IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Thomas Jane Talks ‘Vice,’ Directing ‘A Magnificent Death from My Shattered Hand’ and Why He's Done Playing ‘The Punisher’

Friday, 16 January 2015 11:53 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Thomas Jane Talks ‘Vice,’ Directing ‘A Magnificent Death from My Shattered Hand’ and Why He's Done Playing ‘The Punisher’

Thomas Jane is truly a modern day renaissance man! Not only is he a very impressive actor, but he is also a successful comic book writer and film director, to boot!

Jane began his acting career with small but pivotal roles in popular movies like Face/Off, Boogie Nights, The Thin Red Line, Magnolia, and Dreamcatcher, as well as playing baseball legend Mickey Mantle in director Billy Crystal’s *61. But his big break came playing Marvel comics street vigilante Frank Castle in both The Punisher, and the short film The Punisher: Dirty Laundry. He would go on to appear in such films as The Mist, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I Melt with You, White Bird in a Blizzard, Drive Hard, and Reach Me, as well as receiving a Golden Globe nomination for starring in the HBO series Hung. He is also the founder of RAW Studios and wrote their first comic book release Bad Planet. Jane made his directorial debut with the crime thriller Dark Country, and will soon direct his second feature, a Western entitled A Magnificent Death from My Shattered Hand. But first, he can be seen starring opposite Bruce Willis (A Good Day to Die Hard) in the new science fiction movie Vice, which opens in theaters and On Demand January 16th. 

Vice, which was directed by Brian A. Miller (The Prince), tells the story of businessman Julian Michaels (Willis). He has designed the ultimate holiday resort: VICE, where anything goes and the customers can play out their wildest fantasies with artificial inhabitants who look and think like humans. When an artificial robot (Ambyr Childers) becomes self-aware and escapes, she finds herself caught in the crossfire between Julian's mercenaries and a cop named Roy (Jane), who is hell-bent on shutting down the corruption of VICE and stopping the violence once and for all. In addition to Jane, Willis, and Childers, the film also stars Johnathon Schaech (The Legend of Hercules), and Bryan Greenberg (A Short History of Decay). 

I recently had the absolute pleasure of speaking with the great Thomas Jane about his work on Vice, as well as directing A Magnificent Death from My Shattered Hand and if he would be interested in reprising his role as The Punisher in future Marvel Studios projects. The talented veteran actor discussed his new film, its wild concept, being attracted to androids, making a popcorn movie that has serious themes, drawing inspiration for his character from hardboiled detective novels, working with iconic movie star Bruce Willis, directing his upcoming Western, why he won’t be appearing in it, his goal to eventually only direct, and why he’s done playing The Punisher on screen.

Here is what Thomas Jane had to say about Vice, directing A Magnificent Death from My Shattered Hand, and why he's done playing The Punisher:

IAR: To begin with, Vice has a really wild concept. What were your initial thoughts when you read the script and wrapped your brain around the plot?

Thomas Jane: That's what I thought too. I thought it was really a wild concept. You can take an android and rent it by the hour or by the day, and you can basically do whatever you want to it and not feel guilty about it because it's an android. The question is how do we treat technology and who are we? If we can pretend to be anyone we want, which we can't, do we maintain our humanity when the consequences are buried behind a firewall of technology? I thought that was interesting. Plus there were cute androids in the movie.

Were you attracted to the androids?

Jane: Yeah, there were some cute ones. I definitely wanted to rent a couple.

While Vice is definitely a popcorn movie, it also deals with serious themes like humanity vs. technology. As an actor, is it nice when you can be in a film that is not only entertaining, but also makes the audience think about the world around them?

Jane: Yeah, you don’t want to think too much, but it's nice. I like a little light philosophy with my popcorn. It's always nice to raise some interesting issues and in an entertaining way. That's always a great combination. I think all of best popcorn movies do that. The really successful ones stick with you. The questions that it raises make you think a little bit but it’s not too painful. You don't want to think too much. It's definitely fun for me to be able to relax and improvise a character. I picked it up as we went along. The shooting style was quick and we didn't have a long schedule. For me it's a way of cutting loose. I feel like if I'm having a good time and creating a character that I think would be fun then people will enjoy watching it. There are not a lot of opportunities to play that kind of guy, the kind of guy that chews on a matchstick. It's almost like a hard-boiled detective in some ways. It was fun.

Did you find inspiration for your character in any classic hardboiled detective novels?

Jane: Well I'm certainly a big fan of all that stuff. I'm certainly a fan of some really good hardboiled writing. I've read so many of those books. There are some great books by Carl Hiaasen, and then there's Charlie Houston. I sort of like the newer guys. I like a little Elmore Leonard. There's a really great tradition of noir stuff, and then there's Philip K. Dick. So the movie is sort of a combination of great Philip K. Dick stuff and then Dashiell Hammett. So those are the kind of guys I've been reading and have read that would inspire this kind of character. I'm a fan of that kind of hardboiled fiction and science fiction. That's where I took this character I guess from a lot of the literary type stuff from the books that I have read. Not so much the movies. The old noirs of course, but there's so many great characters that have been created in the books.

