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Monday, March 22, 2004


A 10-minute clip and a lively discussion with stars Thomas Jane, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and Kevin Nash, director/writer Jonathan Hensleigh and producers Avi Arad and Gale Anne Hurd highlighted The Punisher movie panel on Sunday at Wizard World Los Angeles.

The clip included a portion of the opening credits, a black-and-white animated segment with bullet holes being created that eventually leads to the Punisher logo, accompanied by Carlos Siliotto's scores.

The clip itself was a good portion of the fight scene with The Russian. Set against Italian opera music from an adjacent apartment with Spacker Dave, Joan and Mr. Bumpo, the fight was at times both brutally violent and funny.

Here are some of the highlights of the panel:

* Arad said work is already underway on a sequel. "Because we know we have a success, a great movie," he said. "We have a couple of prisoners here for three-picture deals."

* Nash on reports that he was actually stabbed during the filming of the fight scene: "One of the stunt guys changed out the knives and left the real knife in there. The real knife was blunt anyway, so it was no big deal. It didn't break the skin. It was more hype than anything else."

* Jane literally is thrown through a wall in the fight sequence and did not use a stunt double.

"That is really Thomas Jane," Hensleigh said. "I've done a lot of these big action films and Gale Hurd has done a lot of them, and in our collective opinion, that is the most astonishing thing I've ever seen a lead actor do."

Jane joked that after doing the stunt, he's lost the ability to read.

* Jane: "This is the best thing I've ever done. I'm so proud of this thing. It's always a gamble going into these things. ... I grew up a dedicated, loyal comic book fan. I knew how much it meant personally to get it right. So we just gave it all we got. That's all you can do. As fas as bringing this particular version of Frank Castle to the screen, I'm really, really proud."

* Nash on comparing movie stuntwork to professional wrestling: "The big differences are in professional wrestling, we do what we do and the camera people have to basically catch the action. Where here, you have specific marks and places that you've got to be for camera purposes. And on live television, if you screw up, you don't get a second chance.

"The biggest problem with pro wrestling is that we don't have someone like Jonathan directing us. It was great because he gave us feedback all the time. I think his vision of what he wanted made this a real easy transition for me.

"When Thomas did go through that wall that day, to the chagrin of everyone that was hoping he wasn't injured, he took hunks of actual brick off that wall. I've been around a lot of guys in my business that are extremely tough and driven, but I've never seen anybody as dedicated as Thomas was in this movie."

* Hensleigh on his vision for the film: "My vision was not separate Avi Arad's vision or the studio's vision. We had a lot of meetings beforehand. I'm notoriously slow to attach in Hollywood. I'm very careful. I had a lot of meetings and a lot of conversations with producers and studio executives. I came and I discussed at length what I wanted to do with the film. And to my great surprise and delight, Marvel and, at the time Artisan and now Lions Gate, shared what I wanted to do.

"And I said, I wanted to make a hard-nosed 1970s style throwback. Not just R-rated, but hard R. I got nothing but agreement, which never happened before.

"The reason we wanted to do that collectively is that we knew that the fan base would reject anything watered down.

"We've seen it again and again on The Internet where fans say, 'Oh, Christ, they're going to make a PG-13 version of this and it's going to suck.' But we didn't!"

* Romijn-Stamos on her acting career: "What I'm doing right now, I've never been happier. This is beyond what I ever expected and I'm having a ball."

* Asked about a Mystique spin-off, Romijn-Stamos said: "A Mystique spin-off? That's a lot of hours in the make-up chair. I could barely handle what they've already given me."

Arad said it's actually been discussed.

"If there was some way to make that makeup process easier, it would be such an honor to do this," Romijn-Stamos said. "Because that character is so close to my heart."

* Romijn-Stamos on her experiences with Marvel movies: "These are characters that people have waited their entire lives to be brought to life. And you don't want to disappoint. You want to live up to everyone's expectations. So it's really exciting. To get involved in projects where there's actually really, really good people with a lot of integrity, it's really exciting. We feel the fan base."

* Hurd on the more practical shooting of The Punisher, as opposed to CGI films like The Hulk: "When I started, you did it for real. In my heart of hearts, to be able to do the action and have actors like Tom Jane and Kevin Nash, and to be able to it for real, is far more exciting.

"Because at the end of the day, you get to see dailies. And you know right there and then, it's working. When you're working in visiual effects, it takes months later. Because you're shooting everything and there's nothing in dailies. You don't see The Hulk in dailies. You don't see the Water Snake from The Abyss."

* Hurd said her next film will be Aeon Flux, starring Charlize Theron.

* Hensleigh on his approach to a sequel: "I'd like to stick with the general tone from the Garth Ennis series. I really love that. But there are bits and pieces I would comb from the entire series of comics, and probably some of original bits as well. This one's going to be more of a soup, bits and pieces taken from all the comics, but still have that same tone."

* Hensleigh said that "there's a very good chance you're going to see Jigsaw" in the next film.

* Hensleigh on how appropriate the film might be for younger views: "Every parent is going to have to make that decision. There's some sequences in here that are pretty tough. It's the kind of thing I was watching regularly when I was 10 or 11. But I'm sick."

* Arad said that because there are several films within one studio, there are "interesting possibilities" about crossovers or cameos.

* Hensleigh said that Spacker Dave's fate is "retained" from the comics.

* Hensleigh on why the film takes place in Florida: "My villain is a money launderer and my research showed that the center of money laundering of the nature that this guy's doing is in the Gulf Coast of Florida, stretching all the way down across New Orleans and Gavelston. I also need a location that could double for Puerto Rico because I didn't have money to do a huge company movie. And shooting in Manhattan is unbelievably expensive.

"So I know there's been a concern in the fan base with the Florida move, but, believe me, that's just where the film's set. Ninety-eight percent of this film, the DNA of the film, is directly from the comics."

* Jane said Tampa embraced the production. "They treated us like movie people," he said.

* Hensleigh said he flew to Sofia, Bulgaria, where the scored was recorded with the Bulgarian national symphony.

* Nash said he would prefer to concentrate on acting over wrestling these days. "This bug has bitten me," he said.

* Jane said handling guns was a bit of a family matter. His uncle fought in War World II, the Korean War and the Viet Nam War. He also said he enjoyed working the various knives in the film.

* Arad said he wants the third X-Men movie in theaters in 2006.

* Arad on The Hulk sequel: "We've just started to deal with it. We're hoping to have a writer on board in a few weeks, and we'll start on this."

Arad said Ang Lee probably won't return as director. "I think Ang will move on to do other things and there will probably be another director."

* Hensleigh said "everything you see in The Punisher is real." He said that there are four or five set extensions that are computer-generated.

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