New York Times
December 27, 2001
Turning the Camera on a Life Marred by a Deadly Prank
by Joyce Wadler
The view of the Hudson River from the 33rd floor of the gleaming New York City apartment house is the view of a successful man. Is it coincidence or an act of contrition that even so high up, Peter Wade
can hear the sound of the trains?
Nearly 20 years ago, Wade, teenage alcoholic and pothead, was part of a late-night prank that caused the death of a railway conductor. A gang of teenagers hanging out at a switching station in Fair Lawn, New
Jersey, decided that it might be fun to throw the switch; a six-carriage train flew off the tracks with such force that it smashed through the walls of an adjoining pasta factory. The conductor, John Duffy, father of six, was killed.
Wade, just shy of his 16th birthday at the time, was one of the boys whose hand was on the switch. Charged as an adult, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, and spent 22 months in prison.
Now, he is an American success story: criminal become Wall Street moneymaker become screenwriter/director/co-producer, making an independent movie about his life, which is now being edited. The movie,
starring an unknown, Chris Gunn, and the rapper Ice T, will be called Tracks. And how was Wade able to rope in Ice-T? He approached him when he was parking his Ferrari in the garage of their building.
You might expect a man who is able to bankroll a movie of his life to be cocky, but Wade, 35, is quiet and articulate, given to mild, self-mocking smiles and stories about how his girlfriend left him, taking the dog. He loved that dog, too. It was a little black shih-tzu that used to lie on his stomach when he was too depressed to get off the couch.
Wade is not embarrassed to tell you that there was a time he was depressed a lot. His voice is sprinkled with the phrases of a man deep into analysis - "dysfunctional", "unexamined life" - for a reason: he has eight hours of therapy a week. He was truly not able to understand
the pain he had caused the family of the man he had killed until he began therapy, he says.
And no, he says, he did not realise until he had moved in that from his luxury apartment you could hear a train whistle. "I thought it was rather ironic," he says. "A message from above, maybe."
His knowledge of film-making has, up to now, been confined to a few college courses. He is picking up 40 per cent of the film's budget, estimated at $1m. Still, it would not be entirely fair to call this a vanity production. Perhaps part of the reason he is making the film is an attempt to explain his past, Wade says. But he does not portray his
younger self as "the nicest kid in the world".
"You see an angry, unlikable teen who ultimately, I hope, you will have compassion for at the end of the film," he says. "But you may never get there. I showed the>