Man about Town: Chuck Hogan

Chuck Hogan’s Boston novel turned into this fall’s biggest heist movie — maybe now people will start recognizing him
By EUGENIA WILLIAMSON  |  September 15, 2010

1009_hogan_mian

Review: The Town. By Peter Keough.

Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall on The Town. By Peter Keough.

Ben Affleck's getaway drivers give us a tour. By Chris Faraone.

One day back in 2009, Chuck Hogan snuck onto the set of the movie adaptation of his own novel.

He was not recognized, once, by anyone at all.

When The Town — based on Hogan’s 2004 thriller Prince of Thieves — started filming last year, Hogan had never met or even spoken to anyone associated with the production. “I heard they were shooting it at Fenway,” Hogan told me from Toronto, where he was making the rounds at the film festival there. Mostly, he was sitting on the side of a stage while the actors and director answered questions.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to be invited,” he said of the filming. “I had a friend who worked for Fenway, and he snuck me in.”

As Hogan approached the park, he saw hundreds of people lined up along Yawkey Way. Once inside, the production’s scale floored him. “This is literally a story I dreamed up in my home office, and now 200 people are employed smashing cars and shooting guns in Fenway Park,” he said.

None of them knew who he was.

“We were walking around and there were all these cops around. We weren’t sure if we were looking at real cops or actors,” he said. “There’s a Teamster sitting not too far away from us, reading a newspaper . . . As we’re standing there, Ben [Affleck] comes around, and he’s in costume, and he glanced at us and kept going.”

The Sharon resident (he grew up in Canton) graduated from Boston College, where he wrote what he describes as a “really bad novel” his senior year.

He made two more attempts after graduation, while living with his parents and working as an assistant manager for Videosmith, a now-defunct movie-rental store on Huntington Avenue. The Standoff, Hogan’s third try, sold. He was 26.

“First novel nets $400,000 for clerk,” read a 1994 headline in the Montreal Gazette. Newsweek reported that NewLine Cinema paid that amount for the film rights on top of a $500,000 advance from Hogan’s publisher. “I think I was making $23,000 as an assistant video-store manager, hoping to sell a book. If I got $25,000, I could quit for a year,” Hogan said. “It happened a little bigger than that, but it was great to give my two weeks’ notice.”

After Hogan quit his job, he did the first draft of a screenplay. Nothing happened. “It sort of dribbled away,” he said. He belted up and began work on a second book.

Blood Artists, a 1998 “thriller-horror hybrid,” was optioned by Dolly Parton’s production company, but proved to be another false start. “They wrote a script, but I have no idea what happened,” he said. “I think it’s best that I don’t know.”

In the meantime, Hogan immersed himself in thoughts of hijacking. Back in May 1995, he read an article in the Boston Globe about an armored-car robbery. “It mentioned that, according to FBI statistics, more armored-car robbers come from Boston than from any other part of the country,” Hogan said. “I knew from living in Boston that a lot of bank robbers came from Charlestown, but seeing that got me thinking.”

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