Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Cautionary Tale.

Imagine working at a dive bar in L.A. as a bouncer and bartender, with huge dreams of becoming a success story in Hollywood. That dream (of course) is a modern-day cliche. But what if you actually got that "big break"... do you think you'd be able to handle it? That happened to a man named Troy Duffy in the late 90's. He was living in a veritable shithole along with his brother, with only dreams of their band making it big to sustain him. One day he watched a woman in his apartment being carried out of the building on a stretcher. She had been the victim of a domestic assault. Duffy began having visions of vigilantism, and decided to write a sceenplay for purposes of self-administered "therapy". He happened to have a buddy who was an intern for a big movie prodicer, and he asked him to shop his work around.

Against all odds, the script ended up in the hands of some important people. The next thing Duffy new he was being courted by several big film corporations to turn The Boondock Saints into the next hit independent film. After a visit from Harvey Weinstein, he decided to pursue a contract with Miramax. The famous producer offfered a lucrative deal for the script and offered to purchase and co-own the bar where Duffy worked. Soon the bouncer-turned-scriptwriter was meeting all manner of celebrities. At the same time it looked like his band would be allowed to create the soundtrack, and the deal held out the promise of a major deal with a record company. Things couldn't look brighter for the hot young neophyte. On top of the world, he hired his friends to film a documentary about his impending rise to fame. The result is Overnight: There's More Than One Way to Shoot Yourself (2004) by Mark Brian Smith and Tony Montana.

From the title, you can reasonably assume that Duffy's career trajectory wasn't what he had anticipated. Because it turned out that the "next Tarantino" ended up being a complete asshole. Duffy was convinced that he was setting a unique precedent in all of history. He believed that he was a genius, and that it didn't matter how he acted- as long as he was a success. He quickly began to alienate all around him. Smith and Montana (who were originally co-managers of Duffy's band, "The Brood") were encouraged to witness the great fall. When it came to casting, Duffy wasn't very diplomatic about the prospects. He was loose-lipped concerning his disdain for several of the actors Weinstein wanted him to consider for the film. It wasn't long before Miramax decided to put the project on turnaround, and eventually they simply pulled out of the deal altogether.

Instead of recognizing the destructive capacity of his own hubris, Duffy bullheadedly proceeded to badmouth Weinstein around town. His drunken antics made him into a media spectacle. He even went as far as to utter anti-semitic comments in public. This was a fatal mistake. After several years languishing in limbo, and in the process of disgusting every last friend he had, Duffy was finally able to convince (with the help of the William Morris agency) an independent film company to let him make his film... albeit at a greatly reduced budget. He directed The Boondock Saints (with Willem Dafoe, Billy Connelly and Norman Reedus) and exposed it to an abysmally limited theatrical release. In the wake of the Columbine shootings, no one was very interested in screening the hyperviolent tale of revenge. To add insult to injury, the soundtrack only sold about 700 copies nationwide, and Duffy was soon bankrupt and forgotten.

Eventually The Boondock Saints would receive the benefit of a market push from Blockbuster Home Video, and after years it became something of a "cult classic". However this didn't help Duffy, as he had foolishly ceded the DVD and video rights in his initial contract. Since the great debacle, his band has broken up (creative differences) and he has been unable to find gainful employment at any level in the film industry. Despite intermittent statements that he is working on a sequel, it is not likely that Duffy will make his return any time soon. Apparently he is legendary for his boorish behavior, and he may have pissed away any amount of goodwill he had been able to generate. Or perhaps the version created by Smith and Montana is so one-sided that it misrepresents the reality of the story they lived through. The possibility of a biased presentation is always present when those documenting events have played an active role in them. Nonetheless it's hard to see what they captured and come away with any other conclusion than that Troy Duffy is an asshole. It's worthwhile seeing for yourself. As far as The Boondock Saints- I'll get back to you after I see it.

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