What’s It Like to Have a Movie Made About Your Life? One Island Resident Knows…

Homer Hickam
Homer Hickam, Owner of Skyridge Villa

Ever wonder what it would be like to make a Hollywood movie? How about a Hollywood movie based on your life? Well, one island resident knows and he wants to share his tales with all of you.

It started back in 1994 when Homer Hickam’s short story about his life as a young boy in Coalwood, West Virginia was published in Air & Space magazine. Hollywood came calling almost immediately, as did a plethora of book agents from New York. And all seemed to want the same thing – they wanted to hear more details his life and his childhood aspiration to become a rocket scientist. Well Homer obliged and soon began writing his memoir Rocket Boys. The book debuted in 1998 and one year later, October Sky was released, a movie based on Homer’s life.

Homer and his wife Linda own Skyridge villa in Upper Carolina. They’ve been part-time island residents for more than 10 years, splitting their time between the island and Alabama.

Ever since Rocket Boys was published, people have asked Homer the same questions: How and why did he write the book, and how exactly was the movie made? Well it may have taken a bit of time, but Homer has finally gotten around to answering those questions.

“I’ve been a little busy since I wrote Rocket Boys with a lot more books, but now I’ve gotten around to writing the answers to those questions and a lot more in my new Kindle Single From Rocket Boys to October Sky,” Homer recently wrote in an email. “Writing Rocket Boys was not an easy journey. In fact after I wrote it, I said, ‘I got a million dollars of psychotherapy I didn’t even know I needed!’

“The making of October Sky wasn’t easy, either. From Rocket Boys to October Sky gives lots of behind-the-scenes stories both on-set and off. Before the first frame of film was exposed, I was involved with the writing of the screenplay. My comment when I saw the first draft – ‘I’m going to have to go up to West Virginia and apologize to everyone in the state!” – perhaps gives you an idea of how that went.

“When you read this book, you’ll be by my side as I struggle with the complexities of how a major Hollywood motion picture is made, and learn how and why I disagreed with aspects of the film even while I admired the dedication and professionalism of the men and women making it. You’ll also be alongside the director and the producers and the actors as they create one of the most beloved movies ever.”

October Sky starred a young Jake Gyllenhaal, who played Homer, as well as Laura Dern.

Homer on the set of October Sky. From left to right: Roy Lee Cook, Will Lee Scott, Homer Hickam, Chad Lindberg,  O'Dell Carroll.
On the set of October Sky – From left to right: Roy Lee Cook, Will Lee Scott, Homer Hickam, Chad Lindberg & O’Dell Carroll.

In addition to his writings, Homer is also involved with the the Wounded Warriors through Team River Runner (TRR). TRR helps raise money to bring wounded warriors and their spouses to the island for one week of healing each November. Homer, a veteran himself, is proud to support the men in women in their efforts to heal.

“As a veteran, I love to help veterans as much as I can,” Homer said.

Homer will meet with the wounded warriors when they visit during the first week of November, as he does every year. Together they chat and inspire one another. The wounded warriors are also treated to a special screening of October Sky.

And what advice does he give the men and women who may be struggling?

“I tell them that there is a path out,” Homer said. “I suggest they get up in the morning and watch the sunrise. You’ve got the light and the darkness. You’ve got to choose the light.”

Homer Wounded Warriors
Homer speaking with the wounded warriors.

In addition to his work with the wounded warriors, Homer is also in the midst of writing a new book. It involves a pet alligator and one couple’s efforts to drive it from West Virginia to Florida in an old Buick back in 1935. And the best part – it’s a true story about his parents and his mother’s ex-boyfriend who happened to be Buddy Epson of The Bevelly Hillbillies. Stay tuned for more on that one…

If you’d like to read From Rocket Boys to October Sky, you’ll need either a Kindle reader, an e-reader (iPad, Android, etc.), or a computer with the Kindle Application software. You can download the book on Amazon.com for $2.99 by clicking here.


4 thoughts on “What’s It Like to Have a Movie Made About Your Life? One Island Resident Knows…”

  1. Hi John,
    We learned about TTR from Moe at Skinny’s and it’s purpose is dear to our hearts. Our troops and veterans deserve and need this kind of “private” support; free of all our government bureaucracy, overhead and BS.
    Jane and me will be on island Jan-March. Maybe we can meet for a cool one and a chat. All the best and October Sky brought happy tears.

    Flip & Jane Sheridan

  2. When our youngest was 13 we tried to get him to sit down & watch October Sky with us. Every time someone in the family would say ” what do you want to do tonight” we would say ” Let’s watch October Sky!”!!!! He said NO for at least two years! It became a family saying ! ” Hey, let’s watch October Sky”
    With age comes wisdom …. We finally bribed him to watch it!!!!! He LIKED it!
    The movie is in our collection of classics in the cabinet of our home on St John
    ( Villa HAKUNA MATATA) Actually the original VCR tape…. Your story has inspired me to go out and splurge on a new DVD version ! 🙂

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