Punisher Movie Brings Bright Lights To Tampa

In this local article director Jonathon Hensleigh lets it slip where they'll be filming. Tampa citizens be on the look out for Frack Castle...
TAMPA (2003-08-05) Like "Spiderman" and "The X-Men" series, "The Punisher" is a live action thriller based on a character from a popular Marvel Comic Book series. It stars actor Thomas Jane in the title role.

Jane is known for his big screen work in "Dreamcatcher" with Morgan Freeman and in 1998's hit "Boogie Nights". He also starred as Mickey Mantle in the HBO television movie "*61."

"The Punisher" will also feature actors John Travolta and Laura Harring, among others.

Director Jonathon Hensleigh says that while the film will have plenty of chases and explosions, he will rely more on the type of live action sequences popularized in the urban action films of the '60s and '70s.

HENSLEIGH: I wanted to try to replicate the tone of "French Connection" or "Dirty Harry" or "Bullitt" before the advent of computer-generated effects. I grew up on those films and that's what we're trying to do here.

Hensleigh says he scouted locations in Houston, New Orleans and Mobile before deciding that Tampa had everything the filmmakers needed. The schedule calls for shooting in downtown Tampa, Ybor City and The Port of Tampa. In Pinellas County, the crew will be working on Honeymoon Island and on Mullet Key.

The film's producer, Gale Anne Hurd, says moviegoers will see plenty of local color and viewers around the world will be exposed to the sights and sounds of the Tampa Bay Area.

HURD: The location in the script is Tampa. It's identified as Tampa. And we all collectively feel that it's long overdue for Tampa to have it's close-up as Tampa on the big screen.

The production company is employing about 300 people, many of them local technicians, designers, carpenters and caterers. Hurd says she hopes "The Punisher" will bring more movie productions to the area.

HURD: People here work really hard, they don't complain, they've been welcoming and supportive and cooperative. And, I think it's a perfect marriage between Hollywood and Tampa and I'd like to see this be the first film of many that come to Tampa.

The City of Tampa's Creative Industries Manager Paul Wilborn agrees. Wilborn was hired recently by Mayor Pam Iorio to lure arts and entertainment industry dollars to the city. Wilborn says the millions of dollars in business that this production promises is a great start, but he has his eyes on the bigger picture.

WILBORN: Where you really see economic growth is not through one movie but through things coming back and Hollywood discovering that Tampa's a great location. And, we're encouraging it and doing everything we can to help them because the real economic benefit I think for the city is in showing that others can follow. That we can handle it and that it's a great place to come and film a movie or a commercial or a television show.

"The Punisher" will be filming in Tampa and throughout the bay area through the first of the year. Producers expect for the movie to open in theaters next summer.
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