John C. Reilly is to star in a film about the events leading to the death of comedian and actor Spalding Gray after a car accident in Ireland in 2001 and his subsequent treatment in a rural hospital.
Gray suffered severe injuries in the crash which later led to his suicide after he jumped off the Staten island ferry.
He described his treatment in Ireland as primitive.
In the crash, Gray, who had always battled his hereditary depression and bipolar tendencies, suffered a badly broken hip, leaving his right leg almost immobilized, and a fracture in his skull that left a gruesome, jagged scar on his forehead. He now suffered not only from depression but from a brain injury. During surgery in which a titanium plate was placed over the break in his skull, surgeons removed dozens of bone fragments from his frontal cortex. Shattered both physically and emotionally, he spent the ensuing months experimenting with every therapy imaginable.
Among those from whom Gray sought treatment was Oliver Sacks, a well-known neurologist and author.
Sacks began seeing Gray as a patient in August 2003 and continued to do so until almost the time of his death. In an article by Gaby Wood published on the first anniversary of Gray's disappearance, Sacks proposed that Gray perceived the taking of his own life as part of what he had to say: "On several occasions he talked about what he called 'a creative suicide.' On one occasion, when he was being interviewed, he thought that the interview might be culminated with a 'dramatic and creative suicide.'" Sacks added: "I was at pains to say that he would be much more creative alive than dead."
Whoopi Goldberg is among those backing the film.
His widow Kathy Russo says the car accident led to his suicide.
"We were in Ireland in 2001 to celebrate his 60th birthday and it was our second night there and we were coming back from a restaurant . . . and someone hit us head on." she told the Sunday Independent
"We were on a country road and there's not really room for two cars to go by and it was just getting dark and I was driving and Spalding was behind me in the back seat and he wasn't wearing his seat belt. There were three people in the car and I was the only one wearing a seat belt.
"Spalding flew into the back of my head. I needed stitches and he crushed his skull on the right side. We didn't know about that until a couple of weeks after when his head collapsed in and I noticed a dent in his forehead. We were there for the whole summer for his surgeries," Ms Russo said.
"When we heard he needed a head operation we flew home to New York. He had right frontal lobe damage and scar tissue developed, which led to brain damage and that led him to commit suicide and jump off the Staten Island Ferry."
Gray described the hospital he was taken to as "one of those horrible Irish country hospitals".
"The hospital was a madhouse with doctors that wanted to leave me there in traction for six weeks. It was bizarre. I had never seen anything like the carry-on," he said.