Thomas Jane is famous for a lot of reasons, whether it’s the incredibly dark Stephen King movie adaptation The Mist, the unique HBO comedy-drama Hung, or the underrated sci-fi mystery The Expanse. He’s perhaps most infamous, though, for his appearance as the titular superhero in The Punisher, a Marvel movie that was arguably way ahead of its time. Coming years before the MCU and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, it’s possible that the film and Jane’s performance would have generated a ton more acclaim and ticket sales if it had been released just four of five years later.
“Our movie, The Punisher, came out in 2004, before The Dark Knight, which was gritty and gothic and noirish. Christopher Nolan proved that people would show up for a movie like that,” Jane tells MovieWeb. “In 2004, nobody believed that this was a thing that comic book movie fans wanted to see. They were wrong. I knew they were wrong. I fought for a different version of Castle.”
Thomas Jane Thinks The Punisher is Too Dark For Disney
Jane is no stranger to gritty, multidimensional antiheroes, and his version of the Punisher character may have been the darkest portrayal of any mainstream superhero. This was the Frank Castle that Jane envisioned, and arguably the one that writer Gerry Conway and artists John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru imagined when they created the character; the Punisher wasn’t afraid to use violence and extremely ethically dubious methods to vindicate his actions.
Jane recognizes that, with the Walt Disney corporation ostensibly owning the character now, his darker vision of Frank Castle is practically dead. Jane tells us:
I don’t see a future for Castle. Marvel was bought by Disney. Disney is willing to take things to a certain place, but they’re not willing to go much further. I think that the real noirish, gritty, realist aspect of the anti-hero, it’s not going to be well served [by Disney]. I could be wrong, and I hope I am wrong. But, you know, the real version of Frank hasn’t really been put on film yet.
Dirty Laundry is Considered the Closest to a Punisher Film
According to Jane, the closest The Punisher has come to being accurately represented onscreen was actually the fan film Jane made (and worked for without pay), Dirty Laundry. “Fans of the Punisher who haven’t seen my short film called Dirty Laundry, go check it out on YouTube,” Jane says, “and watch my take on Frank Castle. I’m very proud of that, you know, that was something I put together probably 10 years ago now. And it has stood the test of time. That’s really, I think, the closest iteration of the Punisher that we’ve got on film so far.”
It says a lot that Jon Bernthal, who has been the most recent actor to play the Punisher character, drew a lot of inspiration from Dirty Laundry for his performance. The short film depicts the character (and the world in which he resides) as misanthropically and darkly as possible, yet with a subtle sense of humor. It’s an uncomfortable, violent, and often upsetting short film, which means it’s perfect for The Punisher, and Jane seems to agree.