Director Troy Duffy is a Hollywood success story, albeit not your typical one. When he shot his independent film on a shoe string budget over a decade ago, he had little idea of the impact that it would have moviegoers. The “Boondock Saints” phenomena started as it exploded into a limited number of theaters in 1999. Boasting an amazing story, brilliant touches of humor and more action than you could shake a stick at, it didn’t take long before word of this unique film to spread like wildfire. Before he know it, Troy Duffy found himself being heralded as an overnight sensation. They say that the spotlight burns hot and as we have all seen too many times in the past, it doesn’t take long for Hollywood to turn on you. After a few scrapes with industry insiders, negative press and an unflattering documentary was released, it seemed that the odds couldn’t have been more stacked against him. What Hollywood didn’t count on was the fact that Troy Duffy is a fighter at heart. The “Boondock Saints” franchise continued to grow at an astounding pace and spawned one of the most rabid fanbases of all time. It is the fan dedication that has continued to fuel Duffy’s creative fire through the years. Everything that the fans have given to him throughout his career is starting to pay off in spades as there is a plethora of irons in the fire for this beloved franchise! Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently caught up with Troy Duffy to discuss the origin of the “Boondocks Saints” franchise, it’s expansion in to new mediums and the other projects he has in store for devoted fans in the months and years to come!
A lot of people know you as the director of “The Boondock Saints,” one of the biggest cult sensations of our time. What initially attracted you to filmmaking?
Ya know, it has always been a part of who we are growing up. We all have those movies that we love. I came out to Los Angeles to be a musician, while I was doing that I simply wrote a script one day. I had a friend give me a script, so that I could copy the format and write down this story I had bouncing around in my head. That was “Boondock.” Through the deal-making process, I got the opportunity to direct it as well. I guess I sorta fell into it. I am not one of those guys who went to film school and all of that stuff. It was a creative pursuit. I may not have written a script or directed before but I knew, creatively, what to do. It was a fly by the seat of your pants sort of thing! That was backed up by, in my head, “Oh, I’ve done this before. I have watched a million movies and I love all of these things!” That is how it happened.
Who were some of the biggest influences on you as a director? Any specific directors?
I don’t know if it was directors, so much as the movies themselves. When we are shooting, any shot we do from behind, we call the “Goodfellas” shot. That would mimic that iconic shot when you are following the guy into the joint, they walk from the back, into the kitchen, through the restaurant and to the table. It is more about the movies for me. When I started out, I probably couldn’t have named more than five to seven directors, ya know? Since then, I have gotten my favorites but, in terms of influences, it was more of the movies themselves that influenced me. I loved the crime genres, “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas.” I LOVE “Apocalypse Now.” I was also influenced by a bunch of movies that you wouldn’t necessarily associate me with, like “The Fisher King” and “The Outsiders.” In terms of a romantic comedy, I liked “When Harry Met Sally,” and as a dude, that is the type of romantic comedy I want to see.
“The Boondock Saints” is definitely a film which has inspired many up-and-coming filmmakers. What can you tell us about how the idea came to you? Was there suddenly a light bulb that turned on?
Yeah, my brother and I were in this band together in Los Angeles. We were living in a pretty seedy neighborhood at the time, like most artists do. We were working at the bar to pay the bills, trying to get by and writing music when we could. There was crime everywhere, man. I came home one time to a guy robbing my place. All of that stuff compiled to the point where I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. The police couldn’t do anything, so I just took out my frustrations on paper. The rest is history.
Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery have both done some amazing work in their careers, both before and after “The Boondock Saints.” What intrigued you about them and led to their casting?
I really liked them both and when we got them together it was weird — they finished each others sentences! My brother happened to be at the bar when I got them together. He took me outside and said, “Troy, those are the guys!” Everybody was kinda feeling that way. It was very a natural thing. The other thing that I kinda had worked out in my head at the time was that I had written a movie that I wanted to see as a movie fan. I wrote it and thought, “Wow! Cool story! I would like to see this. I would definitely go see this movie.” Even if I hadn’t written it and it was a story from someone else, I would have gone to see this movie. We really didn’t want to cast movie stars in the film. Every time that it had happened up until that point, it was like some big movie stepping down to do independent film to reclaim some kind of street cred. When people go into the movie theater with the baggage of seeing some huge movie star, no matter how good the story or the performance is, it still takes five or ten minutes to forget that it is some movie star and get on with the story. I was dead-set against going too famous with those roles. We wanted the feeling that Norman and Sean had — up-and-coming talent that you may not have heard of before.
Looking back on those two films, what do you consider the biggest obstacle that presented itself along the way?
