By Mark Borchardt on 14th May 2015
“Ever since I was a kid I knew that I was not meant to do what other people do…I hope to conquer the world.” Obviously, when it comes to confidence, filmmaker Troy Duffy’s got what it takes – and then some. And it’s that incessant bravado, which at first brings him to the big time – also instigates his demise; and the havoc wreaked is quite impressive.
Troy Duffy is the man who ultimately, through a hard-fought process, brought the cult action film, “The Boondock Saints” to the sliver screen – well five screens to be exact, at the time. And “Overnight,” (written and directed by Mark Brian Smith and Tony Montana) a 2004 release from ThinkFilm, covers the trials and tribulations of that boisterous auteur and his attempts at maintaining a simultaneous movie and music career during the late Nineties.
Not only is Duffy an ideological bull in a china shop, but he’s a true-blood Renaissance man: he’s a writer, director, guitarist, bartender and heck, a bouncer to boot. He carries his Boston bravado with him all the way to the West coast when a deal to make his film is cut with Miramax. And with that, the big man himself, Harvey Weinstein is on board.
Initially Miramax sets the budget at $15 million and Duffy is given $300,000 for the script. Troy’s band “The Brood” will provide the soundtrack and Harvey even enters a deal with him to co-own a bar out in West Hollywood called “J. Sloan’s.” Duffy and his colleagues (about a half dozen friends known at “The Syndicate”) head west to the promised land.
They set up a production office in Tinsel Town and everything seems gloriously on the rise, all horizons promising. Troy Duffy is featured on the news, in USA Today and the Hollywood Reporter and such. He points out his unique position in history, that he’s one of the few, if not the only one, to have a movie and recording deal at the same time. The way he persistently puts it, it seems like he and his boys are on the very verge of conquering the Western world.
Sure enough, they find themselves living large at Hollywood parties, hanging out with the likes of Mark Wahlberg and John Goodman. There’s even a clip of Duffy in an intense talk, walking a Hollywood street with Patrick Swayze.
But then something strange begins to happen. Well, “not happen” for that matter: instead of diving right into production, Troy and crew find themselves instead doing a lot of waiting – and not for “Godot” either. Make that “Harvey.” It seems that the once robust relationship with the independent movie mogul has unexpectedly cooled down a bit. And with all that unforeseen time on their hands they begin pondering their fate, which leads to a growing atmosphere of animosity. And that animosity is unwisely directed right at Mr. Weinstein along with others.
A lot of vitriolic things are declared about their would-be benefactors and potential thespians, bad-mouthing a bunch of notables by name – ouch. But it’s that queasy specificity that gives this documentary a scandalous bite. I’m telling you, at times it would even make a fly on the wall wince. It’s no small wonder that would-be participants took to the hills. And not surprisingly, “The Boondock Saints” goes into turnaround as that short-lived honeymoon with Miramax turns into a pungently growing hate-fest.
Troy comes up with explanations and accusations to cover his own tracks and capricious mouth, but that can only stem the mounting tide of doubt for so long. Understandably, dissension within the inner ranks arises, as his own guys are starting to grow wary as well. And that includes his brother Taylor; blood is thicker than water but it too has its limits. It’s an uneasy scene as Taylor informs his sibling that he’s reached his breaking point and that he can’t go on like this. All this amid a lot of heavy drinking at night and a lot of tough talk during the day, as at times Duffy seems to be holding his colleagues ideological hostages.
Mr. Duffy can come off as a pompous rock-head, but he’s also got the blind guts to say out loud what other people are understandably afraid to express; albeit, a lot of what he says is under the influence of alcohol – but a lot of it is not; and that only goes to prove that his thinking is consistent. Actually, that brash arrogance can be taken as a refreshing antidote to all the false self-deprecation one is exposed to. But the truth is, Troy Duffy’s probably got more drive and potential in his pinky finger than most people will posses in a lifetime.
Duffy carries an uncanny admixture of bombast and self-deprecation, and as he points out, he’s a guy in overalls amid a bunch of “suits,” living heroically in the ambitious narrative of his own uber-confidence. He’s eminently quotable and I found myself putting my pen down – I couldn’t keep up with the boisterous axioms of a wild-bred chieftain of bravado who’s only seeming claim to fame at times is constantly making that claim. .
But with the Miramax deal a bust and recording contracts disappearing, all is yet not lost in this compelling story. As fate would have it, Franchise Films gets in the ring and offers Duffy half the budget he was promised by Miramax. Something is definitely better than nothing. That deal is made and Troy is off and running again, and consequently we have “The Boondock Saints.” The film is shot up in Toronto in the summer of 1998 with Ron Jeremy and Willem Dafoe joining the cast. On set, Dafoe cheerfully advises: “Troy, keep your mouth shut.”
Unfortunately, “The Boondock Saints” gets scant distribution and Duffy’s deal doesn’t include ancillary rights which covers the home video market where most of the business was drummed up via an enthusiast fan-base. Yet, “The Boondock Saints” has since gone on to be a cult item and even a sequel has been made.
And at the end of “Overnight,” just as Duffy’s career appears to be systematically torn apart in front of our eyes, so is the tavern, “J. Sloan’s,” as the interior is ripped up and the once emblematic sign taken down: a brutal, fitting metaphor for Duffy’s relationship with Hollywood; his staunch arrogance having a tendency to decimate all that otherwise could be accomplished.
A distinct lesson is to be learned here as “Overnight” examines the complexities of ambition, the reaction to those ambitions, the hierarchy of intent, who owns the power and why, and the hall of mirrors created by various perceptions and the effects they have on individuals and projects as a whole.
Wherever your conclusions about the man rest, Troy Duffy and his ilk continue to ensure that the world of filmmaking remains a fascinating place to do business in.