At one point in his career, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter was working with Marvel on developing a sequel to Thomas Jane‘s 2004 Punisher film. I actually really liked that movie and thought Jane made a great Frank Castle. It would have been cool to see a sequel to that movie, but obviously, it was never meant to be.
During an interview with Looper, Sutter talked about his experience working on the script that he was brought in to rewrite. This was the first time he was ever hired to rewrite a script, and he got overly ambitious on the project. He explained what he was trying to do with the character saying:
“So I turn in this draft, and I’m, like, ‘Aw, yeah, I’m shakin’ up Marvel, man!’ And literally, there were people—including Gale Ann Hurd—who were, like, ‘Uh…’ They didn’t know what the f— happened! And it’s not like I didn’t do the things I said I was going to do, but…I also did a lot of other things! And I’m a Marvel fan, but I was not a comic book kid. I didn’t really get into that whole world until about 15 years ago, which is when I started getting into graphic novels. And that happened in Paris, because their graphic novel industry is decades beyond ours! But I didn’t realize that you can’t take liberties with some of the characters and some of the traits, because they are what they are. They’re very derivative, they’re stereotyped, but this is the guy that does this, and this is the guy who does this… So they’re two-dimensional for a reason: that’s the purpose they serve. So I was trying to expand the Marvel Universe in a direction it should not have been expanded in [Laughs].”
He then went into some detail on what he was looking to do with Frank Castle by bringing some emotional weight to him, which he believed that Jane could pull off. He even threw a love interest into the story, but it wasn’t the direction that Marvel wanted to go.
“Doing the research on it, he’s such an iconic character and really pretty much every vigilante since has some piece of that, but what I think I was trying to do… I’d known Thomas Jane a little bit, and I thought he was a great actor and had a lot of emotional depth that maybe some other action stars may not have. So I think I was trying to write to the emotionality of this dude and motivate the absurd violence with some kind of meaning. I don’t mean that I was, like, f—ing Gandhi [Laughs]. But I was just trying to root it a little bit more in the mental anguish that he went through to justify it, and to take a little bit of that journey. And that’s why I had the connection with the female character: because I was able to explore that pain through that relationship. So I think that’s what I was trying to do: humanize him a little bit more. But it’s the kind of thing where there’s only X amount of time the movies, so you have moments of that, but you can’t really have a subplot that explores that kind of thing. Not in a summer blockbuster or Marvel picture.”
Sutter did get another pass at the script, but ultimately Marvel didn’t move forward with it. When asked if there was any response from anyone along the lines of, “I wish we could do this, but we can’t”? Sutter replied:
“You know, if there was, I don’t think that’s something that would ever have been vocalized to me. Look, it’s not like I turned in the script and it was written in a different language. I mean, there were parts of it they liked. I think they realized what I was trying to do…and how wrong that was [Laughs]. So they tried to guide me back, and like I said, I did another pass, but poor Gale Anne Hurd—I think she’s the one who sort of championed me in that process. And Kevin…We were sitting at a big table, and I think she started glancing over at Kevin, going [whispering under breath] ‘I don’t know what happened!’ Anyway, I’m sure there was good feedback, but as a writer, all I ever hear is bad feedback! And I think at that point, Marvel was already…not quite the machine it is now, but it was finding its legs. And I think there was just a process that was going down, and there were a lot of people who were sort of being let go and given producing gigs. They started cleaning house a little bit at that time and managing the IPs in a different way, and Kevin pretty much led that charge.”
I would love to read Sutter’s Punisher script! He’s an extremely talented writer with such an extreme, hardcore vision. Maybe at the time Marvel just wasn’t ready for the kind of intensity that Sutter brought to the character.