"Jean-Dominique Bauby was a 43-year-old editor of French fashion magazine Elle, a success and a playboy before a sudden stroke left him immobile and without speech in what's called "locked-in syndrome." Instead of allowing it to defeat him, he wrote a best-selling memoir by blinking out the letters, one by one. "He traded his body, essentially, in order to be a great artist," says Schnabel.
In Bauby's memoir, published just two days before his death at 44, Bauby calls his submerged state the "diving bell." He writes: "My diving bell becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set off for Tierra del Fuego, or for King Midas' Court."
For the movie version of these "bedridden travel notes," Schnabel -- who rose to fame in the '80s as a painter -- also decided to take flight.
Many who have had a stroke or been badly ill have approached Schnabel to thank him for the movie, he says."