To many of his fans, Sean Patrick Flanery will always be one half of one of the greatest action duos of all time, The McManus Brothers. It would be his performance alongside Norman Reedus in “Boondock Saints” that would help spawn one of the biggest cult sensations in movie history. Throughout his career, Flanery has proved to be anything but a one-trick pony. This dynamic actor has continued to grow his already impressive resume by immersing himself in the characters and continually testing his limits as an artist.
Over a decade after the original film debuted, Flanery and Reedus find themselves reprising their iconic roles in a sequel that many people never thought would happen. Alongside director Troy Duffy and an amazing ensemble cast, they are poised to astound audiences around the world by unleashing a new, action-packed chapter in the franchise. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Sean Patrick Flanery to discuss the new film, his love of the martial arts and all of his upcoming projects.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Lake Charles. Louisiana until I was about four years old. Then we moved to a tiny town outside of Houston, Texas. I spent the rest of my time there, all through college and then I moved to Los Angeles.
What drove you to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
Ultimately, it was because I saw a beautiful girl leaving this building at the university every Monday, so I dropped an English class to sign up for whatever in the hell they were teaching in that building. [laughs] And it happened to be “acting.” I fell in love with it. That is a true story.
Well don’t hold out on us. What happened with the girl?
Ummm, I kinda lost interest. She was a function follows form kinda chick. [laughs] She looked good but there wasn’t a whole lot of anything going on. I fell in love with acting and I started writing, because I wanted to write and produce my own stuff. Then I moved out to LA and that is how it all happened.
Did you have many influences in regards to acting?
I didn’t have a lot of influences in acting. Starting out, I knew I wanted to do it and I knew that I enjoyed it. I wanted to be a writer. Acting seemed like a lottery. Ya know, moving out to Los Angeles to make a living acting seemed, low percentage, so I moved out there to try and write. Low and behold, I met an agent and she said “Do you want to try a couple of things?” and I said “Oh what the hell! Sure, it will help augment my income.” One thing lead to another and the next thing I knew, I was making a living at it. It’s kinda crazy!
One of the biggest projects you have been involved with in the past is “Boondock Saints.” How did you first get involved with that project and director Troy Duffy?
I first got involved with it through the audition process. I certainly wanted to do it and wanted to be a part of it. I loved the script. You audition for the things that you want and you get offered the things that you don’t really care about. [laughs] That was something that I really cared about so I auditioned. Then I re-auditioned and did a screen test, the whole thing.
What was it like for you to step back into the role of Connor MacManus 10 years later?
Ya know, it is ten years later but it is like we never missed a beat. We just continued on like we had just shot the first one a year ago.
What was the vibe like on the set with the new ensemble cast that was assembled for the film?
The vibe was pretty much the same as the first film. People are kinda like chameleons on movie sets. If everybody is cool, then they end up being cool. The climate is kinda pre-determined so everyone steps into it with that in mind. Everyone was really nice and we all had a great time. There were no bad apples! [laughs]
Was there anyone that you were looking forward to working with on the film?
Billy Connolly, again.
He seems like quite a character. I imagine having him on set is great time.
Yeah! Billy is a great guy. He is funny, funny, funny and has great stories. He has lived a lot of life! He is wise, funny and has a great perspective on life.
I know that there was a buzz about the original script and you all knew that you were working on a very unique film, but did you have any inkling on the cult following that it would go on to spawn?
No, I don’t think any of us could have foreseen that. It is kinda unheard of with no advertising and the fans fell in love with it and took ownership of it. You can never foresee that but you always hope for something like that! We made a little independent film and people really dug it. It is very flattering!
I know a lot of the cast headed out to Comic Con in San Diego to promote the film. You had quite a turn out to say the very least. What was that experience like for you?
It was like being a rockstar, man! [laughs] It really was! It was like being Mick Jagger for a day! There were so many fans there, we really had no idea. We thought we would go and present it and there would be some people there that would dig the movie and hopefully be excited about seeing it, but we had no idea that it would be like that! I certainly didn’t!
