October Sky

Movies - Rocket Boys

Although there has been a lot of Hollywood interest in all of Homer's books, options are available on Torpedo Junction, The Keeper's Son, Back to the Moon, and the Coalwood series (except Rocket Boys). The Ambassador's Son, a sequel to The Keeper's Son, has been optioned by Daybreak Productions headed by Chuck Gordon who also produced October Sky. Contact Homer's agent, Mickey Freiberg at Acme Talent Agency, Mickey@acmeagents.com or (323)602-0330 for more information.


Based on a true story, the award-winning movie October Sky was adapted from Homer Hickam's #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Rocket Boys.
Opened: February 19, 1999
Jake Gyllenhaal ... Homer "Sonny" Hickam, Jr.
Chris Cooper ... John Hickam
Natalie Canerday ... Elsie Hickam
Laura Dern ... Miss Riley
Chris Owen ... Quentin Wilson
William Lee Scott ... Roy Lee Cooke
Chad Lindberg ... O'Dell
Scott Thomas ... Jim Hickam
Directed By: Joe Johnston
Produced By: Larry Franco & Charles Gordon
Released By: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
Video Release Date: July 2, 1999


Filmed on location in Oliver Springs and Petros, Tennessee.
RATED: PG (for language, and alcohol use)

October Sky is an "anagram" of the name of the book the movie is based upon, Rocket Boys. That is, the letters of the word "Rocket Boys" can be switched around to spell out "October Sky"! Sputnik was also launched in October, 1957.


Growing up in a small mining town in West Virginia, the future of many of it's young teens were obvious: they would become miners. When 14 year old Homer Hickam, Jr. witnessed the Soviet sattellite, Sputnik fly over Coalwood, WV, he knew he was destined to change the inevitable. Watching Sputnik soar across the night sky helped to inspire Homer and a small group of his friends to to build and launch their own homemade rockets, thus leading to a local uproar. Before long the boys are able to end the discouraging remarks, and win over the hearts of many, including their chemistry teacher, Miss Riley who helps lead them in the direction to secure their prosperous futures... by attending college.


Universal studio's adaptation of Homer Hickam's memoir Rocket Boys into a major motion picture in 1998 was very well done and Homer is proud of this version of his story. He was a techical consultant on the movie and worked very hard to keep West Virginia stereotypes minimal in this gutsy depiction of his town and family.

Just to whet your curiosity (and get you to read the book to find out the real and much more detailed story) here are some Rocket Boys truths:
  • Homer's name is not Homer in the book. He used his nickname, "Sonny." His mother gave him the nickname but the Great Six (his Coalwood school teachers) had their own ideas on how it should be spelled
  • Homer's Dad's name is not John, it is Homer. Homer, Jr. (Sonny) was named after his father
  • The Rocket Boys were a group of SIX boys not four
  • The Rocket Boys never stole railroad tracks for rocket supply money. They did, however, go after the cast iron pipe underneath the tracks. Homer almost lost his life doing it
  • Homer did not quit school to go work in the mines
  • The Rocket Boys did not win scholarships to go to college. They received, however, a far greater gift


In the spring of 2003, Homer's third Coalwood memoir, Sky of Stone was optioned by Hallmark Entertainment for a TV movie. An excellent screenplay written by "A List" writer Patrick Duncan was completed. All looked good for the film. But then the folks at Hallmark decided they wanted their movies to have mainly strong women protagonists. Sadly, although certainly there is no stronger woman than Sky of Stone's Rita Walicki, the project was put on the shelf and remains there today.

Sky of Stone Plot: It's summer, 1961, and Sonny Hickam is winding up his first year in college. He's not the same boy who once launched rockets and dreamed of being a space engineer. In fact, he's confused as to what he wants to do. All he knows is he's looking forward to a three-month vacation... [ read more ]

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  • - Review 1
  • - Review 2
  • - Review 3
  • - Review 4
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  • - Review 6

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