NR Interview: Thomas Jane discusses Dark Country, Punisher and his upcoming Western

Just in time for Halloween weekend, we caught up with Thomas Jane (Punisher, Hung) as he promotes the October 28th 3D screening of Dark Country, a movie that marked his directorial debut. Attendees will have a chance to meet Jane as he signs the Dark Country graphic novels (details below). In the interview, Jane talks about Dark Country, Punisher and more.

Nerd Reactor: What’s the story behind the Dark Country movie?

Thomas Jane: The history of Dark Country started out as a short story by Tab Murphy. Tab’s a screenwriter who actually made a good living writing Disney films like Hunchback of Notre Dame and Tarzan, but he had this really dark and twisted Twilight Zone-influenced short story that he wrote. I thought it would make a terrific first film because it’s a small character piece with a lot of horror and suspense.

It’s about a couple driving through the desert who comes across this body that’s lying in the middle of the road, and they pick him up and try to find a hospital. The guy wakes up in the backseat completely covered in blood with his ears kind of hanging off, and of course he tries to kill the guy driving, and then all hell breaks loose.

And what about the Dark Country graphic novel?

It is a cross between film noir and a graphic novel. It is by a Swiss artist named Thomas Ott. He does these super cool scratchboard graphic novels that doesn’t use any dialogue at all. He’s really popular in Europe, and people are starting to get turned on to him here. I’m a huge Thomas Ott fan.

I asked Thomas Ott to take the short story and adapt it into a graphic novel. Thomas hadn’t seen the movie when he did the work (he’s seen the movie now). The way he tells the story is really fantastic. I actually wished that I asked Thomas to do the graphic novel before I made the movie because I think I would have done things a little bit differently. It’s two different takes of the same story. They’re both unique, and it’s not a faithful adaptation to the film at all. That’s what makes it fun.

That’s a little bit like how The Walking Dead writer, Robert Kirkman, is tackling the TV version of his graphic novel.

Yeah, yeah, like kill off guys that maybe haven’t been killed off yet and vice versa. I think that’s good. It’s tricky when you’re adapting something that’s very well known that has beloved characters. You know, like the Punisher for example. You change the backstory and you decide to set it in Florida, you might rankle some nerves for guys who are fans. But then again you do want to find ways to keep it fresh and surprise people. It’s a fine line.

Speaking of Punisher, have you seen Punisher: Warzone?

I never saw Warzone. Punisher 2, the version I was working on was scrapped when I dropped out. Believe me, you’re not missing anything. The reason I dropped out was because I couldn’t get a grip on how to tell that story. When they finally got a director, they ended up doing a whole different kind of story than the one I was working on. I think that Ray Stevenson is a good actor and I like his work.

Loved him in Thor.

Yeah, and he was great in Rome.

You recently did a Punisher fan film. Will we be seeing you in a future Punisher flick?

I don’t think that Marvel is really in the business of doing R-rated stuff. They seem to not have good luck with the Punisher series. I would love to do another Punisher film. I did the short film just for the fans because I never saw an adaptation to the screen of the character, Frank Castle, that I liked or thought was faithful to the original character. If I did have the opportunity to make a Punisher film, that’s the theme I would want to have. I think that someday that film will get made.

What’s your next project you’re working on?

It’s called A Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand. I helped write this Western with Jose Prendes. It’s going to star Nick Nolte and Jeremy Irons. I’m going to direct and also play a role in it. We’re putting together a great ensemble cast. We’re making a traditional straight ahead, shoot-’em-up Western. We start shooting in spring.

What’s the story about?

A robber does a stage coach robbery when he was a young man. It went terribly wrong where a bunch of women and children got killed, so he buried the money. The robber confesses his crime to his son, played by my character. I find the map that my father made, and I go off into the desert looking for this stolen gold.

Nick Nolte plays the mine owner and runs this town. His beautiful daughter gets kidnapped and the kidnappers hold her for ransom. I end up rescuing this woman, but the posse that’s after me doesn’t know that. They’re actually going after me, thinking that I’m the kidnappers. So we got that going on at the same time.

We’re certainly paying an homage to Spaghetti Westerns, as well as the traditional John Ford’s Westerns. We’re going to shoot it at Monument Valley, where John Ford made most of his Westerns. The Western is like a love affair with the land, carving out civilizations out of deserts and all that fun mythic stuff. I like to consider it an American myth.

What’s your go-to Western movie?

Lonely Are the Brave with Kirk Douglas. That’s a fantastic Western. If you’re looking for a classic, tradition Western, you can’t go wrong with John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). My Darling Clementine with Henry Fonda is another superb Western.

The guys that carved out civilization, the first to come out and fuck the Indians and dig civilization out of dirt…those tough, strong individuals were the ones we needed to plant the flag of civilization of the Wild West. Once those civilization takes hold, they needed to be kicked out because they’re too wild. You need to either have them move on or you need to kill them in order for civilization to keep going. And I love that juxtaposition.

Come check out Thomas Jane and the screening of Dark Country in 3D this Saturday, October 28th, at the Downtown Independent Theater starting at 7pm. He’ll be signing Dark Country graphic novels, and there will be an on-stage interview by Eddie Muller, AKA the Czar of Noir.

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