Is PUNISHER: WAR ZONE Developing A Cult Following?
In a recent interview director Lexi Alexander addresses the developing cult status of Punisher: War Zone. She also discusses the struggles she endured while making the movie. Check it out!
There is no denying that Punisher: War Zone was a critical and box-office failure when it debuted in 2008. Film critics only gave it a 26% approval rating, with an average rating of 4.3 out of 10. It only opened with a measly $4 million, finishing in eight place. The film grossed $8 million domestically and another $2 million internationally. On the bright side, DVD and Blu-ray sales have been much better, adding another $10 million (as of 2010) to it's total. Nevertheless the film, based on the latest figures, hasn't recovered it's budget of $35 million.
With all that negativity out of the way lets focus on the fact that a strong and loyal following has started to develop. Which may have something to do with comedian/actor Patton Oswalt being one of the film's more vocal supporters. Just last year Oswalt screened the film to a packed theater full of fans that were genuinely excited to see the film again on the big screen. In a recent interview Lexi Alexander discusses the developing cult status of the film.
Cult status is bittersweet and I assume every filmmaker feels the same way about that. On the hand you’re glad for the confirmation that your film isn’t this massive, universal failure; on the other hand you’re frustrated that the studio’s marketing department was unable to reach the film’s intended audience. After Patton Oswalt hosted a PWZ screening for his Deeper into the Darkness film festival, a writer who was in the audience posted an article about the film being a perfect example of a studio failing to understand how to reach niche audiences. He mentioned that, based on the line around the block for tickets and the audience’s enthusiastic reaction during Patton’s PWZ screening, it was clear that had the right opinion makers pre-screened the movie and spread the word, this could have been a phenomenal success. You read stuff like that and you can’t help feeling disappointed.
Since Punisher: War Zone Lexi has really done much of anything. And one might assume that she isn't getting many offers based on PWZ bombing at the box-office, that just isn't the case. According to Lexi she has had many offers, but she is trying to be more careful with her next choice, looking to avoid past mistakes. She no longer wants to make movies that use violence as a gimmick.
Well, the fact that there’s only one credit after PWZ is mostly my own fault. I made a conscious decision to never again work on a movie I’m not really passionate about. People forget that directors don’t just show up for a few weeks of shooting like actors do. We have to eat, breath and live this movie for at least a year. You spend most of that time fighting for the film, protecting it, campaigning for it. This is extremely hard when it’s a project you never wanted to make in the first place. PWZ actually had a lot of industry fans and after it came out on DVD I received dozens of scripts in which 30 people were killed by machetes in the first 5 pages, I simply wasn’t up for that kind of stuff anymore. Of course the obstacle I face in Hollywood is that the type of movie I want to make, ( a young adult, adventure type story) is not something I have a track record in. Therefore it is a very challenging goal to achieve, but frankly, that’s what life is all about. I know a lot of filmmakers who are stuck in a genre, they make a lot of money, they direct movies back-to-back, but they’re far from happy. All the “hacks” know people call them that, they never get considered for anything outside their genre and even if they’d make a little indie movie on their own, chances are critical acclaim will still elude them just based on their previous work. The bottom line is, before you establish yourself in one movie genre you better make sure you have great passion for it. Eli Roth for example is great at what he does and clearly loves it. It would be sad for him though if he’d secretly long to direct The King’s Speech kind of films, right?
I think one of the best portions of the interview is when Lexi is asked about how much freedom she had with the script. She gives a no holds barred response that gives you a new perspective into the turmoil that she faced while making the film.
I’m not sure I had that much freedom. Not only because it was a studio film, but because we wanted to stay as true to the source material as possible. The whole writing process is not something I like to remember. It was a horrible experience and frankly, I believe everybody got screwed. Kurt Sutter wrote a draft I never even got until I was long hired and in the middle of development (the Executive blamed my agents, the agents blamed the Executive…who knows, somebody clearly didn’t want me to have the latest draft). I had worked with Nick Santora’s script which I liked. By the time I’ve read Kurt’s, it was way too far fetched from the vision in my head. I do believe that a lot of people out there would have liked his version. It was a much straighter, serious version. Obviously I wanted to do something surreal and fun. At the same time I got hired the studio brought on Marcum/Holloway for a rewrite. These guys were great, I loved working with them. They wrote a draft the Executive didn’t like so he was about to hire another writer. At that point I’ve had enough. I offered to give it a try for free (meaning my director’s draft would save him the fee he’d spent on another writer). I didn’t improve the draft Marcum/Holloway delivered. I merely addressed the notes the Exec had so that he’d be happy and greenlight the production. So much politics, so little judgement on craft. This whole idea of studios bringing in a dozen writers on a script is so counter-productive in my opinion, whoever started that trend is a fool.
Punisher: War Zone - An R-rated film directed by Lexi Alexander (Green Street Hooligans) and produced by Lionsgate. It starred: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Colin Salmon, Doug Hutchison, and Wayne Knight. The script was written by Nick Santora, Matt Holloway, and Arthur Marcum. The film was originally released December 5, 2008.
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