What was it like for you acting with Bruce Willis?

Jane: We just had fun. The first role of his that I always think of is Moonlighting. That was a great character that he created and there was this great back and forth that he did on that show. It was very snappy dialogue and that's where I was coming from when I was working with Bruce. I tried to bring a little bit of that sense of humor when working with him and he kind of picked up on it. We had fun.

Had you met him before or was this the first time?

Jane: I hadn't even met him before. We met on the set and I was a little star struck at first. I had never met this guy and he basically is the character he plays. You meet a lot of actors and they're kind of like somebody else. Bruce was pretty much Bruce, and he's a great actor. A lot of guys who get such strong personalities they don’t really need to create a character. They kind of are “that guy” in everything that they do and they’re great at it. There’ll never be another Bruce Willis. I really admire and respect guys like that. They are personalities, but they’re also terrific actors. He’s in that camp.

He is a great actor! I think because he is such a big movie star that people forget how good of an actor he really is. 

Jane: People forget kind of like John Wayne. People never gave Wayne credit, including himself by the way. He never gave himself credit for being anything. He never thought of himself as an actor, but he was a terrific actor. John Ford said, “People don’t realize what a great actor Wayne is.” He really is. I've been watching his movies lately. I’m directing a Western so I’m watching all the old Westerns and I have so much respect for Wayne more than I ever did before now that I’ve seen his movies.

Can you talk about the Western that you’re going to direct?

Jane: It’s a Western called A Magnificent Death from My Shattered Hand. It’s really kind of like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and a little bit of The Searchers meets a spaghetti Western. It’s a terrific script. I should be directing it this year. I got a company out of Italy and we just made a deal with then to do the film. If all goes well, I'll be doing it.

Are you going to act in it as well?

Jane: I’m not going to act. I was at first going to act in it because it was easier since it’s one less part to cast. I acted, directed, and starred in the first film that I directed (Dark Country) and I don’t need to do that again. I’d rather just focus on directing.

That’s really interesting. I’ve talked to a lot of actors who starred in the first film they directed because it helped them get funding. Often they will tell me that if they direct a second movie they don’t want to be in it because they just want to focus on filmmaking. Do you feel the same way?

Jane: Absolutely, and I also think you realize what a hard job it is and you don’t really need to be doing both jobs. There are guys that do it really well. I think Mel Gibson does it really well. I admire the films that he’s directed and he’s been in a lot of them. Even Mel said, “Screw this, I’m going to stick to the directing.” I’ve really fallen in love with the whole thing, the whole process. The whole collaborative process of gathering a group of people together that you’ve hand selected to make a film and allowing them to do great work. It’s really satisfying. It feels great. It feels like I have something to contribute. I'm an actor so I know acting. I know how to get a great performance. I know how to give an actor the space to give a great performance. I've also worked with a lot of great directors so I picked up a lot of tricks along the way. I've got a film under my belt so I'm learning the process of what it is to make a film.

Do you see your career going in that direction in the future? Would you like to eventually be only directing and not acting, or do you think you'll always do both?

Jane: I would love to move out of acting and just start directing. We'll see what happens. I've got this project I'm working on and another couple of scripts, so I've got some pretty good scripts coming along. Yeah, I’ve definitely started focusing more on the producing, directing, creating projects and making them happen. Being a director is what I want to do.

Finally, I’m a big fan of your work in The Punisher, and the short film The Punisher: Dirty Laundry. Now that Marvel Studios has the rights to the character again, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before Frank Castle appears in one of the upcoming Marvel films or TV shows. I know that you loved playing that character. Have you had any discussions with Marvel Studios about reprising your role in the future, or are you ready to pass the baton to another actor?

Jane: I feel like I've done it. That's why I did the short film. I wanted to create something that was truer to my own vision of what that movie could be. I feel like I put that out there. It was really well received. I hope that The Punisher will continue. I hope they get an idea of what it can be and how to make it successful. I hope that they use that short film as a template for how to make it truer to what that character is. I feel like I've done it even though it was a short film. I said what I wanted to say with that guy. I don't think I ever really was the perfect Frank Castle.

Really? Why do you say that? 

Jane: I look at him as Italian. A guy who, I guess I'm the right age now, but I would see him as a weathered guy. My body is not quite perfect for Frank. I would see Frank as more of a square jawed, lock-jawed kind of guy. I don't know who it would be. I think you'd need an unknown to play Frank. He’s really the ideal asshole!

Vice opens in theaters and On Demand January 16th. 

 A Magnificent Death from My Shattered Hand is currently in development. 

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