Filmmaker, Actor, Writer, Director, Pro-Wrestling Manager, Fitness Instructor to the stars ...Omega Man.
78 talks with one independent filmmaker about his experiences, past struggles, recent successes, and future aspirations in the cutthroat world of Hollywood
By Kristian Smock | Feb - March 2006
Tony Montana is a name synonymous with pop culture. In 1983, actor Al Pacino burned the name into the consciousness of America, starring in Brian De Palma’s ultra-violent gangster film, “Scarface.”
De Palma’s Tony Montana can be found on T-shirts, stickers, posters, and now there’s even an action figure for the kids to play with.
He is America’s favorite anti-hero, proving “the world is yours” if you’re just willing to reach out and take it.
But there is another Tony Montana making a name for himself in show business, and he’s not nearly as two-dimensional as his fictional namesake.
The real Tony Montana is an ex pro-wrestling manager, a former fitness trainer to the stars, and a filmmaker with one fantastic documentary under his belt. He is an interesting, multifaceted man of many talents and surprises.
Montana makes his acting debut playing a vietnam vet in the short film 3AM Eternal. Photo courtesy of Cinematic Escapes Company
“Overnight,” co-directed with friend Mark Brian Smith, is Tony Montana’s first feature-length documentary, chronicling the overnight success and eventual ugly downfall of filmmaker, Troy Duffy. “Overnight” has received wide critical acclaim as well as the “Official Selection” at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.
Montana is currently in post-production on a new film, but the project is under tight raps due to disclosure agreements. It is uncertain whether his new movie is a documentary or narrative, but if it’s half as good as his debut it will definitely be worth the wait.
Like I said –he’s full of surprises.
So, I’ll stop with the introductions and let you find out for yourselves. Montana was good enough to take a break from his busy Hollywood schedule to answer a few questions for “78 Magazine.”
The world is yours, Tony.
78: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
TM: I have lived in Los Angeles since 1992. I am originally from Chicago, Illinois.
I have never been married, although at one point I thought Jodie Foster would make the perfect wife. She was beautiful, talented, and intelligent. We shared the same interests; filmmaking, reading, women... I imagine that’s why I never got that first date.
She is arguably the most professional and honest interview I have ever seen on camera; be it Larry King, a press junket, or “In the Actor’s Studio.” She’s a real actor in a time of “personality” movie stars.
I do not have any children.
78: What’s your educational background? College? Film school?
TM: I attended “Loyola University of Chicago” where I majored in Communications. I was a member of the “Alpha Kappa Phi” business fraternity. I was hazed by my “elders” while pledging. That included being punched in the stomach while blindfolded and squatting above wooden debris which they threatened to ignite. Not to mention lots of fun verbal abuse and calisthenics.
Of course, when I became a “brother” the treatment of “pledges” only worsened. In fact, one of the deans called an off-the-record meeting with our entire frat and warned, “I know what you guys are doing. Unless you throttle back, I will disband your frat and everyone will be expelled.”
The only class I excelled in was political science. The teacher was smart, funny, and made us want to participate and learn. After three years, I requested a meeting with the head dean/clergy. I wanted to know why I knew more about the text of the bible than my teachers who conducted the theology classes. After 20 minutes I realized I also knew more about scripture than the dean. Class dismissed. I left the university with my C average in hand; perfect for pursuing the arts or politics.
78: When did you discover your passion for the movies, and what made you want to become a filmmaker?
TM: When I was 11-years-old I began to feel that there must be something more for me than working a nine to five job, eating TV dinners, and then watching TV before bed. The truth is that I had a passion for Hollywood, but not yet films. The only one who saw it in me was my grandmother. She’d always say “You belong in Hollywood.” Then again, she also chased me around the house with a knife once until I ran into a wall.
Manager Tony Montana futilely trying to reign in his client, wrestling legend, Abdullah the Butcher. Photo courtesy of Tony Montana
It’s strange because I did know that I wanted to work in show business in a position of influence. They use to call it “power,” but then Michael Ovitz got blacklisted, so everyone finally realized that no “person” actually has power in Hollywood; only the “parent companies.”
I realized I wanted to get into the industry for sure after watching “Youngblood” with Rob Lowe. There’s a sex scene where Cynthia Gibb is naked on top of Lowe and I’m going “you can do that and it’s called ‘acting.’” That was 1986, and of course I pursued it for all the wrong reasons in the beginning. Thankfully, that changed when I experienced firsthand how much work actually went into the process.
