It has been more than a decade since director Troy Duffy made his explosive debut in Hollywood with his debut film ‘Boondock Saints’. Many people knew him as the then 28-year-old blue-collar Bostonian bartending at a west Hollywood hangout called J Sloan’s, who had sold the script for ‘The Boondock Saints’ to Harvey Weinstein’s independent powerhouse Miramax for $450,000. He was the toast of the town and quickly heralded as ‘the next big thing’, but he saw it all come crashing down around him as a result of his clashes with the studio and the release of a very unflattering documentary. His meteoric rise and fall became the stuff of Hollywood legend. For some young directors, the story could have ended there but Troy Duffy did not fade quietly into the night. In the years following its initial release, ‘Boondocks Saints’, a film that originally opened on a handful for screens, would go on to become one of the biggest cult sensations in movie history. The Hollywood elite may have underestimated the film, but the massive groundswell of support from its fans dictated not only a sequel but the return of the charismatic director. Armed with a star-studded cast featuring the likes of Peter Fonda, Billy Connolly, Judd Nelson, Julie Benz and The Saints themselves — Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery, this unstoppable director stands ready to once again light the fuse a movement that looks to make cinematic history.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Troy Duffy days before the film’s release. In the interview we discuss his return to filmmaking and the challenges of making both films, the die-hard fanbase that has propelled the film to “cult classic” status, and what he has in store for us in the years to come.
*Warning: This interview contains possible spoilers. Read on at your own risk!
I realize that you always had faith in the film, but did you have any idea that ‘Boondock Saints’ would develop into the cult phenomenon that it has?
No. The thing is that you can’t really set out to make a “cult film” and actually do it. It is always a breach labor, ya know? Something bad always has to happen. You can very simply boil it down to this — a cult is something that Hollywood doesn’t understand but the public did and somehow they take hold of it and they themselves take it and make it successful. That is exactly what happened with ‘Boondock’.
What do you think it is about ‘Boondock’ that intrigues the fans?
Every time I ask somebody that, I get a different set of answers. Some people like the brothers relationship with each other because it is their ideal for them and their own brother. Some people have a friend like Rocco. Some people like the religious imagery. Some people like the idea that they are just two really lucky Irish guys, ya know! [laughs] I get a different answer when I ask people about that, so I don’t know that it is any one thing about ‘Boondock’. It is a combination of everything about ‘Boondock’.
I know you hit some snags after the first film in the way of legal wrangling but I was curious to know how long did you have the script for ‘Boondock Saints II’ ready to go before you started filming?
Probably about two years, three years. That lawsuit lasted for five and the sequel rights were tied up in it. It wasn’t like there was any lack of people wanting to make the movie. There was always interest out there but we just couldn’t do it and we weren’t about to fold.
What was the biggest challenge in making ‘Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day’?
The fanbase. The first time around we didn’t have one. The second time they were looming over the set like a fuckin’ guardian angel! ‘Boondock’ fans frame fucked this movie into the ground, it’s no secret. They know every single line of dialogue. In doing the sequel, nobody wanted to be the guy who screwed up ‘Boondock II’ in any way, ya know?
That fanbase is so volatile and they have deemed the original ‘Boondock’ as sacred ground. So our whole thing was that we cannot tread on that. We have to respect that first story and yet outdo it! It has to be like two brothers… ‘Boondock I and II’, they are related. They are blood to one another. So we had to look at it that way and make it for these specific fans. What I have tried to do is give them a totally new, unpredictable plot, yet everything they love about the first film.
Having said that, did you feel like there was more pressure on you the one the first film or making this sequel?
The sequel. Without a doubt! It was enough fuckin’ pressure to create a diamond! I mean, you have millions of fans that are looking at you hard, going “You better not fuck this up!” There are a whole bunch of fans that have said that a sequel should have never been made! You have that kind if fandom, that specific kind of cult fandom to live up to and it is a very, very difficult thing. Also, we basically had the same amount of money to make this one as we did the first one because of the exchange rate in Canada. During the first one we had 6 million and it was 67 cents on the dollar, so we were getting a 33% break. In 2008, the exchange rate was 94 and a half and we had 8 million, so literally the overage was cancelled out. We basically made both films for the same amount of money, technically.