I know you don’t want to give to much away but what can you tell us about Boondock Saints II and have you been able to see a cut of the film yet?
I have seen cuts in various incarnations. I can tell you this — It stays true to the first film in theme and style and everything. Most sequels are bigger, louder and this film is a perfect sequel to the first one. It explains a lot of things, but it is not big bang just for the sake of big bang, ya know what I mean? I think that everybody is really going to like this film. I really do!
A lot of people thought that this movie would never get made. As a fan, I am excited that it did. Did the cast do anything special to celebrate the achievement?
We had a barbecue over at Troy’s when we wrapped. Everybody came over and we watched some clips. It was really cool that we did something and ten years later we get to do it again, simply because the fans mandated that we make another one! We all think that is amazing.
I know that over the years, Troy Duffy has gotten a bad rap in a lot of circles, which isn’t necessarily fair. Having worked with him, twice now, I wanted to see what you think the biggest misconception about him is?
Probably the biggest misconception about Troy is that he is some kind of weird tyrant, but he is not that way at all. The cat is a good dude, he really is. You can edit anything together. [referring to the documentary “Overnight’ filmed during the making of “Boondock Saints”] When you are directing a scene, there are different vernaculars that different directors use to talk to their actors. Some directors take a soft tone and delicately describe the magnitude of the scene and it’s importance. Other directors might say “Ok, this is what this motherfucker did. You get in there and you FUCKIN’ KILL HIM!!” That is Troy’s vernacular. He’s not yelling at you, ya know what I mean? Everybody is amped up for this scene and he is amped up for you to be amped up. I don’t know, I don’t really get the bad rap at all. Someone might say “Oh, that guy is an egomaniac and he thinks Boondock is going to do…” Well, it kinda did. He did what he said he was gonna do. He made a film that he thought was great and other people agreed with him and thought it was great too. I have never had a problem with Troy. Not ever. Not any one single fuckin’ moment! I have always thought that he was a cool cat and I would work with him on anything. I think he has great composition, he has a great rapport with actors, he understands dialogue, he understands, he understands storytelling — all of the above. I don’t really know what else to say except that he is a solid cat through and through.
I also wanted to touch on a few of your other projects. What can you tell us about “To Live and Die”?
“To Live and Die” is an MGM film that I did with Robert Kurtzman. It is a really cool psychological thriller. It is kind of a vengeance tale, I believe that is coming out after the new year.
Another interesting project you are working on is “Sinner and Saints”… what can you tell us about that?
Yeah, that is Will Kaufman’s film. You may know him from his other film “The Prodigy.” It’s a very cool, action/fighting movie. I play a small part in that but it was a lot of fun. He makes some really good action movies too.
You mentioned your work as a writer and director in the past. What do you have in store for us in regards to that aspect of your career?
I am trying to get “Sunshine Superman” off the ground. I have set that up a number of times, so now I am trying to set it up again! It is a love story about two ten year old kids. Some people may already be familiar with it. It was an article that I originally wrote for Jane Magazine. It is a true story about a moment in my childhood. A lot of people really plugged into the story so I really hope that we get to make that in the near future.
What can we look forward to in the immediate future?
I did a really whacked out, crazy character on “Criminal Minds” that will be coming out at the end of September. I am really looking forward to that because this guy is totally out of his tree! [laughs] I got to work with John Cassar who is a killer director, he is one of the best directors that I have every worked with. He let me go pretty crazy with this role, so I am really looking forward to seeing that. I also have “Citizen Jane” which is a Hallmark movie that I did.
What can you tell us about “Citizen Jane”?
Well, it is a true story. They actually did an episode of “48 Hours” about it. It is about this guy who kills a family member to get the money and low and behold, everyone else thinks that someone else did it. Little did they know that the guy living in their own house is the one that did it. It’s kinda creepier.
I remember hearing about that on the news actually.
Yeah. It’s the true story of Jane Alexander and Tom O’Donnell. It should be pretty good. The script was great and we had a really good time doing it. I got to work with Meat Loaf Aday and Ally Sheedy. So that was pretty cool.