I began “filmmaking” when my parents started taking me to films as a kid. I was able to “re-edit” films as I watched them. That was 29 years ago, but my mental notes were very good. Many years later, when I watched these same films on video my notes remained the same.
I began physically editing on a very large JVC VHS VCR. My dad paid nearly a $1000 for that thing. No wonder he’d get pissed while I edited from deck-to-deck. He’d yell, “You’re gonna wear out the motor!” He was right. I did. That was 1982 and the machines were loud. I’d try to cut after my parents had gone to bed, but he’d hear it anyway. Same thing happened when I’d toss in the porn.
78: What did you do for a living prior to meeting Troy Duffy?
TM: I began acting on a television show called “Windy City Wrestling.” I played a villain wrestling manager on “The Sports Channel,” which had national markets and was a second tier option under “ESPN.”
After four years I decided I wanted to get into “serious acting” and I moved to New York City. I studied with William Hickey at the famed “HB Studio.” I planned on living in Manhattan for the rest of my life because I really felt like I was home. After being chased by a knife wielding woman again, this time by my then girlfriend, Heidi, I decided to move where I always knew I would end up... Hollywood.
I ran out of the money I earned during the wrestling years, so I decided to become a personal trainer. In fact, I became one of “the” personal trainers in Southern California. I worked with everyone from Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre to Caroline Kennedy. I was named among “The 25 Most Influential People in the Music Industry” by “REQUEST” magazine, because I had cornered the market on training record industry clients.
I was making a good living at the time. I was also cast as the lead in “3AM Eternal,” a short film about a Vietnam vet who has the opportunity to go back in time to change the outcome of a crucial battle that left him haunted.
That same year I met Troy Duffy. By November 1996 we had formed “The Syndicate,” and Mark and I began filming Troy’s attempt to succeed in film and music simultaneously. Three months later Troy signed with “The William Morris Agency.” Three months after that his deal was announced on the covers of “Variety,” “The Hollywood Reporter,” and “USA Today.” I let all of my clients go and dropped every last cent into the documentary.
78: Who are your biggest influences as a filmmaker? Why?
TM: Producers: Brian Grazer, along with Ron Howard. The two have formed an actual friendship, as well as one of the most successful business partnerships in Hollywood. That’s rare and something I hope to find during my journey.
Montana with legendary producer Robert Evans. Photo courtesy of Tony Montana
Robert Evans. I met Bob last year at a party in Beverly Hills. I was going through a very difficult time crossing the finish line with my first film. I stopped him before he left the party and whispered my dilemma into his ear. I didn’t know if he could hear what I was saying, understood what advice I was asking for, or could possibly care less.
He grabbed me by the arm and said “Fuck ‘em!” He then told me exactly how to handle the problem. Then we took a really fun Polaroid, which I cherish to this day. As he was leaving he turned around and yelled, “But Tony, you have to do it!” I did so the very next morning... and it worked.
Directors: Clint Eastwood. He understands that every scene in a film is the most important scene. If you approach each one in that manner, the rest will take care of itself. He completes production on time and usually under budget. Actors love him because he goes out of his way to let them approach the film like a job, which it is.
Mel Gibson. “The Passion of the Christ” was unprecedented from production, distribution, and marketing to box office. Gibson’s uncensored approach and “faith” ensured the films’ success and a place in cinema history. Gibson and his film need the validation of the Academy like Tom Sizemore needs Viagra.
78: What are some of your favorite films? Why?
TM: “Old Boy” (2005): When my mother says, “I just saw this Asian film with your father today. I really think you’d enjoy it.” I should listen more often. This is a revenge film that delivers not only an extremely compelling story, but also offers one of the best performances by a lead actor I have ever seen. I’ve watched it several times, each time as though it were the first. It serves up a wonderful education in cinematic detail in every scene.
“Team America: World Police” (2004): Thank you Matt and Trey. Once again they have proven that a no-holds-barred approach to filmmaking works every time if it resonates with truth. This one also happens to be extremely fucking funny! I’m allergic to dander and asthmatic as a result of being confined to a house with a cat during sub-zero temperatures. So when I sneeze or laugh hard my lungs seize up involuntarily. I must have used up an entire inhaler during this film!
“The Omega Man” (1971): Not only was Charlton Heston among the first white Hollywood actors to participate in the civil rights march on Washington in 1963; he is also responsible for the first interracial kiss in American cinema.
