METHOD MAN From MMA ass-kicker Tim Sylvia to old Charlestown comrades and actual law enforcers, Hickey's cast was filled with real-life characters.
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After more than two years of shuttling his family between hotels under false identities, in September 2009 Hickey returned to Boston to make his movie. He says his work with the US Marshals wrapped on mutual and amicable terms, allowing him to begin his filmmaking career. "It came to a point where I absolutely had to get it done," he says. "Not only did I finally have time, but I realized that, as great as it would have been, I didn't need a huge budget or an A-list actor like Mark Wahlberg, because OxyContin was the only A-list actor that we ever needed."
Since writing Oxy Morons, Hickey had personally spoken with hitters including Sopranos star James Gandolfini, and director Ed Bianchi (The Wire, Deadwood) about potential collaborations. But those meetings all amounted to disappointing lessons, and now it was time to take the roughly $100,000 he'd raised, plus a number of in-kind contributions, and push forward. Friends and community members came through big-time; for a pivotal funeral scene, Hickey was able to use the abandoned St. Catherine's Catholic Church in the Bunker Hill projects. Johnny served as an altar boy there before his drug-addled teenage years, and says his return nearly two decades later was emotional enough to trigger real tears for his on-camera bereavement.
"John always had his gifts — there's no doubt about that," says Father Ronald Coyne. A former priest at St. Catherine's who Hickey regained contact with six years ago, Coyne remembers Johnny as one of many kids from the bricks whose families sought divine intervention. "Of course," he continues, "he also had his struggles, and it took some time for him to put that all together."
I should have known that Hickey had some tricks up his tattooed sleeves, which have been laser-scrubbed and re-inked three times since I've known him (he tells me it was to preserve his secret identity). On the set of Oxy Morons, uniformed and plainclothes cops and corrections officers showed up to consult and even act in the film. Boston Police Department vehicles were on loan for several days; BPD SWAT team members, playing themselves, came dressed in full riot gear. But what really should have tipped me off was that Hickey's 200-person cast and crew was permitted to film — for no charge — at the abandoned Barnstable County Jail on Cape Cod. At the time, I believed that he received such donations because of the movie's anti-drug message. Later, Hickey told me they were also tokens of appreciation for the undercover work he'd done.
Aside from the prison and actual law-enforcement officials who fill various scenes, Oxy Morons is also brimming with Charlestown cameos — both location and actor-wise. For co-stars, Hickey cast two other Bunker Hill veterans who he's been friends with since childhood. David Burns — once a cast member on The Real World: Seattle and now publisher of the Los Angeles Times lifestyle mag Brand X — plays Hickey's brother Jason, and executive produced the film. Burns's father has suffered from heroin addiction for 35 years.