Lexi Alexander Director of Punisher: War Zone Reveals Freddie Prinze Jr. Was Almost Jigsaw
Lexi Alexander (Green Street Hooligans) gives an in-depth interview with Paul Scheer for his podcast, "How Did This Get Made?" Click the jump to learn about all the challenges that this director encountered while making the movie.
Click Here to Listen to the Interview with Lexi Alexander
Episode 20, Punisher: War Zone
This week’s How Did This Get Made? is the first of its kind. Our guests are Lexi Alexander, director of Punisher: War Zone and Patton Oswalt, one of the movie’s most vocal supporters. Together with Paul and June (unfortunately Jason had to miss this one) they honestly explain how this movie got made: From the very first pitch meetings to the week after it was released. Hear how unfortunate timing, poor marketing, and mixed expectations affected the success of one of the coolest, craziest, most fun comic book adaptations of the decade (at least).
Punisher: War Zone is one of the most over-the-top violent action movies to come out in years. It has so many WTF moments, that involve potentally brutal visuals. While the movie is certainly not a success, it does have moments where it is the most accurate portrayal of the Punisher character ever on film.
Another piece of information that you can now look back at years later as a mistake is that the first script was tossed away. That script was penned by Kurt Sutter, who is now best known for Sons of Anarachy. If his Punisher script had any of the talent that he has marked his biker show with, then I suspect we missed out on something very special.
Here are some great quotes from the podcast, transcribed by ropeofsilicon.com.
"The meeting is set the day after that Virginia Tech guy goes and shoots a million people. Not only that, I happen to watch the one newscast that showed his room, and what's in that room? A Punisher poster. So I call my agent and his manager and I say, 'I cannot go into this meeting.' Because now I had prepared a whole thing about how he goes in, he kills a million people…"
"The way that came about is I had a friend and we're talking about how I'm doing The Punisher, and the rewrite, and the studio wanted to hire another six writers and I'm like, 'Oh my God I can't…' and they're like, 'Look, just promise me one thing, don't you dare cast any fucking parkour guys and put parkour guys in because everybody's doing that.' And there were like three movies — I think Hulk and Die Hard — and everybody had parkour guys and there was a reverse reaction and then I heard it again from somebody, 'Just don't put any parkour guys in there!'
"I was like, 'What's with this reverse reaction to them? I'm kind of liking that. What can we do?' And I thought, 'Let's just blow them up!' If people hate them so much I kind of figured…"
"Lionsgate said, 'Unlike any other movie we do of this genre, we will screen this for the critics.' And they had simultaneous screenings for critics in New York and L.A. Now two days before I am panicking, a New York critic, now think about this… I thought I'm so screwed, I'm so screwed… I became this devil of the whole arguing directors and it was a bad choice on my part, but I wanted to fight for the movie.
"So I said, two days before, can't we at least put a one sheet on the seat that shows that we have taken every scene, every violent scene, every action scene from the comic book and even [cinematographer Steve Gainer's] look, he shot it beautifully the way the comic book looked. Can we at least show them so even though they don't — they're not comic book fans, so even though they don't what this is they'll understand the effort that was based on the source material. [They said,] 'That's a ridiculous idea, we're not doing that.'
"So what ended up in every paper, I'll never forget this, [...] a woman in New York, I think it was the New York Times [it wasn't], wrote this in her review, I think she wrote, 'Lexi Alexander should go to prison for her violent imagination.' Now, mind you, I didn't come up with it, it was in the damn comic book. But people thought we had some sadistic jerk off session."
"I had a soundtrack on it that kind of reflected what this movie was. It wasn't an orchestra, it was kind of ridiculous. It was good, but it was more up to what the tone of the movie was. They pulled it off, fired my composer and put one on, which I later found out the direction to this composer was 'make it more like The Dark Knight.'"
"My favorite scene in this movie, it'll surprise you, but I basically had to come up with this finale and I thought, 'Okay, now he has to kill a million people.' So how do I kill them? And I thought, 'There's all these gangs in the comic book so let's do that.' And, I don't know if you caught this, but when Jigsaw and Looney Bin Jim do this whole speech to recruit these gangs, that was a direct spin-off from that scene in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 when these two doofus recruiters come to the high schools.
"Because when I saw that movie I thought, 'Okay, who listens to these doofus guys who come up and say, Sign your life it'll be great? You may die, but…"
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