In June I went back to Chicago and we ran another one, a real race, a grownup race, that happened during Pride Week. This is the video her dad made of our run.
This is why I run.
This is a huge problem. A ginormous problem.
Plenty of great actors could play most of the characters. A younger undiscovered Ellen Page or Jennifer Lawrence would be great for my main character, Alice. I wouldn’t want her to look too much like a runner; she’s just a normal girl who decides to take up running.
If he could get himself a little paunchy, Tom Hanks would be perfect for Walter-the-Man, the family friend who treats Alice like a friend and speaks honestly and bluntly to her when she needs to get out of her college-rejection funk. Mary-Louise Parker is one of my favorite actors because she comes across as smart—I’d love to see her play Alice’s dermatologist mom.
I have no idea if she can act, but Olympian Deena Kastor as Joan, the former elite runner who mentors Alice, would be totally cool for the running geeks. And Miles, the teen love interest—a tall skinny dude with floppy hair who loves to read and watches old movies with his grandma—no problem. Plenty of guys like that around. Casting all of the parts but one would be a breeze.
The big problem would be who could play Walter, perhaps the best and most loveable character in the novel. Walter is smart, funny, wise, athletic, and a total hottie.
He’s also a rat.
Now, I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of rats who could play him. Great rodent actors would leap at the opportunity—there aren’t that many sympathetic roles for vermin. No, there’s a bigger issue. Balls. Rat balls. They’re ginormous. Pornographic. Like if a man had cantaloupes between his legs. It might be off-putting to a movie audience unaccustomed to seeing colossal testicles on screen.
I based Walter on my rat, Iris. But for the novel I wanted the rat character to be male. The boys are more chill; women rats are busy all the time and I needed someone who would be able to provide a certain amount of calm for Alice during a turbulent time. Alice does mention that the size of Walter’s balls freaks some people out, but it’s not something she spends a lot of time thinking about.
If a male rat were cast in the Walter roll, everyone would come out of the movie saying “Rat balls!” and not pay attention to the story. But if they cast a female, the rat people would know that Walter was being played by a chick. They might feel the moviemakers weren’t knowledgeable about rats, a bad thing for a work that argues that bigotry and prejudice rely on ignorance to thrive.
The bottom line is that I think the book won’t be made into a movie. Unless, maybe, possibly, they wrote in a scene about neutering Walter. That might work. But the male audiences who will silently admire Walter’s nuts might get a little queasy. Right. Probably not movie material.