REEL LIFE #7: Overnight (2003)

What not to do if you want to make it in Hollywood. 

Still from The Boondock Saints.

Who made it?: Tony Montana, Mark Brian Smith (Directors/Producers), Black & White Productions/Ether Films.

Who’s in it?: Troy Duffy, Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Connolly, Willem Dafoe, Mark Wahlberg.

Tagline: “There’s More Than One Way To Shoot Yourself.”

IMDb rating: 7.0/10.

You can’t help but despise people like Troy Duffy due to sheer wasted potential. An aspiring filmmaker, he had the keys to the studio system and threw it all away. If we were to view the pathos-ridden Overnight as a Hollywood story, it would be the quickest rise and fall of all time. This documentary is a cautionary tale for anyone lucky enough to get a script into the hands of Harvey Weinstein.

I’ve never seen Duffy’s 1999 film The Boondock Saints. It has become a true cult classic by all accounts, but Overnight puts me off. Saints was a low-budget crime flick featuring Willem Dafoe and Billy Connolly, which cost $6 million to produce and made only $30,471 on five screens. It became a video hit, however, eventually earning a predicted $50 million in sales. That should have been all well and good for Duffy, except his contract never stipulated royalties on the film’s video releases. It’s one of the many tragic events in Overnight, and any first-time directors should study it well.

Events begin in Boston. Duffy is a bartender who also plays in a not-so-great band called The Brood. Amazingly, his Tarantino-esque script for The Boondock Saints is picked up by Weinstein’s prestigious Miramax banner, no doubt smelling another potential Pulp Fiction. On this basis, Duffy joins the William Morris Agency and is well on his way to fame and fortune. If that wasn’t already a great rags-to-riches story, his band will score the film and sign a contract with Maverick Records. Duffy had it made… if only he wasn’t an arrogant prick! He proceeds to alienate everyone in the industry with his Big Shot attitude and coarse manner. Rather quickly, the celebrity get-togethers at his bar dry-up and no one will return his calls. Before long, it is abundantly clear that Weinstein has had Duffy blacklisted, and the fate of his career hangs in the balance.

The most interesting aspect of Overnight is the fact it was entirely shot by Duffy’s “friends,” Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith, by his own request. What started out as a chronicle of their buddy’s success became a document of his downfall. Like the studio executives and actors who Duffy casts aside in the presence of his greatness, Montana and Smith become outsiders looking in; helpless to stop their former collaborator from his delusions of grandeur.You could therefore make the assumption that Overnight is entirely biased – editing can be very manipulative, after all – but the footage of Duffy being an insufferable cunt soon piles up. There is little doubt that he is his own worst enemy.

With Miramax and later Maverick rejecting him, the “director” resorts to independent financing for his film, and lo and behold, Duffy manages to get Saints made on $6 million (a far cry from the $15 million he would have received from Harvey). For this, one must give Troy some credit. Anyone who’s ever attempted to make a film will know that even the bad ones were a bitch to make, but we, like Montana and Smith, are just waiting for the storm to erupt again.

I don’t want to spoil Overnight‘s surprises, so I’ll conclude by saying that it is a genuinely fascinating character assassination that will be of interest to both cinema fans and documentary-lovers. There’s something perversely compelling about seeing a person’s mental deterioration on-screen, but unlike a lot of the poor saps in documentaries that we grow to sympathise with, Duffy is a human being who seems to deserve his current status in life. Maybe one day soon, I’ll finally watch The Boondock Saints and put that theory to the test.

Talking Heads

Sadly there are no clips from the film, so here’s a vintage update on The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, which Duffy finally got to make in 2009. Naturally, it received overwhelmingly negative reviews.

Reel Trivia

(Via IMDb)
  • Troy Duffy has disavowed this documentary, stating that directors Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith left many things out and “Their anger at me overrode their judgement as filmmakers. That’s the tragedy of it. And they stabbed everybody who ever helped them in the back.”
  • Filmed over four years.
  • According to a pod-cast interview, Director Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa) based his direction for Ethan Suplee in Art School Confidential on the way Duffy acts as a director in this documentary.

Dave James

Editor-in-Chief at Film freak, music minion, professional procrastinator, podcaster, video-maker, all around talented git.

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