The biggest obstacles when you are making a film are always time and money. Your money dictates how much time you have and what you can and cannot do. There are a lot of times that you get as prepared as you can and you get out there and shoot your ass off with great actors. There are a lot of solutions to the money and time problems that you have to be able to roll with along the way. There were entire scenes in “Boondock” that were cut out or written differently. For example, there were some dream sequences which we had to lose. That is always the biggest obstacle, for any filmmaker, time and money.
Since the original film, you created an amazing sequel and some great comic book tie-ins for the franchise that weave the story together so well. As a fan, I am curious to know how far you have things mapped out in your head, in terms of the whole story of “The Boondocks Saints.”
It is something that I am always thinking about. There are a million things you can do when you set pen to paper. It is really an open range right there! I am always thinking of little things. I like to wait until things hit me. I will be walking down the street and BOOM! Out of nowhere, I think, “Wow! That would be a great idea!” It is one of those things where, along with writing other scripts and exploring other stories, it is something I am always thinking about. In terms of step-by-step, dot-by-dot — What have I planned for the future of “Boondock,” like a part three or something like that? Those ideas are still coming in, though I can say, “Yeah, some of it I have thought about and I have a good map to go by but it is not all there yet.” It is something that I don’t want to rush.
I know there have been some rumblings of bringing “Boondock” into the realm of television. What can you tell us about the potential of that medium?
It is a cool idea and we are exploring that option right now. To me, television is at the point where it has probably eclipsed film. We are seeing so much quality in cable network shows right now. It is really blowing everyone out of the water. Because they are cable network shows, depicting violence isn’t as big of a deal as it is on network television. I love shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones and The Sopranos, obviously. In that format, you can use curse words, which in this particular story is a hallmark of ours! Not having the restrictions of network television placed on you, it frees up an artist to explore a lot of options. I am pretty excited about that prospect. I am also intrigued by the time frame. In a film, you have two hours to tell a story. In a season of television, you have 13 or 14 hours! You can really get deep down into these characters. That is why I am really excited about a television prospect for “Boondock,” because we could really see where Connor and Murphy came from and expose all of the Saints lore. We could explore where they got their rosaries or how the prayer came about — all of these things that fans have questions on. We could go into those areas and see how these things were brought to them. That is what I like about the whole TV thing and why it is something I am really into — there is a lot of freedom, a lot more possibilities to explore the story and a lot more “Boondock” for the buck! That being said, it doesn’t expunge the possibility of a “Boondock 3” movie either! You can do both if you are really killing it!
The world and the Internet changed immensely since you released the original film. As a fan, I see how hard your team works to spread the word on all things “Boondock.” How do you feel social media impacted you as a businessman and a director through the years?
The change has been exponential, man! It’s exponential! The idea that you can communicate directly with the fanbase and tell them about events you are having and they will show up in force, has made the world a lot smaller. It has allowed us to consolidate our fanbase, tap into it and keep them informed of anything we wish. If we do announce a television show, a video game or “Boondock 3,” they are instantly aware of it. That didn’t exist back when we did the first movie and it has helped in every way. It keeps you connected to your audience and it keeps them informed. It has been crucial in growing the franchise.
Speaking of “The Boondock Saints” video game, it is creating quite a buzz. What can you tell us about putting that project together?
Last year at SXSW, I hooked up with a company called Critical Mass. They were fans of “Boondock,” first and foremost, and that is what I was looking for in a gaming company. They really understood the characters and the story. There is always that sense when you go video game that these gamers might not have the sense of everything that is going on and somehow it will all get lost in translation. With Critical Mass, I didn’t feel that. They knew EVERYTHING about the story and they had a great pitch, so we started working with them. I am really excited about it!
There is so much involved with creating a video game and doing it right, like you said. Do you have a timeframe on when we might expect it?
I can’t put a time limit on it. Right now, it all depends on a few things falling into place. That being said, it could be a couple of years or much sooner than that.
Have there been any unique challenges in bringing “Boondock” to the realm of gaming with Critical Mass?
Yeah, just in the expansiveness of video games themselves, ya know? I am not into gaming, so I had my friends show me all of the games that they love, so that I could start figuring out in my head the type of game that we wanted to go with. The worlds and universes they can create in video games are fuckin’ unbelievable! They are exponential, expansive and huge! To me, the biggest surprise was, “Oh, this isn’t like fuckin’ Pac-Man!” [laughs] There are stories behind everything, entire new venues you can go to, characters that you can be, interact with and play. In terms of surprises in the video game world, my biggest one was the endlessness of what you can do in the world of gaming and the coolness of that. You think of “Boondock,” you think, “A bunch of guys go into a Mafia stronghold and start taking out the bad guys.” In a game, you can do anything — cruise ships, bank jobs, interrupting criminals during their committing of crimes, anything! That is what has been the coolest thing for me and the biggest eye opener!
