When Deadline reported that 20th Century Fox had bought the rights to make a film of the Colton Harris-Moore story, I was totally baffled by the irresponsibility of the entire venture.
For those not in the know, nineteen year old Harris-Moore has been running (and flying) loose in the San Juan Islands of Washington State for the last three years, stealing planes, credit cards, cars, and breaking into homes for food and whatever else he can feels entitled to. Due to either being an extremely capable escape artist, or contending with what seems to be an entire state and federal police force made of Rosco P. Coltrane clones — Colton has completely evaded capture. He lives off the land, having apparently done so in one form or another since adolescence.
I’ll be the first to admit that his story is compelling. He’s a six foot five inch ghost, running barefoot through the woods avoiding every attempt at capture, has driven a car into a fuel tank to distract police with a massive explosion while making his escape like he’s living in a freakin’ episode of The A Team, and learned how to fly planes simply by reading flight manuals. This kid is insanely intelligent, and all sorts of detached from reality.
…and we help fuel his exploits.
Harris-Moore has a website dedicated to him, t-shirts being sold with his likeness, and a Facebook fan page. People are rooting for him; telling Colton not to give up, and saying they support his activities. He’s been likened to a modern-day Huckleberry Finn, and a symbol of disdain for materialism and wealth.
Harris-Moore, however — is a champion of nothing. He takes things from people, and he puts lives in danger — his own included. It’s not a fun story, but a sad one. He’s a clearly troubled kid with a questionable upbringing who is looking at felonies when he’s actually caught, if he’ll let himself be caught. That is to say, if Colton is as intelligent as he seems, he understands what being caught means. The end may not be pretty. Herein lies the irresponsibility of 20th Century Fox in picking up the rights to make a film of this. Folks, the story isn’t over, but I can say with much confidence that it doesn’t end well. Colton is well aware of his status in the media. To think that this type of attention won’t stroke his ego, and push him to attempt bigger and more overtly dangerous things is — well, it’s painfully naive.
If this were all fiction, fine. If the film comes five years down the road from whatever the outcome of this drama ends up being, I don’t suppose it’s completely abhorrent. Degrees of separation from an event are important in telling a sensitive story, afterall. Even if 20th Century Fox intends to hold onto this property until this is over, they have still created press for Colton. Even in writing this I don’t suppose I’m really helping, though I’d like to think that my position may set me apart in that I’m not simply tossing this out as an entertainment tidbit. That, of course, is because it’s not. Compelling or otherwise, this is still the story of a very young kid doing incredibly stupid things, and it’s real. It’s present.
It’s right now.
Colton Harris-Moore is in the woods alone as I type this…or in a home using someone’s credit card, or any other number of things that do not end well for him when the final pages of this chapter in his life are written.