Along with the late Rosalind Cash, the pair portrayed two of the last survivors on earth after a war between Russia and China has spread a deadly airborne virus around the world. The (interracial) kiss first begins as a take away. They lean toward each other passionately, only for the lights to go out allowing chaos from outside to enter their dwelling. After Heston has settled everything with heroism and a machine gun, the two deliver what I originally thought was only going to be a teaser.
I was fortunate to attend the 30 year anniversary screening of this film, with both Hollywood liberals and conservatives in attendance. I had always wanted to sit in a theater and watch “The Omega Man” with Heston in attendance. It happened!
Left to right, Tony Montana, Willem Dafoe, and Troy Duffy during production on The Boondock Saints. Photo courtesy of DNP Productions
78: How does it feel to have one of the coolest names in contemporary pop culture? Do you like the film “Scarface” or do you hate it?
TM: I like the name because nearly everyone calls me by my first and last name. It’s also easy to remember. Unlike Mr. T, who coined his name due to an inferiority complex which requires that everyone call him, “Mister.”
I love the film. My favorite scene is when Tony approaches Elvira poolside at Frank’s home. His character is vulnerable and almost sympathetic as he explains, “With a woman like you... I could go all the way to the top.” The picture was nominated for three “Golden Globes.” It should have been nominated for six “Academy Awards.”
78: Are you and Mark Smith (“Overnight” co-director) still working together? If not, what is Mark doing now?
TM: We are not working together at this time. Mark has written two narrative scripts that he is hoping to see get made. One is titled “Listen to the Calm.” The other is “Newbury Street.” He is also a very skilled still photographer and is taking meetings with his portfolio.
78: What kinds of genres interest you as a filmmaker? What kind of films would you like to make in the future? What kind of films would you absolutely not want to take part in?
TM: I’m interested in well made-documentaries and dark dramas. The darker the better. “Stoked” (2002) and “Hoop Dreams” (1994) are among my favorite docs. “Closer” (2004) and “Requiem for a Dream” (2002) come to mind because they pull no punches. I applauded their honesty.
In a perfect world I would like to live with Kim Jong II for one year with full access to make a documentary like no one has ever seen. This is something that has never been done for a variety of reasons, among them security, being an American, and the fact that his citizens have been raised to regard he and his forefathers as deities. So... I’m not holding my breath.
What I do know is that each of my future films will resonate with my honesty and expressionism. Reality is only what each individual perceives it to be. Other than “universal” or “spiritual truths,” how we see the world is how it is. I am not interested in directing films which are the most lucrative.
How fucking absurd is that?
Animated films for children and star driven comedies are among the most profitable pictures produced. I simply have no interest in these genres.
78: Are there any particular actors, producers, or other industry professionals that you would like to work with?
TM: The most crucial element in creating entertainment is that it should be fun. George Clooney is a self described “old Hollywood liberal.” I am not. Yet, I hear he is very fun to work with and has a terrific sense of humor. That’s invaluable when everyone on set is under a lot of pressure doing their part to cut the diamond.
If I had to pick one producer to cover my ass on a film it would be Don Carmody. He’s one of the toughest and hardest working Line Producers/Executive Producers I have ever seen in action. He made sure Troy kept the bond company happy and made his days on “The Boondock Saints”. He also received an Academy Award for “Chicago”.
Frank Griebe (cinematographer) has lensed Tom Tykwer’s best work, including “Heaven” (2002), “The Princess and the Warrior” (2000), “Run Lola Run” (1998), and “Winter Sleepers” (1997). You can tell that the script is his canvas and the director his paintbrush.
78: What do you like or dislike about the Hollywood system?
TM: I like the fact that films are actually still getting made and shown in theaters. Our entertainment formats are changing very rapidly. Soon you will be able to download your DVDs at a kiosk at Wal-Mart for 10 bucks.
We live in the most consumer oriented country in the world. Americans today have a lot more options for entertaining and distracting themselves than they did even 10 years ago. So in today’s market, you have to work twice as hard to find an audience.
I dislike the fact that many people in Hollywood feel the need to lie most of the time. Most of us have come from another city or town where people are “normal” and were raised with some kind of moral code. That seems to get thrown out the car window along with the litter bag when people arrive here.
78: Having been part of “The Boondock Saints” from conception through post- production what do you think of the final product?
TM: Troy gave me the script to read in the summer of 1996. It was filled with spelling errors, bad grammar, and run-on sentences that were practically limericks, but it had what I can only describe as “street cred.” It was written from his gut.
