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October Sky (1999) Poster

(1999)

Trivia

The author wished the movie to be called "Rocket Boys," like the book it's based on, but the studio believed that title would not sell well. The compromise title "October Sky" works on two levels: it's the month when the hero is first inspired by Sputnik flying overhead, and it is an anagram of "Rocket Boys"!
In real life and in the novel "Rocket Boys," Quentin Wilson was a traditionally handsome looking boy, whereas Homer Hickam looked like the stereotypical "nerd" that the film's Quentin is made to look like. Their physical appearances were switched due to the casting of then-teen heartthrob Jake Gyllenhaal.
In the movie Homer Hickem is enamored with Wernher Von Braun a former Nazi scientist. In real life Wernher von Braun and Jake Gyllenhaal (who plays Homer) in the movie are actually distant cousins. They are both descendants of William the Conqueror.
The location of the slag dump where the Rocket Boys actually tested their rockets still exists. It is now a large grassy field. It is located in the actual town of Coalwood, WV which still exists today. They erected a replica test stand, launch pad, and "shed" after the movie brought the rocket boys story back into the public light. Every year the town of Coalwood celebrates the Rocket Boys with a festival in October called "October Sky Festival".
The town of Coalwood, West Virginia, has lost so many residents that it no longer holds the annual October Sky Festival. The event was moved to Beckley, West Virginia, in 2012 due to the lack of able-bodied volunteers remaining in Coalwood.
Two of the real-life rocket boys, Sherman Siers and Jimmie O'Dell Carroll were combined into one character named Sherman O'Dell.
This film was released in the United States on February 19, 1999, which was also the 56th birthday of the real-life Homer H. Hickam Jr..
The boys rarely tested a single rocket per day. They often manufactured several rockets and tested them in sequence. The rocket that hit Homer's father's office during their early testing, when they were launching rockets near the mine, was actually the last rocket of several they launched that day.
When watching the Vanguard rocket failure on TV Homer writes a letter of condolence to Von Braun and his team for their failure in launching it. In reality the Vanguard was the U.S. Navy's project and it was selected over Von Braun and his team for launching America's first satellite. When the Vanguard failed Von Braun successfully launched America's first satellite using his own rocket.
Elsie claims that she'll move to Myrtle Beach after she leaves John. This was where the real Elsie moved after Homer Hickam Sr. (John) died of Black Lung Disease, and still currently resides.
Jim, Homer's brother did not receive a football scholarship from West Virginia University. He too was a Hokie and attended VPI, aka Virginia Tech.
When the college recruiters approach Homer at the end of the science fair, the last one identifies himself as being from "Virginia Tech", the real life Homer Hickam's alma mater.
The engineer driving the steam locomotive in the rail-harvesting scene was played by renowned railroad photographer O. Winston Link.
The real Homer Hickam Jr often attends the annual Rocket Boys/October Sky festival now held near the town of Coalwood.
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The school exterior was actually two different schools - the football scene was shot in the soccer field of Gresham Middle School, Knoxville, Tennessee, and the other exterior scene, right before Homer and his friends are arrested, is the exterior of Fountain City Elementary school in Knoxville. The actual schools are directly across the street from each other.
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Homer H. Hickam Jr. helped design and build the cannon that is used during the Virginia Tech Hokie football games.
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Leon Bolden says he flew with the "Red Tails" in WWII. The "Red Tails" were the 332nd Fighter Group, an all African American unit better known as the "Tuskegee Airmen".
In actuality, Homer H. Hickam Jr. and the other Rocket Boys did not steal the railroad lines to finance their rockets.
Although known as Virginia Tech since the early 1990's, at the time the movie takes place, the university was known as VPI.
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In the steam engine scene where the boys are salvaging iron rails from unused rail lines, the Norfolk & Western coal hauling steam locomotive they see is the former Southern Railway engine #4501. This engine is currently in use at the Tennessee Valley Railroad in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The scenes with the locomotive were filmed in upper Tennessee around Harriman, Oliver Springs, and Lake City with engine #4501 pulling a string of coal hopper cars lettered in authentic N&W livery.
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The real Freida Riley was a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority at Concord University in Athens, West Virginia.
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Russian Sergei P. Korolev masterminded the Sputnik launch, the world's first artificial satellite. The launch was also dramatized in The Right Stuff (1983) and The Iron Giant (1999).
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Chris Ellis, who plays Principal Turner, also played Deke Slayton in Apollo 13 (1995) and appeared in the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon (1998).
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John's reference to "Bloody Mingo" is about the early 20th century mine war in Matewan. Chris Cooper, who played John, also portrayed union activist Joe Kenehan in the 1987 film Matewan (1987).
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The Japanese title of the movie, directly translated, is "Towards the distant sky". The sub-heading however, is "Rocket Boys", which the author wanted to be the English title (see trivia above).
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Filming was expected to wrap on May 10, 1998, but was completed on April 30, eleven days ahead of schedule.
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A controversy was held when a porn filmmaker made a porn spoof of this film. The film was immediately deleted and doesn't exist now.
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