Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter says his script for Punisher: War Zone was rejected because he took too many liberties with the character. Sutter is best known for creating the long-running FX series starring Charlie Hunnam, former Hellboy Ron Perlman, and his wife Katy Segal and its spinoff Mayans MC, which he was fired from after season 2. The controversial showrunner got his start writing and producing on the crooked cop show The Shield and turned that into cable TV success.
More recently, he’s turned to a bit of acting, appearing in Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley’s sci-fi flop Chaos Walking. He was also responsible for the script for Southpaw, initially written as a vehicle for Rap superstar Eminem, though it ended up starring Jake Gyllenhaal. He also famously worked on a draft of the script for 2008’s soft reboot Punisher: War Zone, but his ideas were mostly discarded after disagreements over the script’s direction. His idea for villain Jigsaw’s (Dominic West) gruesome origin was kept in, though, despite Sutter refusing to take a writing credit on the movie. And now, he’s finally opened up about just why his script was rejected.
Speaking to Coming Soon, Sutter admits that his script was not what the studio had asked for. Hired to do a rewrite, Sutter says he ended up taking “too many liberties” with the IP and took it in a direction that Marvel didn’t want. But Sutter adds he’s proud that his influence on the movie is still seen, particularly in its more gritty and “grounded” approach to storytelling, which included the scene in which Jigsaw is mutilated.
It was a really interesting process and I had never worked with Marvel before. And you know, I think in my draft of the movie, I ultimately took too many liberties in f—ing with the IP — and it was a rewrite. I was not asked to do all that much. I just saw the story in a different way. So ultimately, I wrote the script and they were like, we didn’t want this. But, one of the things I felt I got to do was bring a level of reality to it. I felt like I was able to sort of ground Frank [Castle] a little bit more in the world as I knew it. And the result of that was the recycling plant. And so, yeah, I think that and like, maybe a couple of pieces of dialogue and one other story turn were the remnants of my draft.
This isn’t the first time Sutter has spoken about the mistakes he felt he made with the script for his version of what became Punisher: War Zone. Five years ago, he said his Punisher script was “trying to expand the Marvel Universe in a direction it should not have been expanded in,” and it seems as though he still believes that what he did was incorrect. If Sutter had stuck to the character’s mythos, there’s no doubt he would have been the right kind of writer to take on the character.
The Netflix Punisher series is arguably the kind of Punisher show Sutter would have made, so it’s funny to think now that he ended up writing a script that was seemingly so wrong at the time. Still, whether Sutter’s version of Punisher: War Zone would have fared any better at the box office or divided fans less remains debatable. It seems as though the writer certainly won’t be given a chance again after he blamed Disney for his firing from Mayans MC.