James Cameron has helmed various types of films throughout his career. From time travelling robot assassins to Lovers on a doomed ship, the man has done it all and has perpetually walked away with a round of applause. But there is one film or would-be film that never got that opportunity to become the great storyteller’s vision.
‘A Crowded Room’ was a screenplay written by James Cameron based off a book called ‘The Minds Of Billy Milligan’ by author Daniel Keyes.
The book told the real life story of William S. Milligan or Billy Milligan, The man who was arrested for a series of rapes and robberies but was revealed to be suffering from multiple personality disorder. Billy Milligan had 24 different personalities such as a intelligent british man, a escape artist, a eight year boy etc. one of the personality was a lesbian woman who comitted the rapes.
Subjects of James Cameron’s films have always been a fascination for me. I was also curious why Cameron had named the script ‘A Crowded Room’, So I decided to check out the book and I go to say I came to why they say that the truth is stranger than fiction.
The book chronicles the various events of the milligan’s life, a diificult childhood with a abusive stepfather, the rise of various personalities, The media coverage and public perception, some of who billieved his tragic story and others who thought that Billy was just a brilliant actor looking to avoid a prison term. But the single most fascinaring aspect of the book was the 24 personalities themeselves- Their interaction with each others…how they come to know about themeselves and others , how they adjusted with each other and thier efforts to protect billy who had become suicidal.
Each one had their assigned tasks during which one of them would hold the conciousness. The one who held the consciousness was said to be on the ‘Spot’ (under a spotlight) while others remained around him or her in a dark room. I think that’s the reason James Cameron named it ‘A crowded room’.
The book reads as a page-turning thriller as we witness the events before and after the police arrested milligan for rape. We see the stuggle of milligans lawyers to prove billy not guilty by pleading insanity and doctors who try to fuse the 24 personalities while also trying to make sense of the puzzle that is the human mind.
Sadly the film based on the book was shelved due to disputes between the involved parties (which can be read in this article) and we as a audience were deprived of what could have been a great psychological drama film.
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