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Published May 12 2013

Moorhead native, now best-selling author, sells movie rights to book

LAKE CHARLES, La. – If Mel Brooks has his way, a Moorhead native could one day be portrayed on the big screen by Jim Carrey.

That area transplant is Jim Bailey, whose book “Man, Interrupted” was a Los Angeles Times best-seller a few years ago and was recently optioned for a movie deal.

Bailey, who still has friends and family in Moorhead but now lives in Lake Charles, left for Los Angeles in the early 1980s to pursue acting. When he got to Hollywood, he’d try to sneak into movie studios to meet the big names of the time, he says.

On one attempt to sneak in, he actually did meet someone famous – the Oscar-winning film writer and director Brooks (“Blazing Saddles,” “The Producers,” “Young Frankenstein” and more).

“One day, Mel came up to me, and he said, ‘Are you

f—ing insane?’ ” Bailey recalls, laughing. “He told me, ‘If I can see you, security can see you.’ ”

“We just kind of connected, as strange as that sounds,” he adds.

Meeting Brooks didn’t help Bailey’s aspiring acting career – he “never got over the hump,” Bailey admits. But the director would later push the younger man’s career in a different direction.

Actor, writer, potential big-screen character

Bailey was still trying to break into the acting world a few years later when the pressure and the Hollywood lifestyle got to him. Without much warning, he says, he found himself acting obsessive-compulsively.

“I just kind of snapped,” he says. “All of a sudden I was acting irrational, like washing my hands 100 times a day.”

When his obsessive-compulsive disorder became so bad that Bailey couldn’t even leave his house, he decided to check himself into a hospital for treatment.

During recovery, Bailey would call Brooks and talk about his experiences and the eccentric people he was meeting, which the director encouraged him to write about, Bailey says.

“He said, ‘You have a book, man,’ ” Bailey recalls.

Using the material of his life and his recovery from OCD, Bailey wrote and published “Man, Interrupted” in 2008. The book spent five weeks on the Los Angeles Times best-seller list in 2010 and 2011.

Around the same time, the book caught the attention of Zach Adler, a film director in Hollywood, who purchased the rights to make the book into a movie, Bailey says.

Brooks, who also wrote a blurb for the back cover of “Man, Interrupted,” has since been helping Bailey work on the potential script for the film.

Reached from his production office in Hollywood, Brooks had nothing but praise for his friend and his writing.

“This is a great book. I like his style – it’s great stuff,” Brooks says. “He’s a great example to all of us that have struggled with compulsive behavior.”

As he offers his help on the potential script of “Man, Interrupted,” Brooks has an idea of where he thinks the film version of Bailey’s experiences could go.

“I see his book, and I think, ‘My God, this is Jim Carrey’ – a compulsive guy, very funny, very touching,” Brooks says. “I’m going to call Jim Carrey’s manager again and push it.”

Regardless of whether it gets that far, Bailey just hopes that “Man, Interrupted” can inspire other people who suffer from OCD.

“Life was just passing me by, but I overcame,” he says. “If I can do it, anyone can. Don’t give up.”

“Man, Interrupted” is available for purchase at Barnes & Noble in Fargo and online at Amazon.com.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535