Leonardo DiCaprio is getting closer to playing a role he’s eyed for nearly 20 years — that of Billy Milligan, who was the first person to successfully use multiple personality disorder as a defense in a court of law.
DiCaprio’s Appian Way has come aboard to produce The Crowded Room with New Regency, while Jason Smilovic and Todd Katzberg have been hired to write the adapted script. Smilovic’s credits include Lucky Number Slevin and Todd Phillips’ upcoming Arms and the Dudes at Warner Bros.
In addition to starring, DiCaprio will serve as a producer alongside Jennifer Davisson and Alexandra Milchan. Crowded Room further bolsters the relationship between DiCaprio and New Regency, who are currently in production together on The Revenant, director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s follow-up to New Regency and Fox Searchlight’s Oscar-winning Birdman.
The Crowded Room has been set up at New Regency for years, but never got off the ground (the project has been dormant for a decade). Smilovic’s hire gives renewed life to the adaptation of Daniel Keyes’ nonfiction tome about Milligan, who had 24 personalities. DiCaprio has been interested in playing him stretching back to 1997.
Published in 1981, Keyes’ book chronicles Milligan’s story, including his court trial in the late 1970s in Ohio after being charged with robbery and raping three women on the Ohio State University campus.
In the preparation of his defense, Milligan — who died in December 2014 — was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. Pleading insanity, he and his lawyers contended that two of his alternate personalities committed the crimes without his knowledge. He was the first to use this defense, and the first to be acquitted for this reason.
Milligan’s various personalities included Adalana, a lesbian taking responsibility for the rapes; Ragen, a Yugoslavian communist who admitted to the robbery; and Arthur, an uptight Englishman.
Hollywood has long wanted to bring Milligan’s story to the big screen. High-profile directors who previously circled the project include James Cameron.
DiCaprio is represented by LBI’s Rick Yorn and Davisson. Smilovic is repped by CAA and Madhouse Entertainment, which also reps Katzberg.