As his left-hand man, Hickey tapped Brendan Brennan, an ex-con who spent 11 years in federal prison for robbing an armored truck. "Me and [David] Burnsy both hate seeing ourselves on the screen," says Brennan, whose family has also been gutted by opiate addiction. "Johnny's different — he wants to be the next Matt Damon. But for every one of us, first and foremost this is all about the message. The violence is over the top, but that's real — the whole point of this movie is to open some eyes."
In his Tinseltown pursuits, Hickey is negotiating with Showcase Cinemas to feature Oxy Morons in additional theaters. Thanks to backers who contributed more than $1 million in the past year, the flick was given a meticulous post-production treatment, complete with special effects by Hydraulx, a Santa Monica studio that has tweaked productions including The A-Team and Avatar. Hickey is also building his acting résumé; soon he commences shooting for a new movie by director Christian Johnston, whose 2004 film, The September Tapes, played at Cannes and Sundance.
Hollywood Hickey was on full display at the January 29 premiere of Oxy Morons in North Station, where Johnny posed for photographers on a red carpet at the Greatest Bar. For nearly an hour, he took pictures with friends and co-stars, flashes bouncing off his metal-grey button-down and matching mob-boss necktie. A crew from the Current TV series Vanguard was also in the crowd, taping for a follow-up to The OxyContin Express, their 2009 George Foster Peabody Award–winning documentary on "pill mills" in Florida.
Before the movie lit up the two-story wall of flat-screens, Larry Golbom, host of the Florida-based broadcast Prescription Addiction Radio, introduced Hickey. Standing with a couple that lost a son two years ago to OxyContin, Golbom reminded the full house that opiate abuse is, now more than ever before, an equal-opportunity blight nationwide, ravaging families of all types. His message was reflected in the room, with cops, judges, probation officers, and DEA agents standing among Charlestown natives, past offenders, and even some of Hickey's friends who still wrestle with addiction.
At one point, Brennan, the former armored-truck bandit, hobnobbed with one of the film's millionaire investors, while a few feet away, a Boston police detective thanked Hickey for everything he's done to educate people about opiate abuse.
It was an oxymoron if there ever was one.
Chris Faraone can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @fara1.