Exclusive: Ray Stevenson talks The Punisher

“This is a complete refresh…”

Total Film sat down today at Comic-Con for a chat with Ray Stevenson, the man charged with making comics character The Punisher work on screen in War Zone.

It’s a mission that has defeated both Dolph Lundgren and Thomas Jane in the past, so why take on the role? "This isn't a follow-on or a sequel. This is a complete refresh,” says the affable Stevenson. “The first draft - this is even before Lexi (Alexander, the director) came aboard - was just that: a first draft, something to get the ball rolling. My agent and I thought weren't sure and she got on the phone to me and said, 'you're not allowed to turn this down, or say no, because if you've got any doubt, then I haven't explained myself to you properly. So here's me to explain myself...' We knew it was going to be a work in progress. You always work on it as it's shooting, but it was in great shape when we started."

And he’s not worried about the troubled previous films, either. “The Dolph Lundgren version is lost to history and I chose not to watch the Thomas Jane version until after I finished the film. I thought there were fundamental problems: Why set it in Florida? And the script just didn't serve the character well.”

This being Comic-Con, he was about to be faced with thousands of fans eager to tear him down if they thought he wasn’t respecting the character. He admits he was a newcomer to the comic books, but was also a quick convert. “I didn't really know about the character before the film. But I did my research and soon found this incredibly violent man, which was a concern. But the more I read it - and this is a tribute to the writer, Garth Ennis, as he doesn't pull his punches on the psychology of this character - I thought, 'if we can get this into the script, then we've got something very special.'”

There’ll be more from Stevenson in a future issue of Total Film. Oh, and the full new poster for the movie – designed by regular Punisher comic artist Tim Bradstreet can be glimpsed over at Comingsoon.net, as well as some new footage screened at the Con.

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