As writer-director Troy Duffy recalls it, the cast and crew of The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day were a tad nervous when they began work. ”Everybody was terrified to be the guy that screwed it up,” says Duffy. ”They knew the fans would burn their f — -ing house to the ground.” The cult of The Boondock Saints is a peculiar one. This violent slice of Tarantino-style Irishsploitation was released in just five theaters in 2000 and made $30,000 — but became a cult sensation on DVD, grossing more than $40 million. Ardent fans play Boondock drinking games and get tattoos of stars Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery, the film’s vigilante brothers. Dexter‘s Julie Benz, who plays an FBI agent in the sequel (which debuts Oct. 30 on roughly 70 screens), was unaware of the Boston-set movie before auditioning. ”Then I started telling people I was going to be in it, and they would foam at the mouth,” she laughs.
Duffy himself has spent much of the last 15 years frothing at the mouth, not always for pleasant reasons. In the mid-’90s, while tending bar at L.A.’s untrendy J.Sloan’s and living in ”basically a crackhouse,” he started writing a screenplay about two bad-guy-slaying brothers based on himself and his younger brother. ”I never killed anybody,” says Duffy. ”But one day I caught a guy robbing my apartment. I had a discussion with him.” A discussion? ”If I say anything else, I’m going to be f—ing arrested.” The script caught the eye of Harvey Weinstein, then head of Miramax, who offered Duffy a deal to direct the film, with a $15 million budget (the mogul even offered to buy J.Sloan’s and co-own it with Duffy). Suddenly, Duffy was the toast of Hollywood. He met with stars like Vincent D’Onofrio and Heath Ledger, who, Duffy says, ”lobbied hard” to play one of the brothers. Dissent over casting choices led to the dissolution of the Miramax deal. Eventually, Duffy made Boondock for $6 million with a cast that included Willem Dafoe, but failed to secure proper distribution. His rep was further hurt by a 2004 documentary depicting Duffy as drunk with power and/or just plain drunk.
Thanks to a push from Blockbuster, though, Boondock became a DVD hit. Merchandise sales and legal wrangling with the film’s financiers followed. But last year, Duffy was able to reunite most of the original cast for Boondock Saints II, in which the brothers seek vengeance for the death of a priest. Flanery believes the $8 million sequel should be payback for Boondock-heads. ”I mean, more people saw Jurassic Park. But I don’t know that that many people got a Jeff Goldblum tattoo on their chest.”
Don’t Miss this: A Doc About Boondock
Directors Mark Brian Smith and Tony Montana shadowed Boondock Saints auteur Troy Duffy for their 2004 doc, Overnight. The film portrayed Duffy as a tyrannical bully, and Duffy calls the film a ”smear job.” Montana says it’s simply accurate: ”When we showed our very first cut to investors, one of them remarked, ‘Do you have any more footage of him being a nice guy?’ And we said, ‘No.’ That’s not what happened.”