How difficult was it for you to find the right mix of new people to bring in for ‘Boondock II’?
The only role that I really sought for was Julie Benz’s role. Finding her was a Godsend. When you finally find that actress that you know is “The One”, it’s like having really good sex! Just laying there and saying “God, that was awesome!” Clifton Collins Jr. was my friend for the last decade and me, him, Norman (Reedus), Sean (Patrick Flanery) and Billy (Connolly) used to hang out all the time, so he was always in the club. I wrote that role for Clifton. Judd (Nelson) was an old buddy of mine that just happened to be perfect for the role, in my opinion. Peter Fonda was a little difficult to find, but we did find him. I would have to say that Julie Benz was the most difficult role to cast and when I found her, I was walkin’ on cloud nine!
Looking back on making these films, you had some highs and lows of course, but what are your fondest memories of them?
From the second film, my fondest moment was seeing the film for the first time with a theater full of ‘Boondock’ fans. These are the people that we made this film for and me, Billy, Sean and Norm had our fingers crossed. At the end of the day we all knew that we had made a good film, but how good is always the possession of the public. They’re gonna tell you how good you are and by the end of that screening my question was answered. So I’d say that was my fondest moment of ‘Boondock II’. My fondest moment of ‘Boondock I’ … hummm… there was so much turmoil involved in that movie and the fact that Columbine prevented us from getting a theatrical release, all of those things were kind of depressing, but what it did was help the film become a “cult classic”. My fondest moment was when the public had deemed it a cult classic. There is a difference between a cult film and a cult classic, ya know. That is a very exclusive club to belong to and we are safely in it and in good standing with the membership! [laughs]
You mentioned the turmoil that surrounded the first movie and with the ‘Overnight’ documentary. I don’t want to focus on that to much because I feel that you got a raw deal and you have pretty much made your point clear about what went on in regards to that film. With that being said, what do you think the biggest misconception about yourself is?
Funny story for ya. One of my buddies was wearing a ‘Boondock’ shirt once and he went to the grocery store. He comes back and says “Dude, something happened! It’s funny, you have to listen to this!” This guy comes up to him in the store and says “Cool! Boondock Saints! That’s one of my favorite movies!” and my friend doesn’t say that he knows me at first and says “Hey, yeah! It’s a good flick, huh?” and they start talking and the guy starts following him around. ‘Boondock’ fans kinda have this weird instant bond, ya know? They will hang out and stuff, just because of the movie. The guy goes “Yeah, I heard that fuckin’ guy, Troy Duffy, pulled a Grizzly Adams and he is living in the woods because he lost his mind!” I am laughin’ my ass off from hearing this! [laughs] The idea that people would think that I can’t take a punch, ya know? And that I would take a lawn chair and go live off the fat of the land because [in an artsy voice] no one understands me as an artist! That is just kinda funny stuff. I also think it is a misconception that I am some kind of super harsh dude, ya know? Sometimes I can be blunt, but I rather appreciate it sometimes when people are blunt with me. We have become such a politically correct society that people are no longer actually telling you how they feel. They are trying to say it in a politically correct manner and at the end of the day you have no fuckin’ idea how they feel about you, how they feel about your film or how they feel about your work. Sometimes I tend to cut through that bullshit. However, I think the people that I do that with, I always kinda make a judgment call as to whether I am dealing with somebody that can handle that type of honesty. Ultimately, it has worked out for me.
I know that you cut down the film pretty significantly in length from the initial cut. Will we see a director’s cut of ‘Boondock II’ at some point?
Oh yeah! Our first cut was three hours and fifteen minutes, there are entire subplots and things that we didn’t even put in there. When ‘Boondock II’ says “The Extended Edition” that is exactly what it will mean. You will see entirely new scenes, you will see the scenes extended like a motherfucker, there will be some really cool new stuff in there.. Often, kids get ripped off with these “Unrated” or “Extended” versions and they feel like they got gypped. With ‘Boondock II’ they aren’t going to feel that way, I guarantee it!
