This week we got a chance to sit down with director Troy Duffy and talk to him about his film The Boondock Saints in honor of the film’s release this week on a new special edition Blu-Ray. While it didn’t get much of a theatrical release, The Boondock Saints really hit its stride when it came onto home video. Almost overnight it became a massive phenomenon and it went onto set a ton of records. Now, ten years later, the film is a bonafide cult classic with a huge base of loyal fans.
Personally, it’s one of my favorite films and I was thrilled to sit down with Duffy and talk to him about the film. While any self-respecting Boondock Saints fan knows about the film’s troubled history, I decided not to delve too far into the issue. It’s a touchy subject I’m sure and also, I’d rather not offend the director of one of my favorite films.
Instead, Troy Duffy and I spoke about the inspiration for the film, why the film took off on home video and why he thinks it became the cult classic that it is today.
Check out the interview below, audio version included at the end of the page.
Troy Duffy: Hey Matt how are you?
We Got This Covered: Good, how are you?
WGTC: For those who are unfamiliar with the film, can you briefly describe it to us?
TD: The Boondock Saints was a very small independent film made in 1999, released in 2000 and no one really expected much of it. Despite that, it became one of the biggest cult hits of the last two decades. It’s about a couple of Irish vigilantes going after criminals on their own terms and well, killing them.
WGTC: You’ve said before that the screenplay was inspired by personal events and the two vigilantes were inspired by you and your brother, can you elaborate more on that?
TD: The Boondock Saints was the first script I had ever written. At the time I was just a bartender working in Los Angeles. My brother and I had been the victims of crime and we’d seen a lot of crime as well. We realized that the cops couldn’t do much about it and the American system of justice didn’t leave you with much recourse.
The whole script was just me writing what I knew and exaggerating the personalities of my own friends. I kind of drew from my life and my own concerns about the world and Boondock became this kind of fantasy of what I wished I could do.
WGTC: What about filmmaking experiences that inspired you?
TD: At the time I made the film I was 25 and I had never made a film. I didn’t even plan on having the script sold. I wasn’t really planning on doing any of this so I didn’t really have my influences lined up. But I guess they would be all the movies in my childhood that made a difference to me, films like The Godfather, Rocky and directors like Quentin Tarantino, John Woo, Francis Ford Coppala, Martin Scorsese etc.
WGTC: Was it challenging when writing to make the MacManus brothers likeable despite the fact that they’re killers?
TD: Ya, it was a slippery slope. I don’t know many people that hate Irish men, we’re just kind of fun guys. I knew that I needed to make these boys kind of palatable and those characters just sort of fell out of the sky for me. Everything that I liked about people I tried to put in there and I based them on me and my brother.
We were always those guys at the bar who would pat you on the back and bring you into the crew. I tried to make the MacManus brothers likeable so that when they go and start to do these controversial things, you already like them by that time. The viewer is now in a quandary, which is exactly what I wanted. I don’t make movies for any political reason though, it’s a piece of entertainment. I was trying to make a movie that I’d pay ten bucks to go see and not feel like I got ripped off.
WGTC: When the film was first released, it was a pretty limited release, five theatres for a week, is that right?
TD: Yup and it was myself and Blockbuster paying for those five theatres. They weren’t even good theatres so you could technically say that the film got no theatrical release. The problem at the time was that Columbine had recently occurred and we had been pretty much blacklisted from U.S. theatre screens. When you make an independent film, you have all these screenings at studio lots. During the screenings, the studios bring down all their buyers and as a filmmaker, you’re hoping that one of these studios will buy your film and pump it through their machine and put it out in all the theatres.
When we had these screenings, they were extremely well attended and virtually no one left. We had 500 people at a time and the buzz was huge. And then, an acquisition guy told me that it was blacklisted because of Columbine and because of the similarities to Columbine in our film. So at that point, the dye had been cast.
WGTC: Why didn’t you wait a year or two for the Columbine stuff to die down and then release it?
TD: Well we couldn’t because we had contractual obligations on other rights that were coming up. We had television deals, video release deals etc. Those windows were coming up so we only had a particular window for theatrical release. We couldn’t hold onto it.
WGTC: Speaking of video, why do you think that the film took off when it hit store shelves?
TD: Well for one, Blockbuster released it as an exclusive. Back in those days, Blockbuster did that. If they found a film that they thought was theatrical worthy but was overlooked, they’d give it a Blockbuster exclusive and release it in their stores like it was a bigger film. So that gave us a bit of gas in the tank but after that, it was pure word of mouth. Kids started seeing it and they were losing their minds. It set all kinds of records and became a massive success. The film just kind of took off and it’s been grossing huge money every quarter because the audience keeps growing and growing.
WGTC: Agreed. Word of mouth definitely helps, I mean that’s how I heard about the film. I heard about it from a friend and after I saw it, I told a bunch of other people that they had to see it.
TD: Exactly. We had a screening in LA a couple days ago and there was a line around the block. We had to turn 300-500 kids away. The fact that ten years later we still have fans showing up at that kind of rate for it is extraordinary. I think that one of the things that makes that possible is exactly what you just said. Friends tell other friends and people feel like they found this movie on their own, like some diamond in the rough. When you find something on your own and you’re not advertised to, it makes it a little more personal for you. I think that’s a portion of what’s going on with our fan base, fans feel very personal about Boondock. They feel like it’s their film.
WGTC: Ya precisely. That’s how it worked for me. I was telling all my friends like “hey have you seen this movie The Boondock Saints? You have to check it out.”
TD: Ya that’s one of those cool human things. Once you see something cool that you like you want your friends to see it. You want to go tell people about it. It made me realize that theatrical releases, red carpet, none of that stuff matters. Just make a good movie and kids will find it and make it successful on their own.
WGTC: Exactly. Now before we let you go, what is the status on The Boondock Saints 3?
TD: We’ve been approached to do a possible Boondock Saints TV series. So the fans may be getting a part 3 as a television show. We might be able to pull that off. I actually called both Sean and Norman to see if they would do it and they both said “hell yeah, we’ll drop everything.” And the interest is from a big cable network. You don’t put The Boondock Saints on Nickelodeon, you put it on the right network.
WGTC: So I’m guessing it would be on something like HBO or AMC right?
TD: That is correct.
WGTC: Sounds exciting, so is a theatrical film out of the picture?
TD: Not at all. If I had a nickel for every time someone showed interest that fizzled out and nothing happened, I’d of been a rich man a long time ago. So this show might not happen and if it doesn’t, a film is right back on the table.
WGTC: So what else are you working on?
TD: I’d like to get a couple non-Boondock films under my belt before I tackle a part 3. I’ve written a few scripts that I’d really like to get made.
WGTC: Great! Thanks so much for talking with us, we really appreciate it. Please try to get the fans some more Boondocks!
TD: [Laughs] Alright, I’m on it Matt, take it easy!