Having a life that has played out like a movie, it’s only fitting Charlestown native Johnny Hickey would carve out a name for himself as a film writer, director and actor.  With his latest effort, ‘Methadone Mile,’ already receiving rave reviews from coast to coast, Hickey is poised to deliver his most powerful cinematic message yet. 

IN 2005, Charlestown native Johnny Hickey lay blacked out and left for dead after being thrown off an 80-foot cliff while at a hotel party gone wrong – terribly wrong. Waking up in the ICU at Boston Medical Center, doctors broke the worst of the news:  

“Mr. Hickey, you were med-flighted here a week ago and you’ve been in a coma for seven days. You have a long list of severe injuries including a dislocated hip, separated pelvis, ruptured bladder, and torn urethra, but the hardest news we have to break to you is that you’re never going to be able to walk again. You’re lucky to be alive.”  

Spoiler alert: He overcame all odds. A self-described ‘cleaned up street kid’, these days Hickey is a celebrated filmmaker who splits his time between Boston and Los Angeles – but his journey has been nothing but easy. 

In that almost tragic twist of fate, Hickey’s near-fatal incident became a seminal moment – a glaring reflection of how perilous his life had become. Emerging from this life-threatening ordeal, it became clear to him that there was more to life than the dark paths he had previously walked – and that if he kept walking this road, he probably wouldn’t live a very long life.  

This incident was not just a wakeup call, but also a rebirth of sorts, pushing Hickey to channel his experiences and emotions into the world of cinema.  

“I had a choice,” Hickey recalls. “Change or die.”  

He had no idea that the prime of his crime ridden days would become a catalyst to later shed light on the other forgotten kids of the streets, and the harsh realities they face in everyday life. Through his movies, these faces feel seen and heard, and offer hope that anyone can turn their life around by channeling their inner demons in the right direction.  

The authenticity of having lived a life of the streets is what distinguishes Hickey from many of his film making contemporaries. His movies are not just stories written for the big screen. They are windows into a world many might never know, but one that he lived and  survived himself – a world that he feels needs understanding and empathy.  

“We need guys like Johnny to be inspirational because he’s the real deal,” said Jim Breuer after interviewing Hickey on his podcast. “He’s met the devil, hung out with the devil, knows all his tricks, and knows how to show you how to prepare for him, and be aware of him.”  

By merging his past with his present, Hickey gives a voice to the voiceless, using the medium of film to convey powerful truths about our society, the human condition, and the battles many face, often alone in the shadows.“Guys like Johnny – those are life warriors. There’s not a whole lot of them, ” Breuer added. 

As a SAG actor, director, producer, and screenwriter, Hickey’s first film success came with his lead role and directorial debut in his full-feature films Oxy-Morons (2013). The ‘unofficial’ story of Hickey’s early life as a troubled young adult, cult-classic Oxy-Morons was released and met with more than 200,000 initial reviews.  

Even in pre-production, big eyes were captivated by Hickey’s script – including those of James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano, The Sopranos). “A comedian friend of mine, Brad, had initially sent him my Oxy-Morons script. Gandolfini took an immediate interest in the screenplay and flew out that night to Massachusetts from New Jersey,” Hickey recalls.

Over a lunch at the locally renowned Kowloon, Gandolfini offered to take over his debut film project for $50,000 and some residuals, but in return, his proposal included that Hickey would have no involvement in the project moving forward other than a producer’s credit. Hickey didn’t want writers re-writing his own story and decided to stick with his instincts and keep the faith that he could raise the money and make this movie on his own. “Just knowing that Gandolfini took interest in my script gave me the hope and optimism I needed to ultimately make it happen. When I declined his offer, he kind of laughed at that at the table,”Hickey said. “After all, Ganfolfini was at the peak of his career and I hadn’t yet made a name for myself.”

But only a few hours later when Hickey took him to the airport, before going through security, Gandolfini turned around, came back to him, apologized, and said, “You know what? I never should’ve said what I said to you kid. I never should’ve laughed at you for what you said about believing in faith and destiny. You should always follow and chase your dreams. Good for you.”

Gandolfini walked through airport security and Hickey never saw him again. The very next morning, then popular Boston radio show Matty In The Morning had Hickey on-air to ask why Gandolfini was in town to see him, why he was interested in Hickey’s screenplay, and why he turned it down. That interview got so much attention and ultimately secured the investors needed to go into full production.

“God rest James Gandolfini’s soul. I appreciate him so much for taking interest in Oxy-Morons from day one,” said Hickey.

The movie captured the essence of his Hickey’s early journey, presenting a poignant tale that resonated with both critics and audiences alike. From scenes of robbing pharmacies at gun point, to drug dealing and prison fights, the dark side of a troubled young adult was captured.

The eventual acquisition of the film by Netflix, a titan in the entertainment industry, was a testament to its quality and relevance. But for Hickey, this was more than just a cinematic venture. Every frame, dialogue, and scene were crafted with the intent to educate, to bring light to the dark corners of addiction, and to provide hope for recovery. 

Click image for OXYMORONS film overview.

