Writer Kurt Sutter Removes His Name from Punisher: War Zone - The Real Story
There is obviously something up with the upcoming Punisher: War Zone movie when both the star, Thomas Jane, and now the writer, Kurt Sutter (pictured below, right), removed themselves because of similar creative differences. Back in May last year, Thomas Jane announced he was leaving the new Punisher. Now today, on Kurt Sutter's actual blog, he says that he has officially removed his name from the credits. From the sounds of it, this is doomed already, but I don't want to make any judgment calls until we get some footage. In the meantime, we'll present Sutter's statements as evidence to show that this isn't looking too hot. And if anything, I'd call this the real story behind the new Punisher.
Thanks to SlashFilm for pointing us in the direction of this story. It's a very interesting read on the behind-the-scenes of Punisher: War Zone and for any comic book fan or anyone excited for the new Punisher, it may make you uneasy. You can read Sutter's blog at sutterink.blogspot.com.
The movie has gone through multiple script rewrites and even multiple directors. Sutter explains via his blog that the reason why he removed his name was that "there was very little of my draft that stayed in the shooting script." The only big element they kept from his version was a "set piece where we see how Russo becomes Jigsaw. It's pretty brutal. Glad they kept that." He goes on to explain another more serious reason as to why he chose to remove his name from the credits.
The other reason I removed my name is because I didn't want credit. My pitch, my vision, for the Punisher franchise was something much different. I tried to rip Frank Castle from the comic book world and place him in the real streets of NYC. Castle is the only superhero without powers. He's a tortured, highly skilled soldier with a really bad anger problem. I always felt we should see Frank in some place uber-real and gritty. I threw away the first draft written by Nick Santora and did a page one rewrite. I changed the locations, the characters, the story. I dropped Frank in a real New York City with real villains, real cops, real relationships. To me, the Punisher deserved more than the usual comic book redress. It shouldn't just follow the feature superhero formula.
Sutter actually goes on to infer that the reason Thomas Jane left originally was because of his script and idea, saying, "I'm not saying my draft was perfect or even good for that matter. God knows, Thomas Jane wasn't fond of it." From what I can make of this project, it seems like Nick Santora wrote the very first draft. Then Kurt Sutter came in and did a complete rewrite from scratch. After that, Matt Holloway and Art Marcum came in and rewrote it again, almost from scratch, besides the set piece mentioned above that Sutter said they kept. He explains that Holloway and Marcum wrote a movie with a "simple story, very obvious dialog and the inclusion of as many characters from the anthology that a movie will allow," saying that it's "the perfect comic book formula" for, I presume, box office gold.
However, Sutter isn't a disrespectful writer who is bashing the movie entirely. He actually says in another update later on his blog that the script they're using is pretty good. He goes on to defend his reasoning as well as the new script that they're using to shoot with.
Let me say, also for the record, the Punisher: Warzone script is not a bad script, in fact, I think it's a very tight script. My beef, my frustration, was not about the script being good or bad, it was about creative choices. The comic book formula I referenced makes for fantastic movies. The last Batman, the Spiderman franchise, these were all fun, well-written movies. I had hoped The Punisher could be something more unique. Again, I'm not saying this movie will not be unique. I hear very good things about Lexi's lead. The fact that it went the way it did was the decision of some very talented producers who know a lot more than I do.
Sutter doesn't go on to completely tear apart the film, ending his update on a positive note saying, "I'm sure true fans of the Punisher comic books will enjoy this movie. It will do exactly what a comic book movie should do -- fill seats, set up a sequel." However, most of what he says still has me worried. In the end, when Punisher: War Zone comes out, this story will probably be forgotten and all of the issues internally will be transparent. However, given the writers strike just finished, it's incredible intriguing to hear an inside story on a film that has obviously had numerous speed bumps throughout its development.
Whatever the case may be and however the footage turns out, I'm certain I'll still at least see Punisher: War Zone. I'm very curious to see how this all turns out and whether the formula that Sutter points out actually does make for a bad movie. It's being directed by Lexi Alexander of Green Street Hooligans and now stars Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle. Punisher: War Zone arrives in theaters on September 12th. Only seven more months until we get to see what exactly Sutter was talking about.