Pictured above: Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle aka "The Punisher." (Click on the image for a larger version)

Cinematical was lucky enough to attend a conference call earlier today with The Punisher: War Zone director Lexi Alexander in which we talked about the new film, the characters and the exciting Punisher universe. Above you will find the first image from the film, featuring Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle (aka The Punisher), a former FBI agent who wages war on the criminal underworld following the death of his family. The film arrives in theaters on September 12th, 2008. Here's a bit of our conversation:

Does this movie take place more in the Marvel universe or in its own world?

Lexi Alexander: Well I think in the sense of the other Marvel characters, it's definitely in its own world in terms of location, though, we call it the Marvel New York because, you know, rather than setting it in the real New York, we wanted it to have a little bit of a surreal feeling.

What one thing do you think distinguishes your take on The Punisher compared to the last Punisher movies that fans of the comic will truly appreciate?

LA: Well, the last Punisher movie really wasn't relevant to us. There's a lot of comparison to it, but none of the people on my team ever looked at that and said how can we be different or better -- we just kind of made our own film. The one thing I concentrated on was to really really make it as close to the MAX series as possible. I think we really achieved it as far as the look, as well as the tone. When I look at the dailies that I'm getting, I seriously feel like I'm looking at a MAX comic book right in front of me.

Related question: I think one thing the comic fans will realize immediately is that the world we created feels like the comic book in terms of the look as well.

Will this be a Hard-R Punisher?

LA: Well, it definitely will be a Hard R, and luckily Lionsgate's been great about it. They haven't given me any guidelines in terms of violence. I think they're a real good studio to make a violent movie, and I really like violent movies. So it's definitely going to be a Hard R.

Photo credit: Jonathan Wenk/Lionsgate


What is the significance of the subtitle War Zone to the story we'll be seeing?

When we were discussing titles, and obviously Marvel has a big input on that, we wanted to go with one the fans would recognize as the title. When they suggested a few, War Zone seemed like the one. This one in particular has something to do with the ending; it will make more sense once you see the film. I think the ending really justifies the title War Zone.

How much hand-to-hand fighting do you expect Frank Castle to engage in, or will most of the action be gunplay?

LA: I would say it's about 70% gunplay, and 30% hand-to-hand combat.

Your storyline incorporates elements from the Welcome Back Frank story arc. Why was the decision made to bring in Jigsaw who is not a part of that storyline?

LA: The first script I received had Jigsaw already in it, and at that point I wasn't very familiar with where Jigsaw came into the series. But he was there, he was the antagonist, he was the villain -- and I fell in love with this character, He's a great villain, and I wanted to keep him. So I don't think we strictly went for one story in the comic books; I think we took parts out of the world of Frank Castle and tried to make the best story possible.

Note: Jigsaw is being played by Dominic West.

What was the most brutal scene that you've shot, and do you have a favorite kill?

The most brutal scene would have to be two weeks ago when we shot part of the finale. It was really cold and toxic building, and we all had to have these masks on ... which didn't help a lot because we all got sick anyway. It was toxic, so we had to shoot the entire time with these oxygen masks on. Except for the cast; they didn't get any. I do have a favorite kill; without giving too much away I can say it has to do with a head-butt.

Is this a complete re-boot, or is it more like Batman Forever (ie: different characters in the outfit, but the same Frank Castle from the last movie)?

LA: I would say it's a complete different re-boot, just because neither one of the previous [films] were relevant. And with Castle, it's one story -- the mythology stays the same -- and I think I just have a very very different take on it. I was lucky to put it in the right environment, which was dark and cold.

Will Microchip be Frank's ally or enemy in this film?

LA: He's his ally; definitely his ally.

Do you have any particular interest in a Green Street Hooligans 2?

LA: No, no Hooligans 2 -- I know you're a big fan, but that's definitely not in the future. Those are the sort of mytholigies I like, so they're might be something in that area.