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The Rosie Project: My Take on the Book [Ryan Reynolds as Don Tillman?] #TBT

Originally published 8/5/2015. Updated 4/7/2016: 
Jennifer Lawrence was originally cast as Rosie but dropped out as did director Richard Linklater over scheduling issues. Today we learn that Ryan Reynolds is circling the project. Is he right for the part of Don? What do you think? And who would you cast as Rosie? My friend +Irene Acton suggests Reynold’s wife, Blake Lively. Thoughts?

I’ve never met a romantic hero quite like Don Tillman, the leading man in The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.  While the titular Rosie is a familiar figure; beautiful, slightly to the left of the straight and narrow, a charming rule breaker, the oh-so-quirky Don is something else. He's the revenge of the nerds squared. Actually he's a genetic research scientist who's probably the first ever truly Autistic protagonist of a romantic comedy. I can't wait to see the movie version! Last week we learned The Rosie Project is headed to the screen via a script by rom-com screenwriters extraordinaire Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, with Jennifer Lawrence set to star. The producers are looking at Richard Linklater to direct!

While the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Rosie is was brilliant — for those of you following along, in the past Jennifer Lawrence has been an anathema to me but I have to say, the more I read this book, the more I realized just how perfect J-Law was for the part —who to cast as Don, the awkward, nerdy, socially clueless but brilliant 39 year old science guy who, with the right haircut and suit, just happens to look like Cary Grant?

As Don puts it
"I am thirty-nine years old, tall, fit, and intelligent with a relatively high status and above average income as an associate professor. Logically, I should be attractive to a wide range of women. In the animal kingdom, I would succeed in reproducing.
However, there is something about me that women find unappealing. I have never found it easy to make friends, and it seems the deficiencies that caused this problem have also affected my attempts at romantic relationships."
After several dating disasters, Don decides to search for a wife via a lengthy questionnaire that factors all the potential foibles out. While doing so he encounters Rosie and while she fails his questionnaire he finds himself drawn into helping Rosie find her biological father. Don probably falls in the Asperger's quadrant of the Austism spectrum: he's professorial, adept in his own field, rigid, absolutely clueless about society's expectations and oblivious to the social cues of others. He's not quite oblivious to the oddness of his behavioral ticks, things like scheduling his meals so that he eats the same thing for supper every Monday, week after week, but at the same time he sees no need to change things up. It's so much easier, he reasons, to decide on what to eat once and for all, and leave his brain available for all the other thinking and activities that need to be done. Autism and spontaneity rarely equate.

I fell in love with him instantly.

When my son was growing up, his best neighborhood friends from aged five through eleven, when we moved away, were Katie and her older, autistic brother Chris, who lived next door. Sometimes they'd all take our beagle Charlie for a walk. Charlie, a rambunctious puppy, would have the kids racing after him, struggling just to keep up as he bounded off on the trail of a particularly good squirrel scent. Taking Charlie for a walk was a 'walk' in name only. I still laugh when I think of Chris, stopping on the sidewalk, his face red and frustrated. "Hey! There's a reason you call it a walk, you know!" Our friend Chris has grown up now. Chris has a girlfriend and a budding career as an actor and comedian. 

I doubt Chris would have patience for the book in which Tillman is conducting a search for the perfect partner via a long, in-depth questionnaire which cigarette-smoking, alchohol-imbibing Rosie fails but I think he would relate to the methodical way Don goes about trying to find a partner. I'm sure he'd recognize and respect the way Don tries to change and fit more closely into being what the world expects him to be but at the end of the day, Don, and my friend Chris, know who they are. They may be the odd men out I love how this book shows us that for those who take the extra time to get to know them and look past—or even learn to appreciate— their quirks, they'll often find a funny, smart as hell, friend inside. 

As Don Tillman puts it: An inability (or reduced ability) to empathize is not the same as an inability to love.  And I really loved Don Tillman.

Have you read Graeme Simsion's book? Who would you cast as Don Tillman?

Here's our friend Chris Tenney doing his bit as a stand-up comedian.