Reflections on dogs, health and Hollywood
Former Big Sky resident and “Godfather” casting director Andrea Eastman looks back on how her golden retriever, Trooper, helped her heal from open heart surgery and inspired a children’s book.
By Julia Barton DIGITAL PRODUCER
BIG SKY—By the time Andrea Eastman moved to Big Sky full time in 2005, she had a storied career in Hollywood as a casting director and agent for various film projects. Perhaps her most well-known accomplishment was casting the 1972 production “The Godfather” at the age of 26.
Eastman’s career and marriage led her to bounce around the U.S. for years between California and the East Coast, but a visit to western Montana in the late 1990s spurred a love for the state.
In 2020, Eastman spent three months away from her Gallatin County home for open heart surgery. She’d been struggling to breathe at altitude and a consultation with a Bozeman cardiologist revealed that she had a leaky mitral valve, effectively meaning that a portion of her blood was not flowing properly through her heart.
Eastman and her beloved golden retriever, Trooper, traveled down to Los Angeles for the surgery and the pair lived out of the famous Beverly Hills Hotel during Eastman’s recovery. Eastman commissioned an author to tell the story of Trooper’s crucial role in her recovery journey and in November 2022, the children’s book “Trooper at the Beverly Hills Hotel” was published.
“I’ve had dogs forever and they’ve all been amazing dogs, but there was something very special about Trooper,” Eastman told EBS in an April interview. “I know for a fact I never would have healed so well and so quickly without the love of this dog.”
The book, written by Susan McCauley and illustrated by Darlee Orcullo Urbiztondo, covers the duo’s stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which happened to coincide with lockdown stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hotel was running at a very limited capacity, Eastman explained, but she’d been connected with the hotel throughout her years in Los Angeles and worked out a deal to stay during her recovery.
During her immediate recovery, Eastman was not particularly mobile, so hotel staff helped walk Trooper around the grounds. As Eastman’s recovery progressed and she began taking Trooper for longer and longer walks around the hotel, the staff grew friendly with Trooper.
“So Trooper was completely beloved by the whole hotel,” Eastman said. “He would prance around with his leash in his mouth and he would go behind the desk every morning and make sure that everybody pet him.”
Illustrations in the book depict Trooper in this way, delightfully making acquaintance with hotel staff while patiently waiting for his owner to get back on her feet. Eastman described Trooper as her caregiver. Eastman recalls her doctor telling her that she’d heal faster if she was happy. With Trooper by her side, she was able to persevere through what could have quickly become a depressing time.
Following a successful recovery, Eastman and her pup said goodbye to the Beverly Hills Hotel and moved back to their Bozeman home.
“[The book is] really about the love of the dog and the dog’s love for me,” Eastman said. “And I mean, the book really is adorable.”
Trooper died in January 2022 at 13 and a half years old. Eastman cared for him in his old age much as Trooper had cared for her following her surgery.
“I wanted Trooper to live on,” Eastman said about the inspiration for the book.
The book has raving Amazon reviews from various big names that Eastman worked with throughout her career, including Sylvester Stallone, Cindy Crawford and Marshall Brickman.
Eastman’s casting and agent career spanned more than 30 years, she said. In 2022, the same time she was coping with Trooper’s death and working on the book, she celebrated the 50th anniversary of “The Godfather” with friendly faces including the film’s lead, Al Pacino. Eastman was the head of casting for Paramount at the time of the film, which premiered during a time when young women were few and far between in the industry.
“I mean, I started working and there were literally no women executives,” Eastman said. “People thought, ‘Oh my God, how could she possibly have her job?’”
People often made assumptions about how Eastman rose to her position, but she explained that she was just “kind of fearless.” She transitioned from casting to being a talent agent for 27 years before she made the move to Montana in the early 2000s.
Despite her heart surgery to repair her damaged mitral valve, she still struggles with the high elevation of Gallatin County, making it difficult to ride her horses and enjoy everything Montana has to offer. She plans to sell her Bozeman home and move back to Los Angeles to live closer to friends and be at a more manageable elevation.
“It’s gonna break my heart,” Eastman said. “I kind of created this house and I love it but I’m gonna have to put it on the market this summer and regretfully leave Montana, but I have lots of friends so hopefully I can come back.”
“Trooper at the Beverly Hills Hotel” is available online on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart.