To watch the cautionary saga of Troy Duffy's abrupt rise and fall is to absorb many lessons. There's a little history, a little political science, a little fable, a little psychology, a little classical tragedy, and a little art. Very little art. Troy Duffy, for those of you who have never heard of him (and he will find this very difficult to comprehend) was a Hollywood Cinderella story back in the late '90s. A Cinderella story with a few twists. Troy is built more along the lines of the ugly stepsister than the adorable waif, and his Prince Charming was Miramax sultan Harvey Weinstein. And when Harvey put the glass slipper on him, Troy seems to have snarled "Hey, Fatso, do I look like a #@&*%$! size 3 ? to you ? Get me a #@&*%$! slipper that fits!" Or words to that effect.
Here's how it all came to pass. Troy Duffy was a tough kid from South Boston who had followed the siren's call of show business to the West Coast. By 1996 he was working as a bartender/ bouncer at a Melrose saloon called J. Sloan's by night, and by day rehearsing with his garage band, the Brood, and writing a screenplay called "The Boondock Saints". Around this time he became pals with a couple of J. Sloan's regulars, aspiring filmmakers Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith. Montana suggested doing a documentary on Troy's struggle to make it in music and in films. "His voice in each medium was derivative, yet fresh," Montana writes in the production notes.
His most important medium seems to have been his ego, and there his voice was loud. "I hope to conquer the world," he says early in the film. Well, who doesn't ? But when his ship comes in, he quickly morphs from salt-of-the-earth hopeful to overbearing braggart. "We've accomplished something nobody in the #@&*%$! world has ever done," he raves. The occasion for this self-confidence is the kind of story Hollywood loves. A bartender's screenplay suddenly becomes a hot property, generating a feeding frenzy among the studios. The winner is Miramax, with an offer of $300,000 for the screenplay and a $15 million budget for the film, with Troy to direct and to have final cut. And as a feel-good cherry on top of the cake, Harvey Weinstein is buying J. Sloan's for his roughneck Cinderella. At the same time, egged on by the whirlwind of publicity all this is generating in the press, record labels are falling over themselves to sign the band. "We got a deep cesspool of creativity here," Troy crows. "This is the first time in history they've signed a band sight unseen."
Montana and Smith seem to have decided to make their documentary a couple of months before lightning struck, but they haven't captured any of the calm before the storm. They start their movie with the boozy celebration at Sloan's over the Miramax deal. After that there's a lot of intimate access as Troy sets about putting his movie together. And very quickly we begin to see the drug of success torquing at Troy's brain stem, as he heaps contempt on stars and agents and studio execs. "Keanu Reeves - what a #@&*%$!," he snarls. "Ethan Hawke is a talentless fool!" And "Harvey Weinstein is afraid of me ! He wants to be me !" We never see the moment when it all starts to come apart, though we have certainly seen the attitude that produced it. Suddenly Weinstein is no longer returning his calls, and the project that was the bubbles in Hollywood's champagne has gone into turnaround, a Tinseltown euphemism for dead. And those fair-weather friends in the recording industry follow suit, canceling the record contract.
Troy goes into damage control, feeding humble pie to Weinstein's voicemail, but it's no dice. Eventually he gets a deal with an independent studio for a fraction of the original budget, and makes "The Boondock Saints" with a respectable cast - Willem Dafoe and Billy Connelly. He and his entourage go to Cannes, and get a room with a partial ocean view, and wait for the offers to pour in. None do. Is it the Weinstein blackball, or is it just not a very good movie ? "The Boondock Saints" opens in the States for a week in five theaters, and then goes to video, where it eventually achieves some success as a cult favorite. But the William Morris Agency has neglected to get Troy a slice of that pie. Troy's band does put out a CD. It sells less than 700 copies.
Watching the meetings of Troy and his inner circle calls to mind images of a backwater barbarian chieftain bullying his court and waiting for a Shakespeare or a Chaucer to come along and raise him to the level of his dreams. Instead he gets Montana and Smith, who provide a fascinating portrait of hubris and comeuppance, but without much artistic flair. We miss much of the connective tissue. We never see much of the Boondock Saints script or movie, we never hear much of the band, we don't get the Weinstein access we'd love to have. We do see Troy bullying his acolytes, including Montana and Smith, who slink through the meetings like whipped dogs, no doubt brooding and thinking "We'll get the arrogant #@&*%$! when we make our movie !"
© Text Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be