INT: Thomas Jane
This Friday (yes...today!), Thomas Jane stars as the vigilante anti-hero Frank Castle in the much-anticipated Lions Gate release of THE PUNISHER. Though Jane is known primarily for his acclaimed performance as Mickey Mantle in the HBO film 61*, Ill always remember him for his kick-ass performance as Dirk Digglers very shady pal Todd Parker in BOOGIE NIGHTS. Hes especially great in the climactic coke deal scene, where he confronts the future Dr. Octopus, Alfred Molina.
I got a chance to talk with Jane about playing the enigmatic Frank Castle. A stark contrast to his co-star, the charming, gregarious John Travolta, Jane seemed almost uncomfortable with all of the attention. Intense and somewhat reticent, he made little eye contact, preferring to stare at the table as he pondered his answers. He would lift his head only to field another question or make an important point. His demeanor more closely resembled that of a writer not a big name actor headlining a major feature film.
Why did you want to do this?
Gosh, Ive been waiting to do this my whole career. Anti-hero action film.
Had you read the comic?
I read a lot of comic books as a kid. I used to draw the skull on my notebook at school, but I wasnt really aware of The Punisher, the book, until I got into the movie. I never consider myself a superhero. Marvel had come after me for a couple different superhero parts and I turned them down as I did this one initially because I didnt see myself as a superheroic kind of a person. But as Marvel was quick to point out, this really was an ant-ihero. He didnt have any super powers. He relied on his God-given talents and his wits to overcome his enemies and that became much more interesting to me, because as I said, Ive been waiting to play this kind of antihero since I was a kid. When I grew up in the 70s and watched movies with my dad, those 70s action films were really inspiring to me.
What were the 70s movies you loved?
Hard Times with Bronson. Point Blank with Lee Marvin. Once Upon a Time in the West.
What about Shaft?
Well, a little bit of Shaft. Three the Hard Way. Sure, Walking Tall when I was Buford Pusser, the way it should be.
Why the interest in anti-heroes?
I like the humanity of it. It seemed to me that those movies are more akin to reality and the characters werent torn between what was the right thing to do and what was the wrong thing to do. In my life, so often, Im related to doing the wrong thing but for the right reasons or vice versa, doing the right thing but for the wrong reasons. And theres that moral ambiguity thats much more human to me than wearing a black hat or a white hat. We, in telling stories, tend to break it down to a good guy and a bad guy.
The good guy has sometimes done some stuff wrong but it wasnt real bad. He didnt do stuff that bad. Then the bad guy was never any good and never had a chance in hell of ever being a good person. That stuff just was boring. Its boring. I dont like that stuff. Ive been waiting to do a kind of movie where an anti-hero character could come onto the American stage again. I think now the echoes of the questions that we used to have in the 70s, our dissatisfaction with our leaders and our mistrust of our government, questioning of our decisions and our roles on the world stage opens up the door once again for the antihero to have a voice and a say. And that struggle between whats right and whats wrong, theres rarely an easy clear cut answer.
What other superhero parts did you turn down?
Youd have to talk to Avi (Arad) about that. I dont want to get anybody in any trouble.
What comics did you read as a kid?
Oh, EC comics, Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Incredible Science Fiction, Shock Suspense Stories, Two Fisted Tales.
No Captain America?
No Captain, no. I like all the real genre stuff. Thats where all the real literary talents, the Ray Bradbury, the Robert Heinlen adaptations were. So I really got off on the writing. Then I got into Frank Miller and guys like that. The underground books, Robert Crumb. All that American Splendor stuff, Ive been reading since I was a kid. I love that stuff. Its literate.
Do you still read comics?
Absolutely. Im into Steve Niles right now, and anything Garth Ennis does. Alan Moore, theres a bunch of guys that I really enjoy. And I think its a great medium. Its a very valid artistic medium.
How did you and the filmmakers go about establishing the tone of this film?
It was all on the page. It was something that we drew directly from the actual source material. The source material has a great sense of humor as well as a fantastic violent sensibility thats cathartic in a way. All of that stuff is culled right from the pages of the comic book and I think that if it aint broke, dont fix it.
Did you see the 1989 Dolph Lundgren version?
I saw parts of it, yeah. I think thats Punisher in name only. I think that they use that as a template to jump off and create there own sort of story and the respect wasnt there for the source material that we have now. It was a different period of filmmaking, one that we just werent interested in the anti-hero for a number of years. And I guess I got the kind of face where people arent going to cast me as Superman or someone like that.
How much weight did you gain for the part?
I think at the end I put on about 25 pounds of muscle. Thats the real true figure.
You look like youve lost some of the muscle since then.
Yeah, Krispy Kreme donuts and Guinness beer come out the day we stop. When the check stops coming, I stop going to the gym. My fiancé said, You did? Ill write you the check, heres the check. Here, go get back out there. Take the cheeseburger out of your mouth and go to the gym.
