Wunderkind for 15 minutes gets his comeuppance
Special to The Seattle Times
In 1997, after a fierce bidding war with all the major studios, a 25-year-old bartender/bouncer named Troy Duffy sold his first screenplay, "The Boondock Saints," to Harvey Weinstein of Miramax Pictures.
The deal included the right to direct the film and to put his band's music on the soundtrack. As a final gesture, Weinstein offered to buy the bar where Duffy worked and make him half-owner. It was a Hollywood dream out of Lana-Turner-at-Schwab's-drugstore. Duffy became rich and powerful overnight.
"Overnight" is a documentary about how that dream turned into a nightmare.
Filmed over a four-year period by Duffy's onetime friends, the documentary picks up shortly after the deal is made as Duffy celebrates with bandmates. He makes the cover of The Hollywood Reporter and USA Today. He parties and talks deals with Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman and Vincent D'Onofrio. He's at the center of the buzz.
But Duffy's got a black hole for an ego — it sucks everything in — and he's so sure of himself it borders on the psychotic. He talks down to his family. Wearing his trademark overalls at the five-star Colonnade Hotel, he expounds on how "The right people see everything" because the right people saw him. He imagines unprecedented success in both film and music.
The reckoning begins with silence. A conference call to Miramax isn't taken. After Miramax puts his project in turnaround, the record company backs out as well. "It was all just talk," Duffy says.
To his credit, Duffy gets a new deal with another independent studio — at half the budget. To his discredit, his drive and egotism turn bitter-edged. He blames friends for failure. He browbeats bandmates. The man at the beginning who said, "Friendship is the most important thing in the world," was either a liar or has vanished completely.
"Overnight" is a pungent documentary that details the awful, groping evanescence of Hollywood buzz: How everyone wants what the other guy wants, and nobody wants it if the other guy doesn't. But it's also a bit myopic because it focuses solely on Duffy. There are no interviews with anyone at Miramax, for example, or even other writer/directors Weinstein has betrayed (and they are legion), so we don't know exactly why "The Boondock Saints" was bought and shelved. Weinstein has a habit of doing this, but we don't learn it from this documentary.
The film's unstated moral is that pride goeth before the fall, but real life is constantly tossing up counter-examples (Weinstein, despite recent troubles, is one). In fact, you could argue that Duffy, a huge egomaniacal jerk, was simply a piker in Hollywood. That's the scary part.
Erik Lundegaard: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company