The overall storyline was his brother, Taylor’s idea. Troy took it and ran with it... literally. That always bothered Taylor, and that is why Troy offered Taylor the opportunity to co-write the sequel that never got made. Troy also sends his brother 5 percent of the profits from the merchandise he sells on his website.
“The Boondock Saints” was written during a particularly violent spell in the United States. Troy’s characters were very well written, and the violence of the story seemed to have a meaning at the time that could have captured a large independent audience. It could have been shot in black and white Super 16mm in downtown Los Angeles and it would have worked.
Then Troy got to Toronto. Somehow, this intelligent drama turned into a half drama, half comedy that actually included slapstick! A few days into the shoot the first dailies arrived. Troy’s producing partner, Chris Brinker phoned Lloyd Segan, a fellow producer on the film and remarked, “I don’t know what movie this is! But it ain’t the one he wrote.” Troy even tried to get Sean and Norman to wear Kato masks rather than ski masks, but the actors nixed the idea. There are good scenes in the film which should be credited to the performances by the five lead actors and the cinematography of Adam Kane. But it’s one of those movies with good, followed by bad, followed by good, followed by bad. The production values, wardrobe, and editing are sub par in many scenes and Troy must take responsibility for that. He oversaw all the keys. The score is also uneven and the sets look like every other B-film shot in Toronto.
In addition to burning bridges that were in front of him in Hollywood, Troy did not deliver to the screen the story that enamored all the execs in the first place. He shot a B-movie admired by high school and college students who watch pro-wrestling. Even Willem Dafoe agrees with the demographic.
In a “Suicide Girls” interview with Daniel Robert Epstein, Dafoe remarks “I can’t tell you how many young men come up to me about it.”
78: Troy was obviously his own worst enemy. What do you think the major contributing factors were that destroyed his rise to fame? Ego? Alcoholism?
TM: Troy was unable to get past himself, and was therefore unreachable. We’ve all met these types of people. They’re usually very charismatic and filled with ambition. Troy ended up becoming a cult leader who made a cult film for the same audience that watches the WWE. The ego and alcoholism, and all the rest of Troy’s “bad behavior” are best understood by watching “Overnight.”
78: Did you ever receive any payment at all from Troy for the work you and Mark did over the years?
The Boondock Saints writer/director, Troy Duffy, showing off his teaser on the cover of USA Today. Photo courtesy of DNP Productions
TM: The first time that question was asked was by a Duffy “plant” in the audience at an “Overnight” screening in Salt Lake City during Sundance 2004. It was last asked when the film opened at the “Nuart” in Los Angeles. On each occasion I knew it was a plant and called them on it. They weren’t difficult to spot. They were “trailer park” looking women wearing P-Coats!
A pair even approached me after a screening with their fucking hands in their large pockets as if to insinuate they were “carrying.” I should have said “Fuck off! This isn’t “Talk Radio (1988).” Their claim was that Troy paid us $5,000 and purchased one of our documentary cameras. Of course they had no copies of cashed checks, or a receipt for an expensive video camera. Their smoking gun eluded them.
The answer is that when Mark and I went to Toronto in 1998, we slept on cots in the living room of a house rented for Troy, Chris Brinker, the editor, his assistant, and his band, paid for by the production. We were also allowed to eat food off the craft services truck in the morning and eat with the cast and crew during lunch.
Chris told me before we even arrived that Troy had decided that we had to be up there to capture this “very important moment in his life.” This gesture of cots and buffet food did not include air fare, per diem, or one moment of sleep.
The band partied till dawn next to the living room and kept Mark and I up all night. I eventually resorted to wearing ear protection I borrowed from the gun crew in order to get some sleep. Ditto at the recording studio in Massachusetts. We slept in rooms in the converted barn, and ate with the band courtesy of the record label.
Troy has never publicly refuted the content of the documentary. Nor has he made claims of paying Mark and I for the work we did for his company and band.
78: The film has been a great critical success, but how is “Overnight” doing on DVD sales? Domestically? Internationally?
TM: The domestic DVD was released June 28, 2005. It grossed the same in wholesale revenue in its first month as it did during the entire 36 city US theatrical release. The UK DVD has performed even better. It was released Sept. 26, 2005. In five weeks it grossed nearly double in wholesale revenue than during it’s 27 city theatrical release, in a territory with 230 million less people than the US. The theatrical grosses on internet sites are not accurate. The grosses were never officially released to the media.
