EXCLUSIVE: The Punisher Set Report!

by Chuck the Movieguy

I love going on film sets, the hustle and bustle, people walking around with walkie talkies giving and taking direction, money falling from the sky… no really, money was falling from the sky. At least on the movie set I was visiting.

It’s called The Punisher. The Marvel comic hero I grew up reading as a kid is now making it to the big screen but for now they are filming in Tampa, Florida, in fact it’s the last day of shooting and the big scene I am watching involves The Punisher (Thomas Jane) taking care of business. He just blasted into the top floor of an office building where a money laundering operation is taking place and after filling a briefcase full of money from a laundry bin, he dumps the rest of the massive amount of cash from the window and it falls to the street like a ticker tape parade. Chaos ensues on the ground as hundreds of people flock to grab the bills as they drop. Two bad guys emerge out the front of the door and the public gets the first glimpse of the man bent on revenge. Mr. Frank Castle, The Punisher in his costume with the black skull t-shirt, guns at both sides, ready to deal justice.

Who is this Frank Castle? Let me give you a little background on this vigilante. Frank was a Navy Seal. An expert in guns and weapons. After his wife and family is killed, he decided to devote his life to rid America of crime becoming judge, jury and executioner. That’s a pretty big role to fill so actor Thomas Jane did some massive training to get ready for the part. “I trained with Navy Seals in guns and weapon handling, hand-to-hand combat, edge weapon fighting, I trained for months with those guys, how to clean and take apart your weapon, how to carry yourself, that mind body attitude of what it is to actually live the life of someone who has dedicated themselves to a service of one’s country. That’s a very interesting, very admirable mindset.”

Even though he trained in martial arts, Japanese, Tai, Israeli, Pilipino, Thomas wants to point out this is not a martial arts movie. “I’ve been trained by Navy Seals. The way a Navy Seal uses martial arts is very different from the way Jet Li uses martial arts. A Navy Seal will employ martial arts to the extent where it gets the job done and only gets the job done. Jet Li uses it as a dance or to fly off the wall or bounce off the ceiling, make it very flashy. A Navy Seal is just going to poke your eyes out and leave it at that, he’s going to break your neck and walk on. In real world martial arts its extremely simple, brisk moves that are designed to take out the enemy as quickly and efficiently as possible and move on. He’s a cannibal; he uses absolutely anything, from any culture that’s going to get the job done. He’s always staying one step ahead of everyone else. He’s the cutting edge of material, weapons, guns, knifes and hand to hand combat.” And based on the rough cut of a scene producers Gale Anne Hurd and Avi Arad showed me, he got it right. The Punisher mean business.

Did the look and the feel of the film come from the comic books? Writer/Director Jonathan Hensleigh explains, “I read all the comics, I didn’t research, I read them all. I read every single Punisher comic. I went all the way back. I had to cull certain aspects from some of the comics and invent whole scale all the rest of it, the plot. I took the character Frank Castle and The Punisher from the comic book but I invented a great deal. I didn’t want the origin story to be the first act, I wanted the origin story to take the entire film to tell, so I was mostly using the underlying event, which is the murder of Frank Castle’s family and secondarily that moment, the series of visuals where Frank Castle actually becomes, like a metamorphosis of an insect, a cocoon springs forth and he blossoms as The Punisher. I started to build moving backward from that, the underlying event and those visuals when he really becomes “the guy” the wardrobe, the hair, the gun.”

Did I mention John Travolta is in the movie? He plays bad guy Howard Saint and according to producer Gale Anne Hurd, John doesn’t like to play the same character twice, “It was very important to him to know that Jonathan (Director) say, “I want him to be just like the character you played in Swordfish…or the character you played in Pulp Fiction. But he is very magnetic in the film and very contained and controlled in the film…very intense.” Hurd also told me that Travolta is a generous actor, often staying on the set off camera when he wasn’t required in scenes with Thomas.

From what I saw while on my set visit, it looks like Artisan and Marvel comics have done justice to The Punisher which hits theaters April 16th, 2004.

Click the image above for a larger version. To listen to previous audio interviews from The Punisher set, go here and here!

Source: Superhero Hype!