Judge Adam Arseneau once pitched a script to Miramax about a futuristic amusement park where dinosaurs are brought to life through advanced cloning techniques. He called it "Billy and the Cloneasaurus."
There's more than one way to shoot yourself.
"No man is really changed by success. What happens is that success works on the man's personality like a truth drug, bringing out of the closet and revealing…what was always inside his head."—author, Albert Goldman
Facts of the Case
It sounds like a dream come true. A Boston-bred bartender/part time musician writes a screenplay between bouncing gigs, and it somehow ends up in the lap of Miramax head Harvey Weinstein. And just like that, overnight, Troy Duffy (The Boondock Saints) becomes an overnight Hollywood success story. He is Hollywood's new golden boy, the next young maverick director discovered by Miramax, and the sleazy bar he works in is suddenly awash in Hollywood faces and celebrities.
Troy, in his mid-twenties, is handed the keys to the magic kingdom. Miramax buys his script for The Boondock Saints for almost half a million dollars in cash. He is offered the director's chair despite never having touched a camera in his life. His band will contribute the soundtrack to his film. He gets total creative control, final cut and casting decisions. Harvey Weinstein even offers to buy the bar that Duffy works at as an incentive. Awash with his newfound success, Troy Duffy sets out on his charge of bringing his film to life, determined to prove that a blue-collar hooligan from Boston can make it in Hollywood.
In a matter of days, Duffy begins to alienate not only his family and friends, but everyone in Hollywood. His bandmates and friends hit the bar every night and drink themselves into a stupor. He begins making unreasonable demands to record labels, his talent agency and the studio. Convinced of his brilliance, that nobody in the history of the industry has ever created something as incredible as his own work, he is absolutely unshakable in his confidence, and never passes up an opportunity to remind everyone else around him of his greatness. He is totally oblivious to the negative reactions around him…and to the phone calls ominously going unreturned from Hollywood…
When Miramax and Duffy clash over casting decisions, the studio shows signs of dragging their feet on production. This is the point where Duffy goes insane. Soon, he is screaming over conference calls, demeaning his co-workers, hurling insults at anyone within range. His overwhelming arrogance soon burns every bridge possible in Hollywood, and before long, the walls start crumbling. Executives and agents stop returning his phone calls. Miramax drops the film from its production schedule altogether. The record deal lined up for his band falls through. Duffy is left diving for scraps, forced to take a far less generous offer from a smaller studio to get The Boondock Saints made, for less than half the budget once offered by Miramax. One finished, the film is blacklisted in the industry, and nobody will even touch it, let alone distribute it.
Overnight chronicles the rise and fall of a young Hollywood maverick that, in a matter of weeks, followed the rise and fall in the industry that usually takes decades to play out. His fall from grace is shocking, funny, abhorrent and surreal…and you have to see it to believe it.
If you have not had the pleasure, The Boondock Saints was an underground independent film that saw nothing in the way of theatrical distribution, but became something of a cult favorite on the DVD shelves. Uncategorically unique, it was one part Pulp Fiction and one part Dogma, all wrapped up with a Boston accent…exactly the kind of movie that Miramax in the late nineties would bust their heads trying to make. And they almost did. Oh, how they almost did.
Overnight is scary and fascinating at the same time, both affirming in the Hollywood dream and alarming in how quickly it can be taken away. It is downright terrifying at times to see how the events of Troy Duffy's life play out, and to realize how completely one man managed to ruin his own dreams without even realizing it. If you ever dreamed about taking a screenplay to California with the dreams of making it big, Overnight will give you night terrors. Troy Duffy's rise to fame and subsequent blacklisting is the stuff of Hollywood legend, and Overnight has the goods on every second of it. Shot as a "making of" for the Boondock Saints DVD, the footage ultimately become a documentary in its own right, a chronicling of exactly how bad a Hollywood deal can go. The cameras are there, in Duffy's company every step of the way, following him to the bar, watching him jam with his band, filming his tantrums and his breakdown, and the kamikaze tailspin that became his professional career.
One gets the impression watching Overnight that Hollywood is something of an "insiders only" club; that the novelty of a chain-smoking beer-swilling bartender with dirty clothes was charming at first to the executives and producers, but rapidly lost its charm, especially when Duffy insisted on doing things "his way." It was almost as if they expected him to be something novel and whimsical, showing him off at parties as the new "maverick director," the new buzz, with the edgiest and hottest script around…but when it came down to the business side of things, they expected Duffy to don three-piece suits, keep his mouth shut, and kiss butt. Duffy, on the other hand, treated the entire affair as any other in his life: he felt he was "owed" success, and when it was withheld from him, even slightly, he responded the same way if somebody owed him 20 bucks from a pool game. He bashed their head in with a pool cue until they got detached retinas—in a manner of speaking.
