Dir: Mark Brian Smith. US. 2003. 120mins.
This candid documentary about Troy Duffy, a blue collar Boston twenty-something who struck a dream movie deal with Miramax in 1997, has the same compelling allure as watching a train wreck. It could comfortably be renamed How To Lose Friends And Alienate People In Hollywood. A must-see for anyone in the film business and a necessary addition to any film school curriculum, it will play more comfortably on a TV screen than in theatres, although its insight into the film and music businesses - sources of endless fascination for the media and the public - could persuade theatrical distributors to give it a shot. If Duffy's one film, The Boondock Saints could warrant theatrical releases, Overnight certainly should. The film played in the Documentaries: First Person Singular sidebar at this year's Seattle International Film Festival.
Overnight was actually made over a seven-year period by Mark Brian Smith and Tony Montana, two budding film-makers who agreed in 1996 to film an as-it-happens documentary about Duffy, a brash, charismatic bouncer/bartender at a West Hollywood Irish bar called J Sloans. Duffy had written a script and recorded a few songs in his garage and the film-makers suggested that they document his attempts to make it in LA as well as take on management of his band The Brood.
In March 1997, Duffy had indeed merited their attention, striking a deal with Miramax Films' Harvey Weinstein which has already gone down in movie folklore. The unprecedented deal for Duffy's screenplay The Boondock Saints not only saw him named director of the $15m film as well as given control of the soundtrack which would consist of Brood songs, but also saw Weinstein buy J Sloans and make Duffy co-owner. The deal received worldwide attention, and Duffy made the cover of USA Today as well as newspapers and magazines around the world.
Duffy was always a cocky character and his overnight success as Hollywood's latest "hard-on" as he puts it makes him insufferable. Although surrounded by a loyal coterie of friends and relatives (his brother is in the band), Duffy's success goes right to his head. Mollycoddled by his William Morris agents, he moves into offices on the Paramount lot, starts meeting with actors - Norman Reedus, Patrick Swayze, Sean Patrick Flanery, Matthew Modine etc. - rants about his prolific talents and scoffs at established power-players like Jerry Bruckheimer and Keanu Reeves. Rarely without a cigarette in his hand and drinking as if he were still in college, Duffy sits in his office placing calls to Harvey, saying "fuck" a lot and condescending to his friends with the swaggering machismo of a pubescent teenager.
Before long, of course, Miramax has jumped ship and put the film into turnaround. A record deal for The Brood which was in the works with Madonna's Maverick Records consequently crashes and burns. But even these setbacks don't dim Duffy's arrogance. Before long he is in front of the cameras shooting The Boondock Saints for $6m at Elie Samaha's Franchise Pictures and has struck a record deal with Atlantic Records for The Brood's first CD.
As we follow the production process of both film and CD, Duffy alienates everybody - including Smith and Montana, who are told in an excruciating display of rank-pulling self-importance by Duffy, that they are entitled to none of the money in the record deal. "You don't deserve it," he says.
That the film-makers don't like Duffy is clear from the start and the reasons for that are self-evident from this scene, but the bias works in the film's favour, giving it a sense of personal grievance which inflames its portrait of hubris in today's popular culture.
Industry viewers will enjoy the scenes of Duffy and entourage at Cannes 2000 when The William Morris Agency's own Cassian Elwes is given the unenviable task of selling the film after its premiere screening. Nobody bites, a fact which Duffy cannot understand, and it ends up going to micro LA distributor Indican Pictures.
Even to the last, when theatres won't book the film, Duffy blames Miramax, attributing its failure to a concerted effort by the Weinsteins to teach him a lesson ("They're scared of me," he fumes). After a car swerves onto the curb near Duffy at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in 2001 where the film is being screened, he believes he is being pursued by hitmen and goes into hiding. Weinstein never came through with the money for J Sloans. The end credits roll as we witness the bar being dismantled.
At 120 minutes the film is unquestionably too long, but its content is both hilarious and disturbing in showing the fine line between talent and egomania. Its story arc is classic rags-to-riches-to-rags stuff, which is so preposterous nobody would believe it if it weren't true. Let's hope it doesn't spark up a career revival for Mr Duffy.
Prod co: Black & White Pictures, Ronnoco Productions & Ether Films
Worldwide sales: c/o Tony Montana (1 310 779 1759)
Exec prod: John West
Eds: Montana, Smith