Next up on Hickey’s roster was Habitual (2019). After much anticipation from his following, he did not disappoint. Filmed at real abandoned hospitals in New England, the plot follows young partygoers who eventually spiral into horrifying paradoxes, blurring the lines between nightmares and reality.  

Where the drug focus was on Oxycontin in Oxy-Morons, Habitual shifted the focus to highlight the dangers of using fentanyl – the latest culprit in the opioid epidemic.  

Talking about the horrors of this drug is not enough,” says Hickey. “Hopefully seeing what this drug is doing to people will open up more conversation and become a gateway for change. I can only use my skills as a film maker to show a realistic account of what’s happening. 

According to the Center for Disease Controls and Prevention, over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. “Drugs may contain deadly levels of fentanyl, and you wouldn’t be able to see it, taste it, or smell it,” the CDC states. 

Met with much acclaim, Habitual won ’Best Horror Film’ at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival and also placed at both the Slasher Film Fest and Reels Of The Dead. 

Click image for film overview on Habitual.

Following the success of Habitual and with a personal passion for horror, Hickey took up an offer to direct, produce, and star in a short TV series Dark Is The Night (2022) for Scare Network, an online streaming platform featuring original paranormal, horror, and true crime, documenting some of the scariest places in the country.  

In this eight episode series, cameras followed Hickey and his crew as they explored historic and contemporary tall tales, legends, and tragedies throughout the Boston/New England region.  

From paranormal phenomena around the Bridgewater Triangle and missing persons found in the Charles River, to mysteries surrounding the Franklin Park Zoo lion cages and the abandoned airbase in Weymouth, the cameras took the audience on a raw, fear factor ridden journey – all filmed completely in the dark at night. 

 Growing up around here, I heard about all these horrifying things, especially around Salem (MA) and the witch trials, but when I really started looking into it and reading the history, it turned out a lot of the stories are even scarier than I realized,” Hickey says. 

 That’s why the series turned into such a scream fest – we were going out there to film this stuff and we were really getting the absolute s**** scared out of us.”  

One review from a fan of the series said it best, “Hickey is the new King Of Horror.” 

Click image for film overview for Dark is the Night.

Which brings us to Hickey’s latest creation, Methadone Mile (2023), starring the incredibly multi-talented Justina Valentine, most recognized as the host of Wild ’n Out. Chazz Palminteri, best known for his role as Sonny in A Bronx Tale, recently had Valentine on his podcast, where she talked about her experience on the set of the movie. 

“I recently starred in a really cool indie short directed by a friend of mine (Johnny Hickey). I love his style. It’s very gritty. It’s very street. I play the lead as a recovering and relapsing addict in Boston’s Methadone Mile.”  

The film is about a dysfunctional family caught up in the collateral damage of a five block radius in the city of Boston known as Methadone Mile where three methadone clinics, a county jail, a hospital, and several homeless shelters all collide.  

Hickey was recently notified that Methadone Mile has been accepted into both the Boston and Philadelphia Film Festivals. “I could not be more excited to see what happens. Hopefully this, at the very least, will shed the spotlight on an area of Boston that clearly needs attention,” Hickey said.  

The film also stars Boston-loved actor and comedian Lenny Clarke, best known for his role as Uncle Teddy on Rescue Me alongside his pal Dennis Leary. “It was such a pleasure to work with a director whose vision is so clear that everyone is on the same page from start to finish,” says Clarke. 

Named a ‘Top 10 Entrepreneurs To Look Out For’ in 2023 by L.A. Weekly, Johnny Hickey’s life story is an inspiring testament to transformation against all odds. A multifaceted filmmaker, writer, director, and actor, he transitioned from a life entrenched in adversity on Boston’s streets to becoming a revered name in the world of film for keeping it real.  

His passion is evident in every frame of his films and stems from a personal place, making his work authentic and raw. The gritty details of drug abuse, often glossed over in mainstream media, are brought to the forefront in his productions, presenting a no-holds-barred view that strikes a chord with many and gets people talking.  

As someone who has firsthand experience with the tumultuous world of city street life, his cinematic representations are not mere observations but reflections of lived experiences.  

His films serve a dual purpose: to entertain and to educate. And in achieving this delicate balance, Hickey has not only etched his name in the archives of film history but has also become an emblematic figure for transformation and redemption. His works stand as an affirmation that even in the bleakest moments, there lies an opportunity for change and renewal. 

Johnny Hickey with longtime publicist Jill Donahue of JD Consulting.

Reflecting on his journey, Hickey shares valuable insights, emphasizing resilience, determination, and the belief in oneself as catalysts for overcoming challenges.  

“I hope my film projects open eyes and is able to get conversations going,” says Hickey.  

His aspiration is to create impactful projects, no matter how shocking, that inspire audiences to break free from addiction’s grip, fostering change, and personal growth. His influence in the film landscape and commitment to transformative storytelling position him as a force inspiring change through the cinematic lens.  

Hickey welcomes others to follow his journey on Instagram and his IMDb page. 

Click on image for overview of Methadone Mile.