Is there a specific role that you haven’t had a chance to take on yet that you would like take on in the future?
Nothing specifically. I like good material, ya know. If it is written well, chances are that I am going to dig it.
In addition to your other work, you are very involved with martial arts. How did you get into that originally?
It came into my life from watching Bruce Lee movies and stuff when I was around nine. I started studying martial arts around that time. Most recently it has been Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I actually own an academy here in Hollywood. I spend pretty much everyday there training. I’m completely addicted to it, it is a passion of mine and I love it. I am headed their in about 45 minutes! I can’t seem to stay away from the academy. [laughs] I absolutely love it.
You received your black belt from Shawn Williams. What was that experience like for you?
Yes, on May 4th of 2008. It is pretty amazing. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a belt belt there is not like any other black belt. It can take 15 years to get a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It was a monumental moment in my life. Especially since it came under Shawn Williams who is widely regarded as one of the most technical instructors on the globe. It was one of the most proud days of my life, it truly was.
Being involved in the world of martial arts, and do you follow the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships)?
Oh yeah! Of course!
Is that an arena that we might see you dabble in?
No, you will never see me in the UFC. At this stage, the fighting game has grown and those guys really are professional athletes. They live, eat and breathe fighting. Because of my job, I could never train, do the strength and conditioning, the dieting, the cardio, the grappling, the striking — it’s an all day thing. They are training like Olympic athletes and in this day and age there is no such thing as an Olympic athlete that is also an attorney during the day. [laughs]
It’s a full-time job.
Exactly. I can’t compete at that level. But on a daily basis, I entertain doing smaller shows! [laughs] I really do! It is something that I am very passionate about. It is something that I would like to try out just to say that I did it. There was another sanctioning body awhile back in ’02, that I did a different level MMA thing and it was pretty eye-opening. Luckily, it didn’t last long as I went to the guys back and choked him relatively quickly but I was really nervous for that, man! Really nervous! [laughs] It was a tiny little thing down in San Pedro, to do something on the big stage would be very different, but I really enjoy just training and practicing on my own and training with our group of guys and competing in tournaments. But, I am too old for that shit now, too old to climb into a ring with someone that wants to kill me! [laughs]
What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you along the way in your career?
Realistically, I think that a lot of people in the business can be legitimately accused of “Physic Hoarding.” [laughs] Nobody is too ready to divvy out the advice.
That being said, what is the best piece of advice that you could give someone who would like to get involved in the entertainment industry?
That getting a job in this industry is a gift and not to forget that your first job you would have actually paid to do, as opposed to getting paid. This is the only industry in the world that I can say this about. You can’t find me a ditch digger that would say “Yeah, that first ditch I dug, I would have done that for free, man!” He wants to get paid for that first ditch that he digs, but in acting, if you go up to anyone that doesn’t have a SAG card and said “Hey, I let you be in this little indie film but you have to pay me five grand.” That motherfucker will find you five grand faster than you would ever believe! [laughs] It is the only occupation like that. People need to not forget that down the line. You can’t forget that we are lucky to get paid for what we do anyway! It is ridiculous when people start showing up at the set angry or mad and storming off to their trailer. It’s like “Wow! You have the best job in the world. Why are you doing that?” You have to think of how lucky we are to be doing this. We get to play make-believe, it’s a gift.
Is there anything else that you would like to say to your fans before I let you go?
I really, really hope that they like Boondock Saints II and I would definitely like everybody to check out that episode of Criminal Minds. Give me some feedback on that because it is something that you haven’t seen me do before. I love my job! I love my academy. Check out www.hollywoodbjj.com for all the updates on my academy. Other than that, I am glad that the fans have stuck by Boondock long enough for us to make the sequel. I am really, really excited about it.
Thanks for you time, Sean and keep us posted on what you are up to!
I appreciate it. Thank you very much, man!
For all of the latest news on Sean Patrick Flanery, be sure to head over to his official site at www.seanflanery.com.