Cameras started rolling on "The Punisher" over the weekend, withprincipal photography beginning at the Am South building in Tampa on Saturday.Marvel and Artisan kicked off the picture with an announcement on Saturdayfollowed by a press conference on Monday.
The announcement was the typical start-of-production release, listing out theprincipals involved in the film. Most surprising was the addition of actor RoyScheider to the cast list. Scheider has been seen in numerous movies over thepast thirty years. He's probably best remembered as the heroic sheriff in"Jaws."
Other interesting names in the release are Conrad W. Hall ("Fight Club") who serves as the cinematographer on "The Punisher"as well as Michael Hanan ("Ronin") as the production designer and LisaTomczeszyn ("Daredevil", "Spider-Man") as the costumedesigner.
Brian Pate, webmaster of ComicBook Conventions, attended the press conference for "The Punisher"in Tampa, Florida, yesterday as a special correspondent for Comics2Film/CBRNews.
Attendingthe conference on behalf of the Artisan Pictures'/Marvel Studios' productionwere lead actor Thomas Jane, writer and director Jonathan Hensleigh, producerGale Anne Hurd, producer and Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad, Executive VicePresident of Productions for Artisan Andrew Golov, and line producer JohnStarke.
Hensleigh described the movie as "an intense urban drama" and notedthat he used a lot from "The Punisher: Year One" mini-series, as wellas elements from "Welcome Back Frank," Garth Ennis's recent storywhich "supercharged the series."
Hensleigh said that Marvel sent him a bound copy of "Welcome BackFrank" which he read in about 45 minutes, and within another 30 minutes, hehad committed to the project.
Tim Bradstreet's Punisher covers were cited as a major influence on the lookof the movie as well. Hensleigh did note that, "the plot is my own," apoint Jane described as "exciting." Jane said that comic fans wouldrecognize characters and recognize themes yet get a new story.
Hensleigh stated that Michael France's script was "not part of my storyor vision." His Punisher film will be "vastly different."
When asked about the previous Punisher film starring Dolph Lundgren, Aradsaid, "The last movie was made with different resources. The two won't haveanything in common."
Jane, wearing sunglasses nearly the entire time, told the attending press,"I love the world of comic books. I think this character…bridges the gapbetween the fantastic and the real world."
Jane said he felt just as much responsibility in bringing Frank Castle tolife as he did for the real people he has portrayed such as Mickey Mantle. Janehas been training for the film with "a troupe of Navy seals."
Jane described himself as a "comic nut." His interests include theEC Comics line from the 50's, all the "Punisher" comics (including thecurrent series), "Sandbox" (an indie series), and "AstroCity." He also described Garth Ennis's "Thor: Vikings"mini-series as "pretty damn interesting."
Hensleigh observed that through immense pre-production and planning, theywould be able to do much with their limited budget. Golov noted that Floridaresidents staffed many departments. Hurd praised the quality of the staff aswell and described the production as "a perfect match between Hollywood andTampa."
As filming began Saturday, 220 cast and crew members were working. Around 300people may be working on the production at any one time, however, asconstruction crews are working at other locations.
Hurd said that they expected onlookers at the film locations, but that therewere "do's and don'ts" for bystanders such as refraining from flashphotography while filming was going on.
Hurd noted that principal actors will be "arriving daily."
While a release date has not been set, Hurd said the film is projected as aspring/summer film and could come out as early as April. A screening is likelyto be held in Tampa before the release of the movie.
Arad said that the phrase "comic book movies" is "hopefullygoing to become a broader term."
Jane noted that you "find an incredible wealth of material."
Find more pictures from the press conference on Brian Pate's ComicBook Conventions website.