Not long ago, Johnny Hickey -- born and raised in Charlestown -- was at the height of Boston's Oxycontin drug trade.
Last Thursday, the reformed dealer turned writer, director and actor, was rubbing elbows at the , where he was recognized for his movie, Oxy-Morons, a documentary based on his life.
He released Oxy-Morons in Boston back in February. Over a weekend it became the highest grossing movie in the state, Hickey said. See our .
"I took a chance by releasing it locally," he said. And the risk paid off. Since then, the film has won the Golden Ace Award in the Las Vegas Film Festival, and was picked up by AMC and Regal theaters. On Sept. 9, it will be released in 20 major cities.
We caught up with Hickey at the Newbury Street League's annual gala, and found out more about the man behind the movie.
Q: So this is a true story?
A: "I'd say 75 percent of it is based on my life. People see the movie and think it's almost hard to believe I lived that. But I did. It's a very dark movie, but with a positive message and a lot of redemption at the end. It's real, and gritty."
Q: How did you turn your life around?
A: "I was thrown from an 80 foot cliff. In Quincy, Mass. I woke up seven days later."
A: "Yeah. I had [major injuries]. The doctor said I would never walk again, or have kids. But six months later, I made a full recovery. I figured, if I can survive that, why can't I make a movie like I dreamed about as a kid?"
Q: Can I ask how you fell off a cliff?
A: "I was fighting. I was a street kid doing stupid juvenile things, and i was hit in the head with a rock."
Q: What advice do you have for people going down the same road you once were?
A: "For people with that lifestyle, there's way out, and you need to recognize that."
Q: You mentioned you've wanted to make a movie since you were a kid?
A: "It was always a childhood dream to be an actor and a filmmaker. ...Benny [Frangioso, a lifelong friend who plays the drug dealer Beanzie] came to me three or four years ago and wanted to take me on as an investor."
Q: Has your film inspired anyone to get help?
A: "I've had to bring people into the belly of the beast to show them what's going on. If I disturb you, I did my job. I know six people personally that checked into rehab after seeing the film. And those are just the people I know. It's more than a movie for me."