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Apple TV+ is finally bringing The Crowded Room to the screen. Emmy Rossum is the latest A-list star to join Tom Holland and Amanda Seyfried in the cast. But, this isn’t the first time Hollywood has tried to tackle The Crowded Room. James Cameron was developing an adaptation as a feature film in the ‘90s. 

Emmy Rossum looks into camera wearing a pink blazer on an Apple TV+ red carpet
Emmy Rossum | Brian Ach/Getty Images for Apple TV+

What is ‘The Crowded Room’ based on?

Either incarnation of The Crowded Room was based on Daniel Keyes’ book, The Minds of Billy Madigan. Madigan was acquitted of the kidnapping and rape of three women, due to dissociative identity disorder. Madigan had 24 distinct personalities and was the first person ever acquitted of a crime because of dissociative identity disorder.

Paramount+’s Star Trek universe executive producer Akiva Goldsman is adapting Keyes’ book for The Crowded Room. According to Deadline, Goldsman has changed the name of the character to Danny Sullivan. Holland will play Danny. Goldsman will play his mother, Candy, even though she is just under 10 years older than Holland. Seyfried plays a clinical psychologist treating Danny. 

Who would have starred in ‘The Crowded Room’ before Emmy Rossum and Tom Holland?

Cameron expressed interest in The Crowded Room after 1991’s Terminator 2. In a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Cameron said, “My next picture will involve the science of the human mind with no gadgetry or hardware at all.” The Times confirmed he was referring to A Crowded Room.

According to James Cameron Online, Cameron met with Milligan. By 1993, Milligan sued Cameron over the film, according to Variety. Milligan died in 2014. Cameron had John Cusack attached to play Milligan in The Crowded Room, with the appeal being he got to play 24 different personalities. 


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In 2015, Leonardo DiCaprio agreed to playing Milligan in a Crowded Room adaptation, according to The Guardian. In between, directors Joel Schumacher and David Fincher attempted versions with potential stars Johnny Depp, Matthew McConaughey, Brad Pitt, and Sean Penn. No version ever got far enough to cast Milligan’s mother. 

The secret to making the book work 

As if the material of Billy Milligan’s life and trial wasn’t complicated enough, lawsuits held up film adaptations for decades. Perhaps the secret to adapting The Minds of Billy Milligan was giving it an entire TV season to breathe, rather than trying to encapsulate it all in a two hour movie. Apple TV+ still kept the film’s title, The Crowded Room.

Apple TV+ is also calling The Crowded Room an anthology series, meaning subsequent seasons can tell other stories about mental health issues, with entirely new casts. Or, if Rossum, Holland and Seyfried like, they can form a repertory company like American Horror Story