By Marc Strom
What makes the Punisher tick? Perhaps only Ray Stevenson knows for sure.
The Irish-born actor brought Frank Castle to the big screen in "Punisher: War Zone," going straight for the jugular in an uncompromising portrayal of Marvel's most brutal vigilante. With the film making its debut on DVD and Blu-Ray today, March 17 [order it right now as a DVD Two-Disc Special Edition
or DVD Single Disc Edition
], Stevenson spoke with Marvel.com about his experience bringing the Punisher to life, the influence the PUNISHER MAX series had on his portrayal of Frank Castle and more.
Marvel.com: You clearly have a great affection for the character of Frank Castle. Did that come from reading the comics as a kid or, if not, how were you introduced to him?
I was introduced to this character when the script was being put around, and through the talks with ["Punisher: War Zone" director] Lexi Alexander. As soon as I got on board—I got on board early, about three months before we actually started shooting—I basically immersed myself in the whole thing. I had no idea how good the writing [of the comic series] was until I started reading it and just loved the fact that it didn't pull its punches, didn't shy away from the real moral issues. Frank's [life is] sort of a windowless tunnel, there's no light at the end of [it] and they didn't shy away from that. They didn't try to redeem him in any way, but they also didn't try and glorify him. I thought these were brave choices.
My one major concern, which I voiced to Lionsgate and Marvel at the time, was I didn't really want people to walk out of the cinema wanting to be the Punisher. I didn't want people tooling up at school and taking out the bad guys if you know what I mean. And if we committed to this, then basically Frank's in such a dark place that there's no way you'd want to be him. You're kind of glad he's there, you can't wait to see what he does next, but you don't want to emulate him in that sense. This is a very violent piece, it's about violent men doing violent things to other violent men. You've got to tread carefully and be true to the work.
Marvel.com: When you read the MAX series, what was the most important thing that you drew from it that you then brought directly into your performance?
I think that, in a strange way, there was a clarity to [the Punisher's] method. Look [at] what's in the MAX series, look at how committed the writing actually was to this guy's position. He doesn't set himself up as judge and jury, he is purely an executioner. If you are one of the bad guys, and if you're on his list, if you don't kill him you're dead. It's black and white justice, in a sense. He's not trying to solve all the world's problems, he's just trying to—y'know, going back in his storyline, basically the people who slaughtered his family in Central Park were able to get off because they could afford the best lawyers. That's what turned him over the edge. It's about, where do you draw the line and say enough is enough? And he also doesn't try and justify what he does. He's just set himself on a path, [where] these bad guys have not only the authorities and the cops and whatever to worry about, there was another force out there that if they pursue their line of work, there's always the threat that in the shadows, there may be that skull that's gonna take them out.
Marvel.com: What was it like playing off of Dominic West who portrayed "Jigsaw?" Do you feel that you guys raised each others game at all?
You probably do that subconsciously, anyway. That's something that happens when you have actors that can be free with the work. I think the great testimony to Dominic West is that one of the most difficult things to do is to play a character that is cinematically so larger than life, without him becoming, y'know, "oh, in walks the fake monster." It takes a particular type of commitment to commit to a character in a comic book and in a comic book world, and to carry if off with aplomb and panache and with menace. He's got a prosthetic basically covering his whole face, [and] to get the actor to still make the character of Jigsaw come through, it's [all] there behind the eyes. It's a great piece of work. All fairness to him, he did a crackin' job, and what a great villain to play opposite.
Marvel.com: Which of the Punisher's kills would you say was your favorite?
I like the abruptness of taking out Pittsy. I pick the girl up in my arms, I've got a pistol-grip sawed off shotgun, and I turn the girl's head away and take Pittsy's head off. The abruptness of it was such comic book and such MAX series and it's such Frank Castle. Not a word said, pick the girl up, turn her face away, bang off goes the head, there we go. It was vintage Frank. Frank at his best, shall we say. Or worst.
Get "Punisher: War Zone" on DVD/Blu-ray when it hits stores Tuesday, March 17. Order yours now as a DVD Two-Disc Special Edition, Blu-ray or DVD Single Disc Edition.
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