed to do that so well and with such clarity. I think that's what defines it."

Temple Grandin premieres on HBO this weekend.

Image © PR Photos

Story/Interview by Fred Topel

Starpulse contributing writer

Follow more of Fred Topel's Hollywood observations on Twitter