The multitalented Beth Grant has been filming in El Reno and so before leaving on Saturday, we are getting together with her at the Rain Man house. All of the guys will be there! Below is the story of how it came to be.
In the Middle of Nowhere... The Rain Man Story
My friend Phyllis Mashaney called me at 5:45 in the evening to say a casting director for a movie had been in town auditioning the kids at school all day. She said they were looking for kids and pickups that were needed to drive by a house… they were going to film in Hinton. She told me they had taken videos of her girls Carrie and Megan and then laughed and said it was too bad my home schoolers hadn’t been able to audition… auditions closed at six. Never a slacker, I sprang into action… it is an eight minute drive to town and I was determined to make it!
I had been getting dinner so I turned everything off, hastily grabbed baby Lize, and rushed outside yelling to the kids to get to the car… hurry, hurry, hurry! Everyone piled in, some without shoes, some who had been in the sand pile had dirt on their faces and no one was clean. The tone of my voice had caused instant mood elevation, so they were bobbing up and down all over the station wagon as Michael sped to town.
When we got to the school auditorium, the production crew packing up equipment. Oh no…auditions were over. Never mind… I hustled the kids inside the auditorium and asked the lady at the desk if it was too late to sign up for anything. She glanced at the casting director, precious Marie Rowe, and Marie nodded we could sign up so I began to fill out paperwork while my kids went nuts, running around ‘testing’ anything that was not tied down. Marshall was carrying baby Andrew at a dead run so I had to stop several times to try and save the baby. I tried to wipe the dirt off Peter’s face as he ran by and wished I’d had time to find their shoes and wash their hands. Please don’t climb on that I‘d had to caution, don’t run with that pencil, leave that electrical cord alone! I felt we made a dubious impression. Marie visited with me and the children, took pictures since the video equipment had been packed, I signed up our old truck, and we left.
Several weeks later I got a call from her that they had chosen my children to be the ‘farm house kids’ in the movie. The script had called for two brunettes, but they had rewritten the script to use all six of our sons; she had issued a press release. I was stunned… I just sat there in disbelief. I called my Dad and Michael’s parents. Daddy was happy, but Michael’s Dad didn’t believe me so I decided to call the Daily Oklahoman newspaper to see it they knew anything. They told me ‘front page tomorrow’. And then the phone began to ring… tv stations, radio stations, newspaper interviews. Marshall, who was 12, called a friend and said he was going to be in a movie ‘with Tom Cruise and some old guy‘… my children had never even been to a movie and seldom watched television so their references were hazy.
Marie had interviewed thousands of kids, most had parents with high hopes for their budding careers, but they were looking for farm kids, which is exactly what we had. Their naiveté was probably the key to my kids being chosen.
Beth Grant, the mother in the scene, came over to meet the children before filming and told them she was their mother in the movie. John, who had just turned 8, whispered to me ‘Is she really my Mother‘ so confusion reigned that day. The next day, amid a flurry of calls from people wanting interviews, a huge black limo picked us up and took us to the house where we would spend three days filming.
Filming of Rain Man
Please remember the children were very active, ranging in age from 2 1/2 to 12, and they had limited experiences with anything considered remotely sophisticated. Needless to say the ride in the limo was an experience unto itself… every button had been pushed, every knob twisted during the drive from our house to the set… it was a relief to get the children out of the vehicle before something was accidentally broken. The house was located on a hill and as the limo dropped us off the full impact hit me… it was a movie set!
The crew and production people had heard all about us and had been waiting to meet us… Marie introduced us to everyone and it was surprising how many people were there. All of the credits at the end of a movie list the people involved in making it and it takes dozens of people with unique talents to make a movie. When we got there Beth Grant was waiting, as were the actors ‘doubles’, however Barry Levinson, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise had not yet arrived.
A movie set is like a town unto itself. It is blocked off from all outside traffic and people and strewn with huge cables. There was opaque plastic around part of the house to ensure proper lighting and absorb any outside sounds. The light people fussed with the plastic while the sound people tested their equipment. They had gigantic sound boards that they controlled with levers, and they had the ability to alter tonal qualities while the actors were saying their lines. There were rows of phone lines and a generator to provide electricity for the machine that makes a movie.
Quite suddenly you could feel the excitement in the air… the actors were arriving and everyone was on point. A limo door opened and Dustin Hoffman stepped out; I must admit he took my breath away. He spoke to several people and walked directly over to us, stuck out his hand and introduced himself. My knees went weak and I am not a gushy kind of person… but he is an incredible presence with a fantastic smile! Mesmerizing to say the least. He wanted to know all about us and eventually asked why we were living in the middle of nowhere. We certainly didn’t know!
Tom Cruise exited his limo and began talking to several people. Michael and I were unaware of protocol so we decided it would be impolite to rush over to him… we just stood in the shade and waited. After a few minutes he came over to say, ‘Is there something wrong with me? Do you not want to meet me’. I was flabbergasted… wrong with him? Certainly not! I hastily explained that we did not want him to feel as though we were pushy. He smiled that perfect smile and laughed… he was a totally charming man.
The scene was shot over and over again all day with breaks in between… on the breaks everyone got to visit and relax. During the breaks Dustin Hoffman took it upon himself to entertain the kids and he is a very funny guy. On the second day, June 4th, Dustin Hoffman had his wife Lisa fly in with his seven year old son Jake, who was John’s age and his seven month old daughter, Alexandra, who was three days younger than Elizabeth. The babies played patty cake in the play pen and John and Jake planned to go fishing the next day. (Dolan had already stuffed shrimp in his empty milk carton to use as bait.) It was the twins 13th birthday so an impromptu surprise party was planned with the cake reading ‘Happy Birthday Two You’ and our car was filled with balloons.
Later on the set that last day, when it was time for his nap, Andrew began crying for his Daddy. One of my concrete rules in the house is the baby is never allowed to cry… someone is always supposed to make the baby happy so crying without comfort was totally new to Andrew. He got very worked up and apparently calling for his Daddy was a perfect unscripted scenario. Michael was standing in the back of the house and Barry motioned for him to stay back while they kept filming. After the scene I told Andrew I was so sorry but the director wanted to keep making pictures. Andrew uncharacteristically quipped, ’I hate the director‘. Dustin Hoffman laughed and said, ‘Everyone does’…. which is funny because Dustin and Barry Levinson are such good friends.
The shere number of children was cause for speculation about the logistics of having such a large family. The sound guys totaled up the probable diapers I have changed at about 275,000... then the meals were totaled as well. We were told by people on the set it was an inspiration to meet a real family… a close knit family who really love each other.
At the end of the day, we decided it had been a singular experience, one which could never be duplicated. It was just part of the very interesting life we lead… in the middle of nowhere.