LOUISIANA, Mo. — Tom and Patricia Hooper’s babies are starring in Hollywood.
All 500 of them.
Dishes, candlesticks, ink wells and dozens of other objects made at the couple’s ASL Pewter company in downtown Louisiana are being used in the miniseries “John Adams” on HBO.
The seven-part drama, based upon David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, stars Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney and airs Sunday nights through April 20.
“It’s real exciting,” said Tom Hooper, who has been in the pewter-making business for 15 years. “It’s kind of fun because you can sit there watching and say ‘I made that.”’
The production company located ASL on the Web and did all of its business on the telephone. Staffers would describe the scenes, then the Hoopers and apprentice Brice Chandler would go to work.
“Sometimes, they’d call two or three times a day and sometimes we wouldn’t hear from them for a week,” Hooper said. “They’d say ‘We need one of this and two of that and three of something else.”’
ASL was the perfect choice because it uses original casting molds that date from 1650 to 1840, which means everything is historically accurate.
“Basically, the only way you can tell the difference between the original and what we make is we put a mark on them so they can’t be misrepresented,” Hooper said.
When producers wanted 40 inkwells for a scene about the drafting of the Constitution, ASL didn’t have enough in stock. So, the Hoopers and Chandler went to work.
“That was a couple of all-nighters, working on those,” Hooper recalls. “They’d call up on a Thursday evening and want something in Virginia by Tuesday.”
Some items even had to be shipped to Europe while the production filmed there. One tavern scene required more than 50 pieces, including plates, cups and tableware. ASL candlesticks also appear in the miniseries.
The Hoopers have provided authentic pieces to historic sites, including the distillery at George Washington’s Mt. Vernon home in Virginia, but hadn’t done anything for Hollywood before. They’re keeping in touch with others who made furniture or replica paintings for the production.
“We hope (Hollywood) can use artisans such as ourselves to do period pieces in the future,” Hooper said. “It’s extremely rewarding to keep something alive that’s being lost today. We’re in a push-button, instant-gratification society.”
Even if Steven Spielberg does come calling (and he just might, because his wife has relatives in the area), the Hoopers aren’t letting their brush with fame go to their heads.
“Even though we’re a small company, we try to cater to all our customers,” Hooper said.