Jon Ronson is a renowned investigative journalist who has spent years exploring the more hidden aspects of society for radio, television, and print. His books, including Clubbed Class, Them: Adventures With Extremists and The Men Who Stare At Goats, all feature a narrative structure that is specific to Ronson’s work – setting factual investigation within the gripping flow of his experiences in tracking down the information. Each account has the reader essentially riding shotgun with Ronson as he goes to get the story. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through The Madness Industry, published in 2011, features this structure, too, and is now being developed by Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment as The Psychopath Test, starring Scarlett Johansson.
The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through The Madness Industry sets out to explore the murky world of psychiatric diagnosis, and in doing so, looks at the mental health industry, including the media, the professionals and the patients – specifically psychopaths. The book investigates diagnostic processes, including the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, and explores the suggestion that many leaders in business and politics meet the diagnostic criteria of this particular psychiatric condition.
In pursuit of his story, Ronson crosses paths with – among others – Emmanuel “Toto” Constant (founder of a Haitian Death Squad), Albert J. Dunlap (a corporate executive, famed for ruthless streamlining), Anthony Maden (a forensic psychiatrist at Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital in the U.K), Paul Britton (a clinical psychologist and criminal profiler) and a patient at Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital who claims to be the victim of false diagnosis. Though the book is a factual account, it can clearly be seen how a dramatic story arc can be formed around the central ‘plot’ – just as was achieved with the 2009 adaptation of The Men Who Stare At Goats. For that film, screenwriter Peter Straughan created a fictional journalist – played by Ewan McGregor – and had him depict experiences similar to those Ronson recounts in his book.
The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through The Madness Industry is being adapted by Kristin Gore (War Story) as a “psychological thriller” to be directed by Jay Roach (The Campaign), and with Scarlett Johansson already attached for an unnamed role. The extremely high profile of Johansson – after the success of her recurring role as Black Widow, and the box office smash hit, Lucy – suggests that Gore will be writing the project as a female-led film, potentially featuring Johansson as the investigative writer researching the unnerving realm of psychopathy. However that role eventually takes shape, The Psychopath Test is a very exciting prospect indeed.