Did they say you had to work out in order to do the shirtless scenes?
They didnt put it quite like that. I had a little punch card at the gym and they said, If you want your paycheck, you have to make sure that this thing is filled out and youve been to the gym X amount of times. I knew going in that it was a very physical part. The key to the character for me was through the physicality of the part. I took that very, very seriously. I went to the gym twice a day, sort of a controversial method among bodybuilders as to whether or not that works, but it worked for me. And hit one body part twice a day and then the special diet.
I heard you used a liquid diet.
I did a liquid diet for three months, yeah.
How much of the stunts did you do?
I did 90% of my own stunts. You go into it thinking its like a professional sport. You go into it knowing that theres going to be some cuts and bruises and youre going to get banged up but I got great guys around me, fantastic people to help me come through it relatively unscathed. So that was a real help.
Whats it like working with Travolta?
Oh, hes a great guy, you know. Hes an icon and a great collaborator, gregarious, gracious man. He was fantastic, just fantastic.
Did he have his own chef?
Our caterer is someone that Travolta used on his last film. I know how John likes to eat or likes his good food, so we ate well. We ate real well.
Did you ever work out together?
We had a very small weight room. There was only room for one of us at a time in there.
You didnt have a workout truck on the lot, like Arnold?
No, I think we had one of those little apartment gyms. When I was shooting in Tampa, Id just go downstairs to the gym in the basement and work out down then.
Would you do it right before scenes?
Thats the old fashioned way. Thats the Lorenzo Lamas school.
Did you do certain things prior to your takes in order to get into the mood?
We tried to keep it light on the set. We were dealing with some pretty dark subject matter and we wanted to inject a sense of humor into the film and there is a larger than life scale to the movie that although rooted in reality, you know, we can take liberties because its a comic book type of film, and it lends itself to a larger than life scale. So finding that balance was very important and keeping it light on the set and staying creative was always a plus. Trying to leave the drama on the screen and not take it home with you is always a good thing too.
How frightening were the comic book fans?
I dont have any control over that and thats not my focus as far as playing the part, but it was helpful to go online and go to the different websites and figure out exactly who these guys who have lived with this character for a number of years felt about Frank Castle, who he was, where he stood, morally, was he insane or not. All those kind of debates were very helpful to me to figure out who Frank Castle was. Then it was my job to bring the best Frank Castle that I had inside of me to the screen. Thats where I leave it. At the end of the day, I had to please myself. I couldnt worry about pleasing all these different varying opinions about what they wanted.
What was your most challenging stunt?
The most challenging sequence was the Russian fight. (Kevin Nash) is 6 10. Hes about a foot taller than me. That was tough, but hes a gentleman and hes a real pro and he really did make my job easier even though it doesnt look it. But that was all me and I got banged up quite a bit during that.
He really could throw you casually?
He absolutely could throw me casually across the room.
You didnt do the stair fall?
Yeah, they wouldnt let me do that. They wouldnt let me drive the car off the bridge.
What about the crash through the wall?
Yeah, absolutely that was me.
How many Punishers are you signed for?
I think Avis got me down for 16. (laughs) I think its three.
Will you have some say in the sequels?
Well, yeah, as much as I can certainly. Being a fan of comic books and knowing how dedicated people are to the source material, Id like to continue to draw on that source material. Theres a couple of great characters from the books that we havent touched on. Theres a guy named Jigsaw whos a wonderful bad guy, so Im sure that hell be in the next one.
Any chances of a romance with Joan (Rebecca Romjin-Stamos)?
That could happen. Whats great is in these old movies that I love, the guy doesnt always get the girl. And theres a good reason behind it, theres sort of a lone wolf feeling to him and we empathize with him. Watching Frank try to crawl his way back into a sense of human connection or humanity is part of what I think makes his character really vibrant.
Stander. I have Stander coming out that Newmarket picked up. Thats another kinda hard nosed 70s inspired action drama. Its a true story about a man named Andre Stander who was a police captain in Johannesburg in 1976 Apartheid, who is asked by his government, as they all were, to murder people for his government. And then he has a moral break and starts robbing banks on his lunch hour. This is a real guy and he did that for a couple of years. And then his partner arrested him and gave him 32 years in prison. He served three of those years and then he broke out of prison with two other men and formed the Stander gang. And went on the biggest bank robbing spree in the history of western civilization. Its a wonderful story and a great character.
Youre engaged to Patricia Arquette. Have you set a wedding date?
Were planning on getting married sometime this fall if we can work out our schedules and stuff and all that falls into place. Weve had a couple different dates, but hopefully this one will work out.
Any chance of you and Patricia working together?
Oh gosh, its hard to see onscreen people in movies together. It can work, it can, but its very particular. Itd have to be something that made allowances for that. Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, although they were never together technically, they had that antagonistic- - so if it was something like that. Maybe well do a Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
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