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Thomas Jane’s Billion Dollar Babies

Though he’s starred in such memorable movies as The Mist, Deep Blue Sea, and The Punisher, Thomas Jane isn’t waiting around by the phone for the next big thing to fall into his lap. At Comic-Con, he unveiled the Punisher fan-film #DIRTYLAUNDRY to prove that Frank Castle (now legally back with Marvel Studios) still has cinematic life left in him. He’s making a video game based on his comic Bad Planet, funded by Kickstarter. And just for fun, he whipped up a fake trailer for a Six Billion Dollar Man movie, using footage from other movies. He may not be bionic for real, but we had to catch up to him and discover his creative super-powers.

(Editor’s note: Thomas is Chris’ guest on the Nerdist Podcast, coming later Wednesday morning to Nerdist.com)

Nerdist: #DIRTYLAUNDRY was one of the most buzzed-about films once the Comic-Con dust settled. What inspired you to make the film, and why do you feel that this isn’t the kind of superhero film that Hollywood could make on its own?

Thomas Jane: I love the character and I’m a fan of the old pulp crime novels by Harry Whittington, Donald Westlake, and of course Don Pendleton. The kind of anti-hero stuff that was done so well in the ’60s & ’70s has always inspired me to do something in that vein, and the Frank Castle character was just crying out for that kind of treatment. But that’s not an easy sell today.

N: The fan reaction has been almost universally positive; have you heard any reactions from the industry? Did that even matter to you when making it? Do you want to make more Frank Castle short films?

TJ: I’m very pleased that the short has proved that there is a strong audience for the kind of material that I’m kinda good at. I don’t think you’ll see my mug in a lotta romantic comedies…

N: You currently have a Kickstarter to make your comic Bad Planet a game. What are the challenges of translating Bad Planet into a game, as opposed to writing a comic?

TJ: The game opens up worlds that were only hinted at in the comic. It’ll be a serialized game, so we can get epic with the scale and scope of the Bad Planet world and tell a lot of story, while causing galaxy-wide mayhem with the DeathSpiders and other alien creepy crawlers. Our lead is another “anti-hero” – an escaped convict from an intergalactic prison, come to earth to exact revenge on the alien race known as the Quadropoids – who also destroyed his homeworld with the DeathSpiders. The problem is, the Convict doesn’t seem to care if he destroys our planet in the process.

N: Did your experience on the Punisher game inform your decision to move forward on Bad Planet at all?

TJ: Ron Perlman will be voicing the Convict. He’s learning the alien dialect now. By time he’s got that down, we should be ready with the game.

N: When the game is completed, any chance of you using it to create Bad Planet machinima?

TJ: Whatever that is, it sounds cool!

N: Outside of the Bad Planet game, it looks like RAW Studios is starting to stretch its legs with more comic titles. What can you tell us about Alien Worlds and a book of your inception, The Lycan?

TJ: Alien Worlds is a kick-ass sci-fi anthology book that was created by Bruce Jones. Since Jones was a hero of ours, and he’s helping me write Bad Planet: Apocrypha now, we asked him if he had any old AW stories laying around. He didn’t. But, he said he’d write some new ones! So we’re working on the Alien Worlds relaunch now, with stories by Corbin, Stout and a new breed of artists that we love.

The Lycan is a story set in the late 1700’s, on a small British Isle. A band of big game hunters on the way back from Africa get shipwrecked, and taken in by the local Lord, who lives in a giant castle. Turns out the whole village is holed up there, because there’s a beast killing the villagers – the Lycan. The Lord offers the hunters a new ship if they can catch and kill the beast. Turns out to be a lot harder than they thought, especially when the beast finds it’s way into the castle. Think Alien but with werewolves and a gothic castle..

N: What else does RAW have in the pipeline?

TJ: We are heading to Utah to film a Western! It’s called A Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand, written by Jose Prendes and myself. And it is awesome. Tim Bradstreet and I are very excited to bring this one to life. We are talking to Nick Nolte and Jeremy Irons and others to star.

N: Between #DIRTYLAUNDRY, your Six Billion Dollar Man trailer and your Kickstarter campaign for Bad Planet, you seem to be something of a DIY renaissance man. What compelled you to go outside traditional avenues for these projects and take the reins yourself?

TJ: Because sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring isn’t as fun. And because we can. Tim is a great conceptual artist, and he has great story ideas too. He’s also fantastic with music. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I used to write and draw my own comic books. I used to make animated films with a Super 8 camera; sadly lost those in a fire. Or maybe not so sad. So really this is a natural progression. I’ve always been passionate about making my own films. Acting for me was a way in.

N: Where do you see the crowdfunding community heading?

TJ: I don’t know. I think entertainment will start to bifurcate and grow smaller offshoots, with smaller but dedicated audiences. It has to. Studios aren’t making many smaller movies, and there’s a demand for idiosyncratic forms of art and amusement that is, for the first time, able to find a wider audience through digital.

N: What advice would you give to readers who are interested in creating works of their own, but need that extra push?

TJ: We need you.

N: Tell us more about the Six Billion Dollar Man trailer. What prompted you to make this? Are you pushing for a revival of the franchise or was this just something for fun?

TJ: I would fucking kill to play Steve Austin. Here’s what I love about the Bionic Man: he’s a broken man who has been rebuilt to be better than he ever was, better than most people will ever be, but at the price of his personal freedom. His parts, which allow him to live a “normal” life – indeed they have saved his life – are not his own. His legs and arm and eye are owned by the biggest corporation in the world, the United States Government. So he is alive, but his life is not his own. He is a multi-billion dollar experiment. And they can pull the plug at any time. It’s like that old Japanese thing, if someone saves your life, you owe him your life, forever. He owns you. OK, and he can run 60 miles an hour. And see through women’s clothing with his bionic eye. Okay, I just made that up.

N: You’ve made a Frank Castle fan film and cut a Six Billion Dollar Man trailer… What other fan obsessions do you want to tackle?

TJ: I want to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune into a giant, multi-part comic book series. Get the whole book in there, adapted to comics. And I want Tim Bradstreet to ink it.

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3 comments

  • This was an awesome interview. I’ve had so much respect for Thomas Jane since I first saw him in Deep Blue Sea. I watched that film and thought, “Wow, here’s a guy who can beat the shit out of a mutated shark.” I was thoroughly surprised when I found out he was fellow fanboy of all things awesome. I’m very disappointed that Hung was recently canceled, but I’m happy that it frees Jane up for other great things such as this. I may have to head over to Kickstarter and contribute towards the Bad Planet game (even though I’m sure it’ll only appear on the PC; I’m a PS3-only gamer myself). This is why Kickstarter is such a great, innovative tool. Wish I could’ve used them to recently fund one of my own independent projects, but unfortunately, they don’t like Canadians. At least IndieGoGo was a reliable second choice. Anyway, this was a great read. I’ll continue to hope that Marvel comes knocking on Jane’s door with the next Punisher script.