You won't find Christopher Nolan or David Fincher shutting down a bar with a bunch of fans, but Troy Duffy is a different breed of moviemaker.
The onetime Boston bartender, who doesn't mind cultivating his image as a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks, had an icepick hangover Thursday morning. He'd spent a long night "sampling the flavors of Minneapolis" with fans who attended the local premiere of his twisted vigilante thriller "Boondock Saints II: All Saints' Day."
The 1999 original, a McFlurry of blue-collar grunge, John Woo gunplay and hooligan humor, was yanked from theaters when the Columbine shootings occurred, but became a major word-of-mouth hit on video. Fans made it Blockbuster's highest grossing straight-to-video title and clamored for a sequel, but legal battles kept the project in limbo for a decade. With the follow-up finally here, they are primed to party, and Duffy was down with that.
"We went to this awesome bar with '80s music," he said. "Every time we were ready to go, they'd start a Billy Squier tune."
Duffy and star Sean Patrick Flanery have been on a road-warrior publicity marathon, no doubt putting a sizable dent in each city's local beer supply. "Boondock II" is getting an aggressive publicity push from Minneapolis film magnate Bill Pohlad's distribution company Apparition.
It's not the sort of fancy-pants fare you'd expect from a label associated with art films and period romances. "You've got to slum it now and then to make some actual dough," Duffy chortled. Made for $6 million, the original "Boondock Saints" has grossed $100 million, he said. "It's a vindication for both films to get the theatrical release we were denied the first time around."
In 1997, Duffy was a movieland Cinderella story, seemingly another Miramax boy wonder in the tradition of Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Harvey Weinstein shelled out half a million dollars for Duffy's first script and promised a $15 million production.
But Duffy and Weinstein had a falling out, as recorded in the scathing documentary "Overnight." The film, made by two of Duffy's friends, showed his ego going supernova as he made his film on a drastically reduced budget, and his career went into a seemingly fatal tailspin. Now he's back, vindicated, and taking a second swing at the Hollywood version of the American Dream.
Flanery (who starred in TV's "Young Indiana Jones") said the "Boondock" movies are his career's proudest achievement, movies he'd watch while chilling with brews and bros: "I'm just happy to be part of a film that I'm a fan of."
The "Boondock" phenomenon has made ripples outside theaters, too. Hot Topic stores sell themed buttons, stickers, posters, T-shirts, hoodies and hats. "We signed up with them and we were their No. 1 top-selling license," Duffy said, snapping his fingers. "Bang. Half a million dollars in one day."
But crafting a sequel that advanced the story into new territory while reviving the key elements of his original was akin to "cracking the combination on a bank safe," he said. "You can't set out to make a cult film, and you sure have your work cut out making a sequel to a cult film."
The film is rolling out market by market and doing well so far. It opened during the World Series and Halloween, two serious audience-depressors, and took a drubbing from critics, but handily outperformed the competition on a per-screen basis. Duffy and Flanery encouraged Wednesday's audience to tweet, blog and post YouTube videos of their appearance. And the fan bonding that happens in a bar doesn't hurt, either. They're traveling the country starting grass fires, and drizzling a little alcohol on the flames can only make them spark higher.
Colin Covert 612-673-7186