Finding Mike film: Real-life story of Jonny Benjamin's search for stranger who stopped him killing himself could be turned into movie

The touching story could soon get the Hollywood treatment

Adam Sherwin
Thursday 16 April 2015 08:24 BST
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Jonny Benjamin (front) and Neil Laybourn in a scene from Channel 4’s ‘Finding Mike’
Jonny Benjamin (front) and Neil Laybourn in a scene from Channel 4’s ‘Finding Mike’ (Channel 4)

It was a heart-warming story which made headlines around the world. Just who was the good Samaritan who spotted a man about to leap off Waterloo Bridge and talked him into changing his mind?

Jonny Benjamin, who had recently been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and could see no hope for the future, was poised to end his life on 14 January 2008.

A stranger on his way to work refused to pass by on the other side and rushed over to the suicidal man, crouched over the Bridge’s railings.

Benjamin, now 27, was subsequently taken by the police back to hospital and never saw the stranger again. He wanted to thank the man who saved his life and launched a social media campaign, #FindMike, to help track him down.

The campaign attracted millions of responses from around the world, and six years after their first encounter, Neil Laybourn, 32, a personal trainer from Surrey, finally came forward, after his wife spotted the appeal on Facebook.

The moving reunion between Laybourn and Benjamin is captured in a Channel 4 documentary, “Finding Mike: The Stranger on the Bridge”, to be aired next month.

Daniel Craig and Dominic Cooper could star in a Hollywood version of the story, director Sam Forsdike playfully suggests (Getty) (Getty Images)

And now director Sam Forsdike has revealed that the touching story could soon get the Hollywood treatment. “We’re in discussions with people. There’s been a lot of interest and we’re looking to take it forward,” Forsdike said.

“Fingers crossed we’ll see Daniel Craig (Laybourn) and Dominic Cooper (Benjamin) in the movie.”

The on-camera reunion is a halting one. A nervous Benjamin frets over whether to shake hands or hug the man who gave him a chink of hope, just by listening. He explains to Neil that he had been hospitalised after a schizophrenia diagnosis, having consistently felt “possessed” by voices in his head.

Laybourn and Benjamin have since become close friends. Benjamin is now an ambassador for the Rethink Mental Illness charity.

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Laybourn, who joined Benjamin at a Bafta screening of the documentary, told of how he first spotted a crouched figure on the Bridge. “Jonny was distraught, he was in his own world but straight away we made a connection – we grew up in the same neighbourhood,” Laybourn said.

“I asked him what was wrong. I was thinking, ‘how can we get him off the bridge?”

After visiting Rethink Mental Illness to prepare for the reunion, Laybourn also agreed to become an ambassador. He said: “Something about the event stayed with me. It was one of the best conversations I ever started.”

Benjamin, meanwhile, is campaigning for a greater understanding of schizophrenia. He said: “Other mental health illnesses like depression and bipolarity are spoken about a lot more. I’d like to make a documentary that breaks

down some of the stigma about schizophrenia and the perception that sufferers are violent and dangerous.”

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