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Meet The Punisher

by Fred Topel

Itís always good to get in with stars before they completely take off. I probably wonít get so much time with Ron Perlman now that Hellboy is such a huge hit. Hopefully, the same will happen for Thomas Jane after The Punisher, but for now, heís got plenty of time to talk to us.

When I went up to his hotel room, Jane was watching a Nascar race on TV. His Punisher muscles were toned down, though it wouldnít have taken much to pump them all the way back up. But Jane just relaxed on the couch as we discussed his first starring vehicle, the Marvel comic book adaptation of The Punisher.

How long have you been into Nascar? I watch a few races, but I really got into it when we went to go last weekend. Brendan Gaughan drove the Punisher car in Bristol, Tennessee and Fox News renamed the race track The Punisher. It was cool. Because so many accidents happen there.

Do you automatically root for the guy driving your car? Gotta start somewhere. The guy driving my car is a rookie coming up. Heís a very promising guy and I canít wait to see what he does. He had his best race ever driving the Punisher car so it was easy to root for him.

Where do you find the line between portraying Frank Castleís pain and going overboard into sappy? Itís a fine line. The two hardest genres are action and comedy, and in this film we definitely have both. Itís a fine line. Itís a tone that can be difficult to maintain, but Jonathan Hensleigh really nailed it from the beginning in the script and the comic books nailed it in the ďWelcome Back, FrankĒ series and ďYear One,Ē some of the ďWar ZoneĒs. We just used that as our inspiration and itís hard to maintain that line but itís just a matter of keeping it real for me, not going over the top with some of the stuff and keeping it real. The movie exists on a larger than life plane, but itís firmly rooted in reality. And I think that that in a lot of ways, my character serves to anchor the movie in a real sense of reality so it doesnít get too far out there.

Why is action so tough as a genre? For us to go with an action movie where you donít want to get too sentimental and you donít want to get too B-movie, just Iím gonna blow everybody away and who gives a sh*t, then you get desensitized, you donít really care about the characters, and just finding that balance. Too much sentimentality and making us care about the characters takes us out of the movie, and then on the other side, too much gratuitous violence and too much action for actionís sake takes us out of the movie as well. And thatís a fine line and a fine balance to find. You canít have too much or too little of either. So in that way, itís a tough genre. Itís tough to get it right.

How did you succeed at comedy? What are you referring to?

The Sweetest Thing I don't know if we did succeed.

Well, you were funny. Thanks. Iíve always enjoyed those kind of parts. Iíve always enjoyed a sense of humor and I love those movies. I love the old romantic comedies from the Ď40s, the Howard Hawkes style comedies and I drew on that. Itís just a matter of finding what you like and sticking with what turns me on personally.

Are you ready to become a marquee star? I try not to look ahead to stuff like that. Iíve been waiting to headline a movie for a long time and have kind of been working my way up through the ranks, taking supporting roles and ensemble roles to hone my craft and the learn my craft, but Iíve always wanted this kind of film. Iíve always wanted the opportunity to do this kind of movie. This kind of movie inspired me to be an actor in the first place. The hard nosed Ď70s action films got me into wanting to be an actor.

How long have you been paying your dues? I don't know. I did little things and bit parts and commercials and stuff. I got my first real movie in í97, so whatís that, seven years?

Did you have scenes with Travolta in Face/Off? No, I didnít.

And you only had one scene in this? Yeah, sure, just the sort of climactic moments of the movie at the end.

What relationship do you develop with an actor whoís your antagonist but youíre not interacting? Itís much like the character in the film doesnít interact with the guy very much, and we were both busy doing our own things, so we didnít get to interact very much until the end of the film.

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