The short version of the story goes something like this… 50-year-old Darius McCollum has long loved impersonating New York transit staff, stealing buses and trains, and then driving them away. It’s something he’s been doing since he was a teenager. Once he stole a bus at Penn Station and drove it, full of passengers, to New York’s Kennedy airport. Another time he responded to an emergency stop call on the subway at 57th street in Manhattan; clearing passengers safely and correctly and diagnosing the problem, in full uniform, before being caught by the train driver, who had seen his face on a wanted poster.
His actions have made him something of a folk hero here in NYC. But he has spent a chunk of his young life in jail thanks to this apparent hobby of his, although that hasn’t stopped him.
He’s been arrested at least 30 times in 35 years.
“I feel I just need to be there even if it’s just for a little while,” McCollum told the Wall Street Journal in 2013 about the transit network. “And then, the more I’m there, the more I want to get involved.”
McCollum has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (an autism disorder), as well as depression and anxiety stemming from a childhood school attack, but only recently have courts begun to take his illnesses into account when hearing cases of his many arrests. And while McCollum has often agreed to seek therapy, he always ends up back on the rails or behind the wheel of a bus, and, inevitably, back in front of a judge and then in jail.
Now a feature film based on McCollum’s story, titled “Train Man,” is in development, with Julia Roberts in talks to star in what will be a courtroom drama featuring Roberts as a lawyer defending McCollum (his most recent lawyer) in a one of his recent court cases. Although, as Variety reports, throughout the film, McCollum’s past will be visited via flashbacks, starting at age 15, when his fascination with the transit system began.
Simon Stephenson is penning the script which Variety says offers a “meaty role” for Roberts, which could put her in Oscar contention (something along the lines of her Oscar-winning performance “Erin Brockovich”).
So it reads like the emphasis could be more on the lawyer who defends McCollum, than on McCollum’s life. At least, that’s what I’m gathering based on available info.
An actor has yet to be cast to play McCollum, and no director is attached yet.
Gotham Group is producing the film with FilmNation Entertainment financing it.