Nearly 10 years ago, actor Thomas Jane personified one of Marvel’s heroes in “The Punisher.” In a comic book universe filled with tragic protagonists, Frank Castle arguably is the most tormented.
“I always loved the Frank Castle character ever since Marvel turned me on to the books,” Jane explained when reached by telephone. “I always collected comic books, but I never collected superhero stuff. I initially turned the part down for that reason. Marvel told me ‘Frank Castle is the only non-superhero in our Marvel Universe.’ So that kind of piqued my interest.”
Jane, who received the 2013 Career Achievement Award at the recent Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF) in Tampa, Florida, starred opposite John Travolta in this 2004 adventure. After Castle’s family is brutally murdered, he adopts the Punisher persona and wages a private war on crime.
“What we have is a standard revenge story where a guy loses his family and goes out to kill bad guys. This guy takes it a step further and says ‘I am going to kill all the bad guys.’ That, I think, is what makes Frank Castle an interesting character. He’s like your friendly neighborhood psychopath.” Jane offered.
Making the connection between John Wayne and the Punisher
Jane went on to say the reasons he connects with the material in “The Punisher” are the same reasons he loves John Ford’s classic adventure “The Searchers.”
“I love dealing with personal morality versus societal morality, between what is real and true and what is worth fighting for, how you structure your belief system as a person growing up in any type of society,” the actor explained. “Here’s a guy who very much creates his own rules and he lives by them. It costs him personally to uphold what he believes in.”
John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards character fights hard to find his missing nieces and return them home.
“At the end, he gets Natalie Wood back and drops her off at the house and he can’t go inside. The family is reunited and John Wayne stands outside the door, turns around and slowly walks away. For me, that is Frank Castle. He does the dirty work so you don’t have to. He gets his hands dirty so you don’t have to. And you can live in peace and have the life you deserve,” he said.
Like Edwards, Frank Caste is more of a tragic character than a comic book cutout.
“I think we are always trying to battle, to reach a little deeper [as actors]. When we are successful, those are the ones that resonate with people. When we aren’t successful, when we succumb to cardboard cutouts, those are the ones that get thrown away and forgotten,” Jane said.
“A sweet honor”
In a way, the Gasparilla Film Festival is a homecoming for Thomas Jane and “The Punisher.” Tampa, Florida, was the primary shooting location for the film.
“Tampa is a great town to film a movie; they certainly had a great crew. We had a terrific crew together and we had a wonderful shoot. I appreciate the city and the people. Not my first choice for a place to shoot a ‘Punisher’ film, but since we there, I made the most of it,” he said.
And as for the Career Achievement Award: “It’s a really sweet honor.”