Let’s touch on potential film projects. Last time we spoke, I know you were leaning toward “The Good King.” What’s happening on that front?
“The Good King” and I have another script called “The Blood Spoon Council,” which is a serial killer thriller. “The Good King” is a black comedy. The basic story is that a ne’er-do-well Prince’s father dies, he becomes king. Then he and his debaucherous best friend, the Duke, completely ruin the empire through their philandering and drinking. “The Blood Spoon Council” is about a vigilante group that hunts down, captures and executes serial killers. Then they deliver them to the doorstep of the FBI. Those are both being spit-shined by me every fucking other day. I am spit shining those and figuring where we have to go but right now we have a couple of “Boondock” irons in the fire. I am moving forward on “Blood Spoon Council” with this one company that I can’t name right now. It is all going terrifically, it is just a matter of which ball drops in first, ya know what I mean?
Absolutely. It’s a great place to be!
Yeah, it’s not too shabby! [laughs]
Something else that changed greatly in the years since you first came on the scene is the movie industry itself. What are your thoughts on its current state?
Well, there are things that depress me and there are things that excite me. Like anything else in life, there is a flip-side to every coin. For me, the movies based on comic books are being overdone. I mean, it seems that any comic book from a while back is being done now, just for the sake of it. The have a brand and they go for it. I understand the business behind it but a lot of these movies are getting pretty formulaic but the flip-side is that some of it will kill it! I mean, “Iron Man,” I fuckin’ love “Iron Man!” “Transformers” is pretty damn cool and the “Batman Begins” stuff, I loved it. But that is a trend that I would like to see slow down. Another thing that kinda gets me is, what you hear today in Hollywood in these meetings is about the family dollar. They want the whole family to go see a movie and again, I understand the business behind that, but the movies that I grew up with and the movies that I love ain’t family movies, ya know? I didn’t go see “Deliverance” with my mom. [laughs] That grittiness that we used to have in film, I would love to see comeback and you can see it here and there. It’s slowly coming back. I would like to see movies being made for the sake of telling great stories and yes, there is a business to it for sure but I would like that to sometimes be ignored, a little bit more than it is.
As I said earlier, I know you guys have really taken a lot of time to carefully grow your brand. With so many irons in the fire, I was curious what a typical day consists of in the “Boondock” world?
Well, I have got a great team of people running things on my end. In terms of my day, I have a lot of creative work to do, so on the business side of things, I am really grateful to have the right people around to handle that. I spend my day, either writing scripts, tuning up old scripts that I am going to go out with at some point or I am into carpentry. As a matter of fact, as you called me here, I am hanging a door that I made. It’s a big barn door that I made for the side entry of my house. I’ve got saw dust all over me, buddy!
As a fan, I think I speak for all of us when I tell you we appreciate all of your hard work as well as your team. What can we as fans do to help support and grow the franchise?
“Boondock” fans don’t generally need to be prompted to do anything, man! [laughs] They are always there for you, like as soon as we announce an event or a party, they show up in force. I don’t know if you know this but Rocco [David Della Rocco] and the guys [Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus] are out here at SXSW and have been doing conventions, like Comic Con, all across the country. They show up at these things and the “Boondock” fans are showing up in force and they are having the time of their lives! I would just say, keep rollin’ how you’re rollin’ everybody and we might have some good surprises coming up here for you! Keep your eyes and ears open because we are on it!
We discussed misconceptions about you in the past and I think you really put those to bed in recent years. What is the best part about being Troy Duffy these days?
I guess it is having a little more freedom. I remember “Boondock I” and even Boondock II,” we had to work very hard just to work hard. By that I mean, we had to get the movie to a point were we could actually go out physically to do it, shoot it and do our thing! It is getting a little easier. Now, people are coming to us sometimes and I don’t have to beg and plead for every last dollar to make a film. To me, the best part is that we have some freedom now because we have proven our point twice now by doing two very small independent films that had an effect on the audience and did some very big numbers. We no longer have to convince anyone. I love it because now we don’t have to sell people, ya know?
Absolutely! It is an exciting time to be a fan.
St. Patrick’s Day is coming up this weekend. What are you doing to celebrate the big event?
In keeping with my carpentry thing, I have built a bar in back of my house. I will be having some friends over here and drinking some green beer!
Not a bad way to spend the day! Thanks for your time, Troy! We look forward to all you have in store for us. Thanks for your time!
Thank you! Take it easy, Jason!
For all of the latest news and developments from Troy Duffy and everything Boondock Saints, visit the official website at www.boondocksaints.com! You can check out Icon Vs. Icon’s original interview with Troy Duffy at this location – Click Here!
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.