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Miramax buys guy a bar in ‘Saints’ deal

What does it take to seal a deal? Buying a tavern helps.

Just six weeks ago, aspiring writer Troy Duffy was a bartender at a venerable neighborhood bar on Melrose Ave-nue.

But on Friday, Duffy closed a deal in the high six figures with Miramax Films for his screenplay “The Boondock Saints.” The deal also has Duffy directing for the first time; his band, the Brood, will do the music; and, in a twist that perhaps could only come from Miramax, co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein have agreed to purchase J. Sloan’s, the bar where the 25-year-old Duffy once worked and still hangs out, sources say. Plans are for the screenwriter/director-to-be to split ownership with the Weinsteins.

“We read this script in the midst of last week’s Academy activity and it really turned us on,” the Weinsteins said in a statement on Friday. “Troy is a unique, exciting new voice in American movies and we are thrilled that he has come on board to make this project at Miramax.”

The project — about Irish twin brothers who become vigilantes — has been described as having elements of “Pulp Fiction” but with more soul. Sources say the Weinsteins — who with a Cannes presence and Oscar marketing blitz have helped catapult the likes of Billy Bob Thornton and Quentin Tarantino well beyond the arthouse circuit — are taking the same approach for Duffy and his project.

“Boondock Saints” is scheduled to go before the cameras this fall in Boston, Duffy’s hometown. The picture will be produced by Rob Fried, Jim Jacks, Lloyd Segan and Chris Brinker. Rich Zinman will co-produce. The producers’ fee was described as “multimillion-dollar.” Duffy and his band also retain a large portion of music rights, sources say.

‘Balls and brilliance’

“I think Harvey and Bob are two of the most honest people I have ever met,” Duffy said in a statement. “They came to the table, and made a deal. They didn’t play hardball with me at all.”

The intricate script is about the two Irish brothers taking the law into their own hands to rid society of all evil. They are soon tracked by an FBI agent, who must struggle with the duties of his job and his own moral code.

It was in late October that Duffy, while working at Sloan’s, outlined his idea to Brinker, who was an assistant to New Line’s Brian Witten and once bartended with Duffy. But Duffy had more than just the pitch; he had completed the script, and gave it to Brinker.

Duffy in the meantime signed with William Morris agents Ramses IsHak and Jim Crabbe, as well as music agent Joel Roman. After that, in his first major deal, as he was showing “Boondock Saints,” he sold two pitches to Para-mount for a combined sum of mid-six against high-six figures (Daily Variety, March 4).

But it has only been in recent weeks that New Line and Miramax got down to business on “Boondock Saints,” culminating in Miramax’s deal, which closed on Thursday. Sources say Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein asked what would help close the deal. Among his gestures: buying the bar.

Melrose place

The bar is on Melrose Avenue near the Pacific Design Center, Eclipse and Morton’s, but it has more of a blue-collar sensibility. The 77-year-old establishment features two deers’ heads hanging on the wall and a carriage suspended from the rafters.

“Most employees here are musicians or actors, and have their own projects that they say they’re going to do, but to see someone actually do it is different,” said current owner Chris Cowderoy.

Cowderoy said that the value of the bar is about $300,000, but he cautioned that it could be much different once sale talks begin. That figure includes the business but not the land, which is leased.

Pre-production on the picture will begin today, and even though Duffy has never directed before, he has the heavyweight team of producers behind him. Said Fried: “The best way one could display that ability (to direct) is to put it down on paper.”

Brinker, meanwhile, also has landed a big break. The 26-year-old producer-to-be plans to depart New Line to focus on the movie.

In addition to his Morris agents, Duffy was repped by attorneys David Krintzman, Bryan Wolf and Kevin Morris. IsHak and Crabbe also repped the producers on the deal.

Neil Sacker, senior VP of business and legal affairs, negotiated the deal for Miramax, and the project was brought to the company by Andrew Rona and Richard Potter.

(Anita M. Busch contributed to this story.)

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