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Cautionary Tales Shouldn't Be Forgotten

How many a-holes do you  meet in the course of, say, a single year of your life?

Of course the question arises, what do I  mean by an a-hole?

I am a writer -- and like most writers I have dreams of one day writing a bestseller, selling a great script, etc., and so forth (and making a ton of money). So how about we use a writer asshole, a weaselly, self-important jerk who thinks he's the new Quentin Tarantino?

I know the reference is so old by now, the newest crops of writers are probably saying, can't he come up with someone better than that?

Which would mean you don't know who I am talking about, which further means I hit paydirt because that is the whole point of this exercise: a cautionary tale that should be remembered.

Troy Duffy, back before he ruined a beaut of a deal with Miramax.

The great thing about this one particular a-hole's story is that it was captured on film -- and it's called Overnight (go and rent, stream, steal or borrow asap if you haven't seen it). The entire crash and burn was filmed and the idiot in question signed away all rights to the film about his own downfall!

As Kurt Loder wrote in Overnight: The Ego Has Landed the film "preserves such a spectacle in the form of a documentary — which is to say that the world-class flame-out it depicts actually happened, to an actual jerk.

"His name is Troy Duffy, a would-be genius who moved from Boston to Los Angeles to pursue his twin dreams of selling a script he’d written for a movie he wanted to direct, called “The Boondock Saints,” and, at the same time, scoring a record deal for his band, the Brood, with which he played guitar."

