Okay, so I have an almost true Hollywood story as well. The 'almost' refers to the fact that the Hollywood ending never really happened, not that my tale isn't true.
The truth is, my second book was optioned by an independent filmmaker. But my second book is a memoir. The title alone, Kinky Gazpacho, got me a lot of interest from movie folk -- both Hollywood and Indie -- but the fact that the story is about a little Black girl from Wisconsin who sets her sights on a life of adventure and romance in Spain confused most of them. I don't blame them entirely. My own parents were confused as to why I thought Spain would be the perfect place to find myself. "What's wrong with Milwaukee," they wanted to know ( as they bit into their bratwurst and sipped from their cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer)?
So, when this female filmmaker from Canada (which is totally close to Wisconsin) said she wanted to turn Kinky Gazpacho into a feature film because the story resonated with her so much, because she thought a lot of other people would be able to relate to my spirit of longing, and because, well, because she wanted to shoot a movie in the south of Spain, I was thrilled. And let's be honest, I was completely geeked on the idea that my life story was going to be the basis for a movie. Granted, the filmmaker informed me that she'd have to 'adjust' some of the narrative to make a better story, but I was okay with that. For example, I told her to feel free to completely skip over the chapter that rehashed my minor romance with "Smelly Man," aka the lovely Amherst boy who followed me home one summer but neglected to mention his new vow against using deodorant. 'Yes, please,' I said. 'Cut all you want, especially if will help tell a more compelling (and, ahem, less embarrassing) story.
Needless to say, after spending far too much time trying to decide who should play me on the big screen, as well as my sexy Spanish husband -- who isn't as sexy as say Antonio Banderas was in his prime, but is totally cuter -- in my opinion -- than Javier Bardem -- I realized, there are definite drawbacks to having your life plastered on a movie screen. No matter how much the filmmaker claimed she "got me," her focus was on telling a great story, not sparing my feelings when she decides to turn Smelly Man into an abusive boyfriend with a bad coke habit, instead of just a misguided boy with a hygiene problem. You see where I'm going with this? Once that story became hers, my life was no longer my own. Literally.
Lucky for me, Kinky Gazpacho the movie is still in the development stage. For about a year I would check in with the filmmaker on a regular basis for status updates, but now I'm content to leave the project in that famous Hollywood limbo. If it ever does make it to the big screen I don't know how I'll feel seeing my life interpreted by a complete stranger. It will probably be very trippy. Maybe I'll call Elizabeth Gilbert and she how she's dealing with it.
Lori L. Tharps is the author of two critically acclaimed non-fiction books, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America and Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain. Atria Books just released her debut novel, Substitute Me in August 2010.