Monday, December 10, 2007

Meet the new Punisher: Ray Stevenson

Who the hell is Ray Stevenson? Some guy who acted on HBO's "Rome"? Sorry, but I never caught it. From the picture featured though, he certainly looks like he COULD be the Punisher. And he looks like a grizzled veteran, a more mature version of Tom Jane, which would suit movie continuity!

Anyway, yet another comic book movie I wanna see.

In an exclusive interview, the former ‘Rome’ star talks about stepping into the ‘War Zone’

By Chris Ward

Posted December 7, 2007 5:00 PM

Screw rays of light—what comic movies need is a Ray of darkness.

2008’s “Punisher: War Zone” from Lionsgate introduces Ray Stevenson as the third—and darkest—Punisher to ever explode on the big screen.

The actor best known for playing Titus on HBO’s “Rome” hopes to bring the same bloodthirsty brutality to Marvel’s favorite one-man army, Frank Castle.

“We’re going to have him in such a dark place,” declares Stevenson in a leathery English baritone, speaking to Wizard from the Montreal set, “and exacting so many acts of violence upon the irredeemable. Not to take away from anything Tom Jane has done, and I think that [previous] movie stands up on its own, but my take will be different. It’s a newer, darker version.”

Here’s what you need to know about Ray Stevenson and the new, improved Punisher.

After a bevy of script rewrites, directorial changes and the Punisher himself, Thomas Jane, dropping out of “Punisher 2,” a new direction was taken: Napalm everything and just start over. So forget all you know about Dolph Lundgren’s mumbling and John Travolta getting dragged behind a car—“War Zone” is a fresh start.

“This is in no way to be seen as ‘Punisher 2,’ or even ‘Punisher 3,’” says Stevenson. “It’s going full-on for the Garth Ennis and Tim Bradstreet take on Frank Castle. We’re staying very, very true to the authenticity of the comic books. The whole look of the film, the mise en scène, has that light and dark, harsh sodium colors. Frank Castle is definitely the predator.”

“Punisher: War Zone” may start the franchise from scratch, but don’t expect yet another lengthy origin yarn—the bullets start flying before you can say, “Duck, bitches!” In “War Zone,” Frank Castle is already on the feds’ Most Wanted List, having disposed of hundreds of scumbags. So when he accidentally kills an innocent and inadvertently creates his archenemy, Jigsaw, by turning a mobster’s face into scrambled eggs, you could say Frank’s not exactly batting 1,000 at the film’s start. But with the odds on his side (in the form of unlimited ammo), Frank sets out to make things right his way.

It looks like Jigsaw from Lionsgate’s “Saw” franchise is going to have some company on the backlot. For the first time, Punisher’s sewn-together archnemesis Jigsaw (aka Billy the Beaut, before he eats a faceful of glass) appears with brother Looney Bin Jim in tow. Baddies like the Kitchen Irish are also pulled right from Garth Ennis’ series, as well as several “amalgamations” of Punisher cretins, according to Stevenson. “Garth’s exposé of the human condition, for an actor, is phenomenal,” says Stevenson. “So we’re really going for the genius of Ennis [in this film]. We are definitely capturing the soul and the essence of it.”

“War Zone” is a unique film, in that the Punisher lets his trusty slingshot do the talking. We’re lying, of course: Stevenson has so many weapons in the new film that even Charlton Heston might say, “Eaaasssy there, pal!”

“We’ve got a very, very specialized hand cannon—possibly the meanest piece of weaponry I’ve ever seen,” smiles Stevenson. “It’s a Smith & Wesson .50-caliber handgun. Forget your .44 Magnum, this will stop a tank.” Through working and training with members of the Marine Corps, Stevenson cites the military as being instrumental in designing new weapons for the film. “We’ve designed a very special knife for Frank, loosely based on some weaponry the boys doctored for themselves in Vietnam,” says Stevenson. “He’s not there to knife fight with people when he pulls this out. It takes people apart.”

When you’re making a movie about an ass-kicking antihero, why not put an ass-kicking director at the helm? Director Lexi Alexander knows a thing or two about how violence should really look: She’s also a world-champion kickboxer. “She’s got the mind of a warrior, the mind of a fighter,” says Stevenson. “She knows what it’s like to stand toe-to-toe with somebody and know they’re going to try to hit you as hard as they possibly can, and you’re not there to f--- about—so she knows it when she sees it.” Still, Stevenson reiterates that “War Zone” is not a “martial arts movie,” even though Frank Castle will be forced to put his street-fightin’ skills to the test. “Frank’s not a poser. He’s not there to d----swing and threaten people,” asserts Stevenson. “When he turns up, he exacts his own brand of vengeance. He’s not there to intimidate you by saying, ‘My gun’s bigger than your gun.’ He’s just there to put you out of everyone else’s misery.”

When freelance writer Chris Ward shows up, he exacts his own brand of vengeance, in the form of really mean words.

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