Thanks once again to Screen Rant reader "Nomad" we have another inside scoop on what's been going on behind the scenes of Lexi Alexander's Punisher: Warzone (aka Punisher 2). Nomad says that although the source cannot be named, they are HIGHLY reliable.
What follows are the details of what's happened behind the scenes of the production from the first draft of the screenplay, to the Comic-Con, PG-13 accusations and the revelation that yes, the movie will be rated R. I'm posting what I was sent unedited for the most part, and have added my thoughts here and there.
Keep in mind I really don't have any bias towards this film one way or another...
Punisher: War Zone rumors deconstructed
I have a very dear friend who’s been around Hollywood for a long time. He’s a unique person here, because his ethics are still intact AND he still has his sanity. (Which means he’s NOT rich!) I think you’ll agree that’s a unique combination here! So I asked him to check out Punisher: War Zone, Lionsgate, and all the surrounding hoopla. He did, bless his sweet heart, and he wrote a fooking dissertation! Well, he’s brilliant, too. Did I mention I adore him? I do!!!
What follows is his report, which I have NOTedited, even though it conflicts with some of my own previously held opinions. At the end of his letter, I’ve attached a bit of a time line he wrote, so people can follow what happened and when.
No, I will NOT tell you who he is. So please don’t bother asking. His credibility is in what he writes, which is balanced and fair. You’ll decide on your own, neh?
Sorry it took so long. I think I’ve read enough on “Punisher: War Zone” and Lionsgate Films (hereafter PWZ and LGF for brevity) now to offer an educated analysis of what may have happened and why you shouldn’t worry too much.
First I want to dispel a few MISPERCEPTIONS about PWZ, since those have unfairly put some people off.
MISPERCEPTION #1: "PWZ is a sequel whose script was so horrible that star Thomas Jane walked away from it." Not quite! Per PWZ co-writer Kurt Sutter in a Collider.com interview: "Nick Santora and myself, whose names were on the second big draft, got caught in the crossfire when Tom Jane was growing dissatisfied with the turn Punisher was taking. Tom lashed out at the script using it as his scapegoat for exiting the project. [...] I like Tom Jane, I’ve had lunch with him, think he’s a decent guy. But I always felt that if Marvel really wanted to re-invent the franchise, you'd have to re-invent the Punisher". And PWZ did in fact morph from sequel to REBOOT, so recasting was likely inevitable anyway to avoid confusion. Tom himself said that his reason for leaving was that LGF rejected Walter Hill as director and he stood by Hill -- but I think he saw the writing on the wall and left before he could be recast. Tom strikes me as generally bitter about his parting with PWZ and even told fans at July 2008's San Diego Comic-Con that PWZ is a "piece of s***" (though he has no way of knowing this), but to his credit he later wished new Punisher Ray Stevenson well ("He sounds like a cool guy [who] loves the character and wants to do him justice. For his sake I hope the movie doesn't suck.").
Sutter, whose draft began the shift towards rebooting and was cited as Tom's other reason for leaving, ultimately removed his name from credit arbitration because so little of his work remained; credited writers are Santora, Marcum & Holloway (the latter two are Marvel's "go-to guys" whose "Iron Man" later did big business). The only person who HAS seen the actual shooting script AND publicly commented on it is Kurt Sutter. His verdict per his blog: while it was obviously not HIS vision, he graciously said it was "tight", "followed the perfect comic book formula", and he predicted "true fans of the Punisher comic books will enjoy this movie" and "it will open huge".
How will that shooting script translate to the screen? "The Spirit" producer Deborah del Prete has seen Lexi's rough cut and said she loved it and thought it would please fans. We've no word yet on how much of Lexi's cut remains intact, but PWZ cinematographer Steve Gainer said that the August 16 cut that he viewed was "something wonderful" that he "loved" -- he sounded proud of the results. [From what I've seen of "The Spirit" so far, I don't think I'd take del Prete's comment as a ringing endorsement. - Vic]
MISPERCEPTION #2: "Nobody will see PWZ because there's no star power in the cast." PWZ is probably relying not on big names but on a high concept designed to appeal to a niche audience of Punisher fans as well as a general action fanbase. Punisher '04 had a bigger budget but higher overhead because of big names like John Travolta, and it performed poorly, so I can understand LGF refining their strategy and leveraging their risks. In any case, PWZ's cast are all experienced actors, if not widely known. [I honestly don't believe that anyone ever expected this to be some huge blockbuster seen by "everyone." - Vic]
Now I want to discuss the RUMORS about PWZ that have unfairly put some people off. LGF could put an end to all of the bad publicity pretty easily with a press release, but for whatever reason they haven't, so I'm simply going to analyze what is known and how it may affect the finished film; the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.
Many agree that PWZ director Lexi Alexander is a tough cookie whose enthusiasm for her work is infectious. Cast members Ray Stevenson and Dominic West both attested to being uninspired by early drafts they read, and Lexi talked them into doing the film based on sheer enthusiasm. Crew member Tom Book hadn't cared for the project at first, but he attested that Lexi soon inspired everyone to believe they were working on "a masterpiece" so they worked diligently through the packed 40-day shoot consisting of mostly wintry Montreal nights. Her blog inspired the many Internet-savvy Punisher fans to get excited about the film as well.
On the flip side, I believe Lexi's made her fair share of enemies (and who in Hollywood hasn't?). The IESB source who slammed Lexi's rough cut as "one of the worst movies ever made" strikes me as just some malcontent Lexi pissed off, especially given that UGO's more impartial "Detective Soap" said that in spite of Lexi's "Jekyll/Hyde" personality, her footage was fantastic. It hasn't escaped me that Lexi's "Hooligans" co-writer Dougie Brimson popped out of nowhere on the FilmSchoolRejects comments section just to retort to Tom Book that Lexi was "disloyal" and "devious", adding "trust me, Im far from alone in thinking that way." [I have no opinion on this as I'm not privy to the details. Personally all I care about is the final product and even directors and actors with bad attitudes who are disliked can produce a great film. - Vic]