If I sold a script, I'd tell the band "good luck" and become a screenwriter, but that's just me. It's hard enough for an artist to make it in one medium, never mind two. But hey, if you got tons of arrogance, you'll probably be foolish enough to try...
The movie begins in the spring of 1997. The 28-year-old Duffy is working as a bartender at a West Hollywood tavern called J. Sloan’s, but his script has been making the rounds, and Harvey Weinstein, the powerful co-founder of Miramax Pictures, has offered him a dream deal for a first-timer: $300,000 for the script; a $15-million budget to make the movie (on which he’ll also have final cut); and a soundtrack side-deal for the Brood with Maverick Records. 
What young screenwriter would not love to be in Duffy' position? Only Duffy was such an asshole he made a freshman mistake. He couldn't hide the great extent of his a-holism, and ended up losing everything with his bad attitude and big mouth.
"In an amazing instance of spontaneous inflation, Duffy’s head immediately swells up to the size of a small planet, and he turns overnight into a raging egomaniac. 
“Everybody knows this is the best f—in’ project in Hollywood,” he rants to his cronies, in between chain-smoking cigarettes, knocking back drinks and bad-mouthing anyone who comes to mind (Keanu Reeves: “a talentless fool”). 
And it doesn’t help that Weinstein — the man who discovered Quentin Tarantino! — has publicly called Duffy “a unique, exciting new voice in American movies,” or that he’s been written up in USA Today and The Hollywood Reporter, and featured on the cover of MovieMaker magazine. With his own personal film crew in tow to document his rise into the heavens of cinematic legend, Duffy (who has unwisely signed away any control he might have had over the resulting footage) is launched on an ego trip from which he may never return. All of this before he’s shot a single foot of film. 
Then Harvey Weinstein stops taking his calls, and by the fall of 1997, Miramax has put “The Boondock Saints” into turnaround, meaning the project is up for grabs by any other studio that might want it. None does. And with production continually being pushed back, Maverick Records eventually bails out of the soundtrack deal. (Duffy learns this when he tries to drop by the Maverick offices and is told he’s not allowed in the building.) By now, the trade media are starting to look at the bartender-cum-director in a different light (headline: “Back Behind the Bar”). But then an independent production company picks up “The Boondock Saints,” and Duffy finds his movie back in play, although on a much-reduced budget. He finally manages to assemble a cast that includes Willem Dafoe, Scottish comic Billy Connolly and porn star Ron Jeremy. Shooting begins in Duffy’s hometown of Boston. 
In addition to this cinematic resuscitation, the Brood have been offered a recording deal by Lava Records. This prompts the other members of the band, who have essentially been starving ever since they moved out to L.A. at Duffy’s behest, to ask him to front them modest loans against the Lava advance money — not cash outright, just loans. Duffy swats them away. “I don’t believe you deserve a thing,” he tells them. (One of the bandmembers is his own brother.) 
Problems crop up quickly. Lava chief Jason Flom doesn’t like what he’s hearing from the Brood’s initial sessions. But what does he know? In a meeting with the band, Duffy says that although Lava has put up a quarter-million dollars to make the album, “Look how Jewish they’re being about it.” In addition, it’s been discovered that there’s another band called the Brood — an all-girl group from Portland, Maine, that’s been putting out records since 1992 — and they have no interest in selling the rights to their name. This doesn’t sit well with Duffy (according to “Overnight” co-director Tony Montana, he castigated the rival Brood as “a bunch of talentless f—in’ dykes”). But in the end, his Brood is compelled to release its album under another moniker — the Boondock Saints, what else? It sells a total of 690 copies. Lava quickly drops the band, and the band quickly breaks up. 
One of the sweetest sequences in the annals of payback is the one in which Duffy and his retinue travel to France in the spring of 1999 to screen the finished “Boondock Saints” for distributors at the Cannes Film Festival. Ensconced in semi-swank digs on his talent agency’s tab, Duffy swings wildly between his usual unfounded braggadocio (“I know I’m one of the best there is, and I’m gonna be the best”) and — when distribution deals fail to materialize — clueless incomprehension. (“Where’s the offer? What’s going on?”) The movie finally does get released — barely — in January of 2000. It plays for one week in five theaters, dies, and goes straight to video. 
Wouldn’t it be annoying if “The Boondock Saints” turned out to be a good movie, unjustly ignored? I recently picked it up on DVD (10 bucks), and can report that it’s a film that almost certainly wouldn’t exist if Quentin Tarantino hadn’t made “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” a decade ago. “Boondock” is a vigilante tale pitting two young Irish-American men against all manner of urban scum. In hapless thrall to Tarantino, director Duffy cooks up offbeat forms of torment (a fat mobster gets his butt set on fire) and makes sure that somebody says “f—” about every 20 seconds. Willem Dafoe, who appears not to have been given much in the way of direction, plays a gay FBI agent who listens to opera on his Discman while swanning around bloody crime scenes. There’s none of Tarantino’s jacked-up pop-cultural fizz to any of this, and none of his snappy way with dialogue. The movie opens with a beautiful color sequence shot in a Catholic church, but quickly begins to drift — you can feel the energy leaking out of it as it stumbles along. But if you stay with it … well, I don’t know what would happen if you stayed with it. I couldn’t.

As a PS to the story, The Boondock Saints grossed over $50 million in domestic video sales of which Duffy received nothing due to the structure of the contract he signed with the distribution company. He sued Franchise Pictures and other undisclosed companies for royalties of the first film and rights to the sequel.

After a lengthy lawsuit, Troy Duffy, his producers and the principal cast received an undisclosed amount of The Boondock Saints royalties as well as the sequel rights.

In 2009, Duffy filmed the sequel to The Boondock Saints, titled The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, which grossed $11 million at the box office (it had a limited release of 524 screens) and has grossed over $50 million in DVD sales (as of June 2012). The film had an $8 million budget.

Currently, Duffy has several projects in development, including films "Blood Spoon Council" and "The Good King." He is in the process of writing "Boondock Saints III." As of a year ago he was halfway through that script, and the same two actors will reprise their roles as the vigilante brothers of Boston.

Duffy did achieve a level of success. In interviews I've read, he also seems to have mellowed out a bit. That said, he's spent 15 years of his life on two not-good films fortunate enough to have engendered a cult following.

But how much sooner and farther would he have gone as an artist if he would've kept all the celebrity crap in perspective and had not been such a major class A a--hole from the get-go?


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