Julia Roberts to Play Real-Life Lawyer in 'Train Man'

Julia Roberts Headshot - H 2014
AP Images/Invision

Julia Roberts Headshot - H 2014

The film will tell the story of Darius McCollum, a New Yorker who became notorious for driving subways and trains illegally.

Julia Roberts, who won an Oscar for playing a tenacious law clerk in 2000’s Erin Brockovich, will graduate to full-fledged lawyer in Train Man, which is being developed by The Gotham Group.

Based on a true story, Train Man will recount the life of Darius McCollum, a New York man diagnosed with Asperger syndrome who developed a lifelong obsession New York’s subways and trains. Impersonating employees of the New York Transit Authority, he became known for illegally driving New York’s buses, subways and trains. Frequently arrested and imprisoned, he became a cult figure after wanted posters warning passengers about him appeared throughout the city. Roberts will play McCollum’s longtime attorney, Sally Butler.

The Gotham Group’s Eric Robinson became interested in McCollum’s story after reading a newspaper account in 2014. He tracked McCollum down and secured his life rights. He then enlisted screenwriter Simon Stephenson, who’s written for the Granada TV series Eleventh Hour, to pen the screenplay, developing five drafts of the project over the past year before bringing it to Roberts.

Robinson will produce along with Gotham Group CEO Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, with Roberts expected to take on a producing role as well.

FilmNation is financing the project and handling international sales.

“Darius McCollum’s compelling story is incredibly prescient and indicative of many of the societal problems we’re facing: mental illness, the inadequacy of the criminal justice system, the plight of the disenfranchised individuals,” Robinson said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to share this ride with incredibly talented screenwriter Simon Stephenson and the team at FilmNation. And it’s impossible to imagine anyone more perfectly suited to embody Darius’ dedicated lawyer, Sally Butler, who has been and continues to be his saving grace, than Julia Roberts.”

CAA, which reps Roberts, has packaged the project and will handle U.S. sales.