Hollywood works on its own set of rules, moves at its own pace, and, to an outsider, may seem bizarre, frustrating and confusing. Duffy refuses to allow things to take their natural course, and went in with a massive ego, a demanding sense of entitlement, and a bad attitude, which ultimately alienated himself from every single person with influence, money and connections. Within a matter of weeks, Duffy sank the ship before he had even set sail, and virtually killed his movie off before he even shot one foot of film. The fact that Boondock Saints even saw the light of day was something of a major miracle. After he so thoroughly burned bridges with Miramax, it becomes a gamble no film studio will take a chance on. Virtually blacklisted from the industry, the film received no distribution whatsoever for months and months, and yet throughout it all, Duffy remains absolutely convinced of his brilliance, even after his family and friends turn on him.
As for Duffy himself, the man is one drink away from being certifiably insane. Loud, arrogant, boisterous, insufferable, and a drunken Bostonian temper to boot, he was the antithesis of everything Hollywood. Within days of shaking hands with Weinstein, Duffy was strutting about town, staying at fancy hotels, drinking into the early mornings, leaping off hotel rooftops into swimming pools, and generally being a total dick. An absolute control freak, he virtually shut his friends out of the record negotiations for his band, and then blamed the record companies when the deal fell through for not recognizing "his brilliance." He would call Miramax and try to get Harvey Weinstein on the phone, and scream and swear, curse and rant when he could not get through…as if the head of Miramax studios has nothing else to do but to sit in his office and wait for his phone call. Within weeks, Miramax stopped returning his calls altogether, having realized exactly the kind of person they agreed to do business with.
The Boondock Saints was going to be the new Pulp Fiction, and Duffy was to be the new Tarantino. Instead, he managed to get himself blacklisted from the entire industry, unable to ever again find work either as writer or as a director, and the theatrical run of Boondock Saints was shown on a whopping five screens, for a total of one week. How could things have gotten so bad for Duffy? How could something like arrogance—in a town like Hollywood—manage to alienate so many? Overnight is fascinating and terrifying at the same time, a surrealist nightmarish tale about the dark side of the movie business. The documentary almost seems surreal, like a bad joke. After things go bad, Duffy loses his mind, blaming his agents, Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood as a whole for not "getting it," his friends and family for not "supporting" him, and anyone else stupid enough to get within spittle range. Convinced people are out to get him, Duffy arms himself with a gun and starts hiding in his apartment. Things get so out of hand and so ludicrous that it almost seems made up. You have to see it to believe it.
From a technical standpoint, Overnight presents the film very authentically—as a low-budget documentary—with minimal bells and whistles. The transfer is dark, grainy and occasionally degrades into digital blockage, but has decent black levels and is clean and free from print damage. The audio, a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track has decent bass response and reasonable mixing between the two channels, but occasionally dialogue becomes muffled behind ambient and environmental noises and changes volume levels from scene to scene. Shot on hand-held cameras and recorded haphazardously on low-budget equipment, Overnight looks as good as can reasonably be expected. A small amount of bonus material is also included: a collection of deleted scenes, a director's interview on "Backstage with Barry Nolan," some trailers and cast/crew biographies.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Is there a moral in Overnight, a lesson to be learned? I have a hard time taking this film as a cautionary tale, unless the caution is never to try and get a film made if you are a raging psychopath. But that's just plain common sense…isn't it?
So what distinguished Troy Duffy from any of the other arrogant, self-absorbed, short-tempered and pompous figureheads that populate the streets of Hollywood? Heck, Harvey Weinstein himself has been called worse names, probably on a daily basis. Maybe he felt uneasy about the competition? Could it be that the community of the insecure, the vain and the egotistical simply could not embrace an outsider with the same characteristics? That they turn a blind eye towards one another, but the site of an East Coast bartender exhibiting the same unsightly behavior was simply deplorable? Perhaps you have to earn the right to be a prima donna in Hollywood…one cannot just waltz in and act like the cock of the walk. You have to earn that cock! Err, in a manner of speaking.
But truth be told, Troy Duffy comes off as incredibly disagreeable throughout the entire documentary. While his rise and fall certainly makes for fascinating filmmaking, he certainly does not appeal to the best in human nature. I wouldn't expect to feel too sorry for Mr. Duffy in Overnight if I were you. Not only did he make his bed, but he soaked it in kerosene and threw down a match. A sympathetic character, he ain't.
But, there may be a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Though Duffy never saw a penny of the DVD sales from The Boondock Saints (a long, painful story), according to the IMDb, Boondock II: All Saints Day is currently in production. Maybe things are finally turning around for Duffy. Hopefully, he will have learned something about the game a second time around.
Overnight is the thorough humbling of a man to the point of desperation, like a Shakespearian tragedy played out in the hills of Hollywood and the back alleys of Boston. Accepting Troy Duffy as a tragic figure is complicated, because he is so callous and arrogant, but his story is so incredibly compelling that one cannot divert their eyes from the screen even for a moment.
Towards the end of the film, a reporter from the Washington Post remarks about meeting Harvey Weinstein at the Oscars a few years after the dust had settled on Troy Duffy's failed film career. According to the reporter, after introducing herself and recalling an article she had written on Duffy's struggles, the first thing he said to her was, "Was I right about Troy Duffy, or what?"
After watching Overnight, you have to hand it to the big man…he definitely was.
Definitely not guilty. A fascinating and compelling documentary…though admittedly, I won't be taking my scripts to Mr. Duffy anytime soon.
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