Tony Montana (left) and Overnight Co-Director Mark Brian Smith enduring the headaches and stress of independent filmmaking. Photo courtesy of DNP Productions
78: Have you had any personal/legal problems with Troy Duffy since the release of “Overnight?”
TM: I have not. “Overnight” brought Troy a lot of attention, much more than he ever received during his six months of infamy. If the trade off for being poster child for the Hollywood blacklist is young fans buying even more merchandise from his website... at least he got something out of it.
Mark and I began to wonder about two years into the process whether the reason this whole thing happened was so that this cautionary tale called “Overnight” could be told. It turns out that Troy Duffy was never meant to be a star, director, or rock star, but a doc [documentary] star.
78: What are Troy and the other members of “The Brood” doing now? I know you and Mark cut off your relationship with Troy, but do you still talk to the other band members? Do they still socialize with each other?
TM: Troy has not worked as a writer or director since he wrapped shooting on his film in 1998. He moved to the Valley and sells “Boondock” merchandise on his website for a living. Chris Brinker (AKA C.B.) has not produced a feature film since “Boondock.” He moved to the Valley, and his income is derived from merchandise sales as well.
Taylor Duffy moved to Portland, Maine with his longtime girlfriend, Megan. Gordon Clark moved to Orange County. Jimi Jackson married and moved to Austin, Texas.
November 2005 marked nine years that Mark and I have worked on “Overnight.” Eight of those involved shooting, editing, delivering the picture, and promoting the film. Our relationship with the band and C.B. ended five years ago.
They used to drink with one another even after everything fell apart. It just made them even more depressed, and Troy’s behavior like any addict became progressively worse. That’s one of the main reasons they all moved away.
Troy Duffy was finally able to independently finance his film for less than half the original budget, and the results are rather shoddy to say the least. Over the years the film has gained a rather large cult following, but it’s really nothing more than wannabe Tarantino fodder.
Set in Boston, Irish fraternal twins, Connor and Murphy McManus, have a vision from the lord to eradicate all scum and villainy from the city streets. They decide to take on the Russian mob because gangsters have been squeezing their buddy.
With assistance from their irritating friend, Rocco, the two brothers stylishly blow a bunch of people away. They can shoot with unbelievable accuracy hanging upside down from ropes, but in random gunfights they often can’t hit the broad side of a barn.
Willem Dafoe easily steals the show as FBI agent, Paul Smecker. Smecker is a self-loathing homosexual obsessed with bringing the boys to justice. If there is one single reason to watch this film it is Dafoe’s eccentrically brilliant performance.
There’s a lot of hackneyed dialogue, bad acting, and ridiculous Christian symbolism. Many scenes are gorgeously shot by cinematographer, Adam Kane, and the movie captures a lot of visual flair, but that doesn’t quite make up for its shortcomings.
The making of the film in the documentary “Overnight” is much more interesting and satisfying than the movie itself. “Saints” is a classic case of style over substance. The film leaves you wondering what it could have been like if it was done with the original big budget and cast.
If Troy Duffy wasn’t such a colossal ass maybe we could’ve found out.
Meet Troy Duffy. He’s a former Bostonian bartender, as well as an aspiring filmmaker and musician. In “Overnight,” he also appears to be the biggest egotistical prick you’re ever likely to come across.
Filmmakers, Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith, follow the rise and fall of their former friend in their tragic and often hilarious film.
In 1997, Duffy was bartending in L.A. when he was handed the deal of a lifetime. Harvey Weinstein, head of “Miramax Films” offered Duffy $15 million to produce his first original screenplay, “The Boondock Saints.”
The deal also included buying Duffy the bar where he worked, and signing his band, The Brood, to a multimillion dollar deal to record the soundtrack. Wanting his friends to share in his newfound success, Duffy formed a close-knit entourage to help him along.
The documentary follows the group’s attempt to succeed in both film and music.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take Duffy long to run his big mouth all over town, burning every bridge he had in Hollywood. Fueled by excessive alcohol abuse, Duffy’s caustic personality earned him an industry blacklisting.
“Overnight” is an eight year journey, documenting the disintegration of a man as seen through the eyes of those closest to him. Duffy flushed his budding career down the toilet, and unsatisfied with just self-destructing, he makes life miserable for his friends as well.
This is a fascinating cautionary tale, highly engrossing, and brilliantly constructed –a must see for any aspiring artist or film enthusiast. The DVD released by “Thinkfilm” contains cool deleted scenes and interviews, so go buy it to learn what not to do if you want to succeed in the entertainment business.