EXCLUSIVE: Writer/director Troy Duffy, most famous for making a big Boondock Saints spec deal with Harvey Weinstein that was supposed to include purchase of the LA bar where Duffy poured drinks, is back in the mix with deals for both film and TV projects. On the small screen, Duffy has teamed with producers Jimmy Miller and Sam Hansen and set up Kingdom Come with Sony Television. The proposed series focuses on Capt. Jean Lafitte, the early 19th century pirate who built the largest smuggling operation on U.S. soil and controlled New Orleans and all the goods that traveled the Mississippi River. He went from outlaw to patriot when he and his crew defended New Orleans against the British in the War of 1812, for which he and his pirate cohorts received full pardons for past misdeeds, but were whitewashed from history by Andrew Jackson.
Duffy also made a deal with Voltage Pictures to write and direct The Blood Spoon Council, a thriller about a vigilante group led by an eccentric mastermind profiler that hunts, captures and disposes of serial killers. This will be the first film that Duffy has directed since the Boondock Saints sequel in 2009. Even though the bar deal with Weinstein fell apart over creative disagreements, the first movie–which starred Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery as Irish vigilantes–got financed by Elie Samaha. The ultra-violent shoot em up then had the bad fortune to reach theaters right after the Columbine High School massacre, and grossed just $30,471.
Now, this is just one of the difficult spots in what has been a long journey for Duffy to get to the point where he’s got two solid projects with major companies. He tells me that despite the paltry performance in theaters, Boondock Saints eventually made staggering sums on home video, though laying hands on it was another story. “Hollywood backed off anything with youthful violence after Columbine, and we were informed by a buyer that our film was blacklisted from U.S. theater screens,” Duffy said. “After doing all that work, we were torpedoed and everyone slipped into a depression. Then kids found the movie within six months, when it became a Blockbuster exclusive selection and went on to become the number one straight to video highest-grossing rental of 2001. Unfortunately, we had made the movie with Franchise’s Elie Samaha, and the whole company went bust.”
Duffy might have wanted to have passed the bar instead of pouring drinks from one, for all the lawyer fees he and Brinker paid out. “We sued Comerica Bank, which financed the film, and another outfit, Spartan Home Entertainment, which released it. It became a massive lawsuit.” What saved Duffy and Brinker was they, almost by accident, held onto merchandising rights which became a gold mine. “The only reason we had them was, nobody saw any value in them,” he said. “We began selling T-shirts, scripts, posters on a website, and we made big money we shoveled right back into the lawsuit which took six years to settle out of court for an undisclosed sum.” While he cannot reveal that number, his description of the film’s vid business is staggering. “Boondock did well over $100 million globally, and it still does 1 million units a year in the U.S. It’s one of those things that works as a stocking stuffer, on St. Patrick’s Day. I really can’t explain it. It’s like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Big Lebowski, movies that built this weird fanaticism around them.”The lawsuit also allowed them to make a Boondock sequel, which he said didn’t get a lot of love from Sony; the film never got past the platform stage, but grossed $11 million though it never got past 600 screens.
As he and Brinker were getting ready to turn the page, the latter died at age 42 from an aortic aneurysm on the last day of shooting his directing debut Bad Country. This happened last February. Despite all the adversity, Duffy said he is excited by the opportunities provided by the new projects. He’s working on the film with Voltage’s Nicolas Chartier, Zev Foreman and Dominic Rustam, and Patrick Newall, with Chartier calling the serial killer pic “an ideal film to follow up Boondock Saints…we believe Troy will turn it into a film that can be a defining psychological thriller for this generation in the vein of Silence Of The Lambs and Se7en. On the series project he’s writing, Duffy told me: “Lafitte saved the U.S. and was whitewashed from history,” he said. “Pound for pound the biggest gangster, clearing one million dollars a month smuggling contraband into the U.S. Then the British invade, wanting to take back what they’d lost in the Revolutionary War, and if they took New Orleans they had us. Lafitte teams with Andrew Jackson, helps the Army win that battle that sends the British home. Jackson then runs for president on the ‘I saved the U.S. platform, and could not lay the victory on the doorstep of an infamous pirate. It’s our Braveheart, in a way.”
As for his bid to own a bar, Duffy said he still wants one. He staked some ex-cop buddies when they opened a watering hole in New Orleans, and now he’s ready to look for a place of his own in Los Angeles. He’s repped by Jordan Bayer of Original Artists and attorney Stephen Clark.