Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio will reportedly star in a biographical movie about Billy Milligan - a man from central Ohio who is believed to be the first person to successfully deploy a multiple-personality disorder defense in a case involving a violent crime in the U.S.
Milligan spent years in Athens undergoing outpatient treatment in the Athens Mental Health Center on The Ridges. During that time, he was the subject of heavy local media coverage. Part of that coverage was generated by community members' fears that he would commit another violent crime, though he never did.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, which broke the story about DiCaprio last week, DiCaprio has eyed the role of Billy Milligan since 1997, despite the fact that plans for a film adaptation, called "The Crowded Room," of Milligan's life have laid dormant for more than a decade.
Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, DiCaprio's production company has come aboard the "The Crowded Room" project, with DiCaprio starring as Milligan as well as producing the movie.
Milligan died last December at a Columbus nursing home at the age of 59.
Milligan was arrested in 1977 and was indicted for three counts of kidnapping, three counts of aggravated robbery and four counts of rape. Milligan and his lawyers pleaded in the trial that followed that Milligan was not guilty of robbery and the rape of three women on the Ohio State University campus by reason of insanity. Milligan was acquitted on those grounds.
Milligan was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder before that court trial in the late 70's, and was said to have 24 different personalities, which apparently worked independently of each other.
From his time in Athens, psychologists and local community members experienced some of Milligan's personalities, including Adalana, a lesbian who supposedly admitted to the rapes, and a Yugoslavian man named Ragen Vadascovinich, an angry personality who supposedly admitted to committing the robbery.
When Milligan came to Athens, the late Ohio University English professor Daniel Keyes, author of "Flowers for Algernon," began work on what was to become "The Minds of Billy Milligan," published in 1981.
A film adaptation of that book, originally co-written by big-time Hollywood director James Cameron, has been stalled in development since the early 1990s, in part because of a lawsuit on the part of Milligan, according to Milligan's Wikipedia page. Various directors like Joel Schumacher and David Fincher have since attempted to reboot the film, and actors who were reportedly courted for the role of Milligan include Matthew McConaughey, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and John Cusack.
Former editor of The Athens NEWS Melody Sands (1978 to 1987) recalled some of her conversations with Milligan in an article for The Athens NEWS last December.
"One particular phone call (these became weekly occurrences), he wanted to talk about the movie being made about his life; he had big plans for this movie, and knew he was going to make a lot of money off it. He had big plans for the money, too," She wrote.
"I listened, always took notes on these two-hour calls, and asked him questions about his intentions. Once we even discussed making the movie in Athens to create jobs in the community. He liked that idea better than going to California, but soon realized he did not have much say in the matter - another two-hour call."
Retired Athens County judge L. Alan Goldsberrry, who represented Milligan as his attorney during his Athens stay, recalled in an A-NEWS story last December that he only dealt with a few of Milligan's personalities, including Adalana.
A request for comment from New Regency, the production company that is responsible for producing the movie along with DiCaprio, went unanswered as of Wednesday afternoon.
The mental disorder Milligan was classified with is now known as dissociative identity disorder; then as in now, DAD is a controversial disorder because there is no clear consensus among mental health professionals on how it is caused, how to diagnose it, or how to properly treat it.