So I assume we will see that in maybe six or seven months from now?
I don’t know when they are going to do it but I already cut the thing together. Our first extended viewing cut is 25 minutes longer than the film.
I know that you guys also have a prequel comic of sorts for ‘Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day’. What can you tell us about that project?
Yeah, that is a buddy of ours who is in the comic book business and we had always thought about doing a comic book. We are making a deal with him to do the comic book and I will have a lot to do with that. One of the reasons we did it is because fans were so interested in Il Duce’s past and that is why I addressed it in the film. They wanted to know why he became a killer, why they didn’t know that they were father and sons and what was going on with this guy. They were really interested so I responded directly to the fanbase’s inquiries and addressed it in the film and we are making a whole comic book series out of it. I think that it is just a cool idea, ya know? An Italian kid with polio and this brutal Irish guy whose father has been killed, indiscriminately killing mobsters, way back in 1950’s New York and planning out each gig to blame it on someone else, to me that type of storytelling is gold.
What are the chances for ‘Boondock Saints III’ and what can we as fans to do spread the word about the film and hopefully ensure that happens?
The odds are pretty good. I’d like to get a couple of films under my belt beforehand. I have some other things that I want to say. I have written four other scripts, other than ‘Boondock II’, in the that ten year downtime period. They are all very legitimate and different stories, at opposite ends of the spectrum. I’d like to get a few of those out, but ultimately there is hope for ‘Boondock III’ and I have some ideas percolating! As for how the fans can help, we have sort of arranged it that way. We are only coming out in 70 theaters at my behest! Believe me, that was a difficult thing to talk people into. I wanted this to be platformed so that the fans can take ownership in the film’s success, the way they did the first time around. Nobody tried to sell them ‘Boondock’, they found it on their own, spread the word on their own and made it successful on their own. They are the reason that the sequel was even made! Fans can take part this time by platforming the film into a wide release, which is what I hope that they do.
What can you tell us about ‘The Good King’?
It is a comedy, black as the starless night at the bottom of the ocean. It’s a period piece. A King and a Duke, who are complete recalcitant, alcoholic, womanizer, idiot savants who basically destroy the British Empire and then resurrect it and chaos ensues.
Is that definitely the next project you are tackling?
Hopefully. We will see if we can set it up.
Being a seasoned vet of the film industry, what is the best piece of advice that you would give to young filmmakers?
Make sure you have talent. If your mother and your friends like your stuff, that doesn’t mean shit. You have to have people who you don’t know coming up to you and saying “That was awesome!” Then get your ass to New York or Los Angeles, where the business is. Unfortunately, from that point there is no pathway for you to follow to ensure that you have a good chance at success. You have to work really hard and find some way into it, man. You have to find the way. Every filmmaker that is coming up and having success right now has a different story, so there is no rule book for you to follow. You just have to take the ultimate risk and put your money where you mouth is, but make sure you have talent beforehand.
Any last words of the critics and for the fans?
For the critics, if you liked it, glad to have you onboard and if you didn’t, go fuck yourself! [laughs] For the fans, ‘Boondock II’ is like taking a Playboy Playmate to your Senior Prom and then banging her and her twin sister afterwards.
There’s nothing wrong with that! One last question for you before I let you go. I have a feeling I may know your answer to this but I have to ask. Who do ya got — Philly or New York in the World Series?
You’re kidding right? [laughs]
Well, I know you have huge fanbases in New York and Philly, so I thought you might have a tough choice to make!
I’m a Boston Red Sox fan! Anybody that fights “The Evil Empire” I am down with. Even Boston Red Sox fans just became Phillies fans!
Thanks for your time, Troy! The new film is amazing and we will be out here on the front lines spreading the word! I look forward to all that you have in store for us and I look forward to talking with you soon.
You too, man! You’re site kicks ass! Take it easy!
More of our ‘Boondock Saints II’ Interviews…
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.