The mid-twentieth century was a fascinating time in terms of medicine and mental health, and one of the more chilling medical trends was the idea that, by severing the binds to the prefrontal cortex, one could remedy psychotic tendencies and ease the pain of the mentally ill patients.
Otherwise know as lobotomizing them. Demonized as a terrible form of science gone awry now, lobotomy was hailed as a revolutionary, if controversial, technique. At the forefront of it all was Dr. Walter Freeman, who developed the lobotomy and was the champion of the procedure. A book, entitled The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness, written by Jack El-Hai, has been optioned by writer Laeta Kalogridis, producer Brad Fischer and actor Leonardo Dicaprio — the three became fascinated by the book while working on Shutter Island together.
Oddly, it appears that it will not be a film, but rather a drama for HBO. It will tell of Freeman’s development of the technique in 1935, and how he went on to perform literally thousands of lobotomies, all while juggling a chaotic personal life. The script has been written by Daniel Thomsen (whose main credits include a few television episodes) and will be directed by Robert Schwenke (Red, R.I.P.D.). No casting has begun yet. If handled well, it could turn out to be a riveting, yet also horrifying, production.
For even more information, you can read our CBR review of My Lobotomy by Howard Dully, who was an actual patient of Freeman’s.