OVERNIGHT Image

OVERNIGHT

By Elias Savada | December 20, 2004

As role models go, Troy Duffy isn’t the kind most Americans (at least those straight-faced voters who re-elected George W. Bush this year) would want their kids to aspire to. Hard-drinking, expletive-enriched, and with the look of an unkempt, unshaven barfly, Duffy was a Hollywood golden boy for a brief flash a few years back. In the mid-1990s, Harvey Weinstein plunked down a bunch of bucks (northward of $300,000) for Duffy’s Tarantino-esque script “The Boondock Saints”, and negotiated with the novice to direct the film, get cast approval, final cut, and write the music featuring his band The Brood. And he would get to co-purchase a West Hollywood saloon with Weinstein which they would co-manage.

With video footage of passable quality shot by producer-director-writers Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith, the original idea was to catch a rising star and see where his yellow brick road leads. On numerous occasions over the coarse of their short, 88-minute “Sturm und Drang” excursion, Duffy’s road seems to be either a dead end or approaching a steep cliff, with a sign on the edge shouting “Jump.” Audiences at the 2003 Seattle International Film Festival were “treated” to a nearly two-hour version. It made its way to Sundance and Cannes and elsewhere, too, before its November 2004 release through ThinkFilm.

Expectations rise: the band celebrates a record deal and seems destined for the big time. Instead, even with all the Hollywood trade magazines touting Duffy’s deal with Miramax and USA Today doing a feature on the rising screenwriter, his demise was not unexpected, considering Hollywood’s back-stabbing tendencies. The first indication that Miramax is having second thoughts comes in the Fall of 1997, when they (i.e., Harvey and brother Robert) put the high-profile $15-million project into turnaround, a common occurrence in the movie business, wherein it halts all forms of construction mid-sentence and offers the blueprints, underlying rights, and whatever meat is on the cinematic skeleton for another carnivore (i.e., producer, studio, etc.) to pick at the carcass and make an offer. The record deal heads south, too.

When producer Elie Samaha of Franchise Films offers to make the feature, at half its former budget, Troy bites. Half a film is better than none. Or so you would think. Depends on how much a*s-kissing you can take making your dream come true. The few shots of the set seems amiable enough—lots of joking. Better news: Lava/Atlantic Records signs The Brood to a music deal, but the band’s longtime co-managers are left out in the lurch, wondering why they are doing business with Troy.

Anyway, a good deal of the film seems to be Troy spewing forth vindictively on the phone as the members of his troupe sit in couches nearby, wondering when they might catch their next break, or even a PG-rated sentence. Months pass, but production, surprisingly does start in the Summer of 1998 in Toronto. The cast includes Billy Connolly, Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery, porn great Ron Jeremy and a bunch of guys throwing more four-letter words at each other.

The f*** word flies out of Troy’s mouth nearly has many times as it did on that episode of “South Park” where they kept a running counter each time the word was uttered.

Like Alice in Wonderland, Troy finds himself falling down a hole into a land of madness, Hollywood style, sitting at the head of the director’s table with nary a credit to his name, not a minute of film schooling. Hell, he’s just a poor kid from Boston that Harvey W. took a liking to. Of course, as Duffy himself puts it, he’s Hollywood’s new hard-on, and he, no way, is letting anyone forget that.

Ultimately, the case of characters seems straight out of “Entourage”, the HBO series loosely based on the posse surrounding Mark Wahlberg, who makes a brief appearance in “Overnight”, providing a few, you know, sentences of script support for the future filmmaker.

Troy is an interesting, off-beat character, but his reality show isn’t a pick-me-up. It’s a put-you-down. He’s a little-minded, big-winded blowhard who envisions himself the next Orson Welles. Heck, he’s not even the next Orson Bean. And with a perhaps unintentional anti-Semitic leaning (he comments on his record producers being “too Jewish” about financing his album), he’s just a put-me-down. As for women, the first one doesn’t appear (other than on a phone call) until an hour into the film, and all she does is pull down her dress and reveal herself. Another great role model.

“Boondock Saint”‘s ride to fame and fortune begins with buyer screenings at the 1999 Cannes International Film Festival. Troy munches on local cuisine and announces the film will go big at the box office, that it’s one of the best independent films ever made. Chaperoned by Jim Crabbe and Cassian “The Negotiator” Elwes of the William Morris Agency, the latter yucks it up before the filmmakers’ camera. Their candid camera’s Rorschach test comment: “Don’t trust anybody.” Without waiting a bleeping second, Elwes replies, “especially me.” But all the fun and sun turn to brood and doom three days after the screening. The camera catches Harvey Weinstein chomping on an ice cream, while Duffy wonders if that puff fish, or any other distribution animal, will take a bite at “Boondock Saints”.

No one does. Well, eventually really small Indican Pictures (for which I have seen only their only their “Cleopatra’s Second Husband”) picked up the film for release. In five American theaters. For one week. (Granted it did become a popular home video rental. For which Troy got not a single penny.)

As for the record album, well that does get finished and pressed in 2000, although we barely get a minute of the band groping through the creative process on screen. After six months of release, it’s sold an astoundingly abysmal 690 copies. Their label drops them. (duh) The band breaks up.

“Overnight”‘s a cautionary time excursion into another standard-issue rise and fall scenario, about making movies and recording albums. Troy’s brothers and other band members end up ringing up groceries or slapping paint or hammering nails or serving drinks. A very admonitory tale. As in don’t quit your day job.

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