Marvel is a Glutton for Punisher

After two false starts, Marvel is attempting to once again to erect a big-screen tent pole for its comic-book property The Punisher. Daily Variety reports today that Ray Stevenson from HBO’s Rome series has been hired to play the role of Frank Castle, a former Special Forces operative who becomes a vigilante when his family is murdered by an underworld kingpin. Directed by German-born kickboxing champ Lexi Alexander (Hooligans), the movie will begin production in October and will be released by Lionsgate.

Alexander will be working from a screenplay by Nick Santora, Kurt Sutter, Matt Holloway and Art Marcum. The script reportedly has Castle taking on a mobster in New York, but It’s not yet known if the pic will be a complete reboot of the franchise or a direct sequel to the 2004 Lionsgate release starring Thomas Jane. Gale Anne Hurd (The Hulk, Aliens, The Terminator) and Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige are producing with Avi Arad.

The Punisher was created by comic-book writer Gerry Conway and artists John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru. The anti-heroic character first appeared in a Feb. 1974 issue of Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man and eventually became the star of his own comic books and graphic novels before making it to the big screen in 1989 with Dolph Lundgren (Universal Soldier, Rocky IV) in the title role. That version did very little business in theaters and the Thomas Jane incarnation made just $54.7 million worldwide.

Born in Northern Ireland, Stevenson was reportedly cast for his ability to bring humanity to the brutal character Titus Pullo in Rome, which has reached the end of its run on HBO. Previous credits include director Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur and the 2007 zombie TV series Babylon Fields, which CBS picked up and eventually dropped.