In 1997, Troy Duffy went from being a bartender in L.A to a first time director of a script he wrote, The Boondock Saints, pretty much overnight. His script was gobbled up by Miramax for $300,000 and Duffy was lined up to be put in the director’s chair without any prior experience or academic background. Even the bar he worked in was being offered to him for the deal. This didn’t stop Miramax giving him a $15 million budget for a film they called ‘Pulp fiction with soul’. The film is centred around two Irish brothers in Boston who take it upon themselves to clean the streets of organized crime by killing top gangsters and incorporates a seriousness that is eased with a wicked sense of humour.
For most people, having a studio show interest in a script is enough of a dream and long-shot. Duffy was being given a future on a silver platter and surprisingly he threw it away. His arrogance and contempt for everyone around him threw his chances to become a respected director in Hollywood down the drain before it had taken off.
The story was chronicled dramatically well in the 2003 documentary ‘Overnight’. What began as Duffy’s egotistical demand of having his rise to fame and glory documented, turned into a documented case of a man’s Hubris burning as many bridges as he could out of his inability to go along the learning curve or take any help from an industry of people where even those with decades of experience and expertise would be lucky to be given the chance Duffy had. He called Ethan Hawke a talentless fool and admitted he hates Keanu Reeves. It is difficult to quote Duffy, his every sentence is littered with swearing like a teenager who is enjoying the freedom of being among friends away from the parents and can swear to his heart’s content
Everything came to a head when the then Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein of Miramax dropped Duffy. His lack of humility was manageable, but his inflated view of himself, coupled with a level of narcissism that was uncomfortable at times to watch, could not be rectified. Other studios that were once stumbling over each other to buy the rights to the script, were now declining Duffy. Where he was once the hottest thing in Hollywood, within a few months he was untouchable, out of reputation and his unwillingness to let others help him. Eventually Franchise Films offered Duffy a deal, with half the budget he was originally promised from Miramax and he took it.
The film was a flop and only opened in 5 cities for one week before being discontinued. It looked as if this was the last nail in Duffy’s career, but amazingly VHS sales kept the film alive and grossed what the film should have if it was given the same amount of word of mouth publicity. Word of mouth had created a buzz that gave the Boondock Saints a cult following. I watched the film and thought it was nothing special but enjoyable in the sense it was something to watch that passed the time. Rotten Tomatoes’ approval rating is polarized. The critics approval rating is a mere 20%, while the audience approval rating is 91%.
It is clear though, Duffy’s ego had destroyed what could have been a promising career, not only in directing films, but also in the music industry. His band, ‘The Brood’ was signed on for 5 albums by Atlantic Records. In hindsight it was a bad decision. During the recording of their first and only album ‘Release the Hounds’, Duffy called Jeff Baxter his enemy and told band members to ignore his advice. Jeff Baxter has worked with everyone from Eric Clapton to Elton John, yet even his musical input into Duffy’s work was a seen as a threat Eventually in the documentary Baxter explains how their drinking has affected their performance and Duffy’s brother is the most talented member of the band and without him, he isn’t sure what would attract him to the band. By the time the album hit the shelves, it sold 690 copies and they were dropped. The album is available under the band name ‘The Boondock Saints, since cult following would flock to anything with the name.
The film’s cult following has kept the film alive since 1999 and gave it enough motion to have a sequel, ‘The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day’ released a decade later in 2009. The film was not a flop, taking in $10 million on an $8 million budget, but still, it was pennies. The film was met with a Rotten Tomatoes Critic rating of 23%, an upgrade if you can call it that, and an Audience rating of 58%. Many fans criticized the film for not doing anything different. It followed the same dynamic of the first movie and arguably took itself too seriously. Part of the reason many fans liked the first Boondock Saints was because it poked fun at itself while still packing action and witty lines.
It is now 2016 and Troy Duffy has yet to release the third installment that has been widely rumoured to be in the workings. The could be trilogy has been a springboard for Norman Reedus, or Daryl from the walking dead, and Sean Patrick Flannery, who has since become an author and still stars in some films. The dynamic between Troy, Norman and Sean is interesting. While in the documentary, Duffy continuously berates his family, friends and the people he works with, the relationship with the actors is warm. Norman and Sean have already come out in favour of starring in third installment of the Boondock Saints. It is at odds with what we see in the documentary.
The documentary and the recent developments of Troy Duffy go to show that in an industry as competitive as music and film, civility and humility are just as important as a strong sense of self-belief. Duffy has gone on record to state before meetings that ‘he got drunk the night before, was hungover as hell, was wearing his overalls, people in the meeting were all in suits, and he looked like a mess and was smoking’. This was a man who the Co- Chairman of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein had called ‘a unique, exciting new voice in American movies and we are thrilled that he has come on board to make this project at Miramax’ and in the space of a few short months, he was blacklisted.
His story is a tale of caution. Duffy saw himself as the game changer, someone ‘who would do something in the history of the world no one has ever done before’ and all just comes out as the ramblings of someone who shot to fame too fast. He did make some success with the two Boondock Saints films and didn’t go completely off the edge of obscurity, but the last credit Duffy has was for a Youtube spoof of Knight Rider that is easily forgettable. His website titled Boondocksaints.com is littered with overpriced merchandise for his loving fans to buy. If his story can tell us anything, it is that when given the chance to chase your artistic vision, go for it, but be humble and respectful of people in the industry that know the ropes.