“The Boondock Saints” is the epitome of a cult classic. Beloved by audiences for its anarchist themes and gratuitous violence, “Saints” is a hidden treasure of the Boston film genre. However, the story of how “Boondock Saints” was made may be crazier than the actual plot.
In 1996, Troy Duffy was a degenerate bartender living in the slums of South Boston. But after selling the screenplay for “The Boondock Saints” for nearly a million dollars, Duffy became the hottest name in Hollywood. Duffy, who had no prior filmmaking experience, was offered $450,000 by Miramax and Harvey Weinstein to direct “The Boondock Saints.” Soon, Duffy had A-List actors like Mark Wahlberg, Jeff Goldblum, and Patrick Swayze lined up outside his door, begging the Bostonian to cast them as one of the titular saints.
However, such is the case with many overnight success stories, Duffy’s fall from grace was just as quick as his rise. Duffy and Weinstein had an infamously contentious relationship; Duffy wanted complete control of “The Boondock Saints” while Weinstein demanded in-house casting. It culminated in Miramax dropping “The Boondock Saints,” forcing Duffy to seek independent companies to fund Saints’ massive budget. Eventually, Franchise Pictures agreed to finance the film, and in 1999, production began in Toronto with Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery, and Willem Dafoe as the film’s stars.
“The Boondock Saints” premiered at the 1999 Cannes film festival. Duffy and his crew hoped that the festival screening would prompt a major distributor to sell “Saints” to movie theaters. However, no distributor showed interest in the film and it was later speculated that Weinstein blacklisted “The Boondock Saints” out of spite. Now following the MeToo movement and Harvey Weinstein’s confirmed allegations, this type of behavior doesn’t seem too out of character for the former Miramax producer.
Eventually, “The Boondock Saints” was released in a meager 5 theaters nationwide. Blockbuster would later release the film as a “Blockbuster Exclusive,” and it was through this direct-to-video format that “The Boondock Saints” finally found its audience. It gained a massive cult following and prompted a sequel titled “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.” But despite its success, Duffy received none of the profits and would later sue Franchise Pictures for an undisclosed amount of money.
If you haven’t seen “The Boondock Saints” and are a fan of violent genre films akin to a Tarantino picture, I highly recommend Duffy’s film. I also recommend the 2003 documentary “Overnight,” which chronicles Duffy’s rapid rise to success and his eventual tragic fall from grace. It’s one of the better documentaries about filmmaking, although it’s true beauty lies in its character study of how fame can change a man.