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Q&A with Thomas Jane

The former MF cover star talks comics, movies, and alien life forms

Interview conducted by Matt Tuthill Were you happy with how Mutant Chronicles turned out? Well, happy is a relative word. I’m happy with a lot of it. I love the look of the film. I loved the costume that we picked out. I love the steampunk vibe. Overall, I'm happy with it. I’m disappointed the numbers don’t reflect how well the movie did. The movie fits the perfect profile of guys who illegally download movies. It had me and Ron Perlman—Hellboy and the Punisher—and somebody leaked an almost-finished version of the film and people were charging money to download it. We hired a company to clean it up. But you can’t clean it up. Somebody did the tracking, there were over a million downloads in a very short period of time. We probably lost $30 million or $40 million. And you never figured out who leaked it? Well, somebody leaks it from the effects house. We were working on the effects and somebody took it home and put it on the Internet, and we could never source it, but that’s what happened. And there are certain films that are tailor-made for Bit Torrent, and that’s one of them. So the movie did much better than what was reflected because nobody bought the fuckin’ thing because everybody downloaded it for free. So I have a bitter taste in my mouth about that. You can’t watch it for fuckin’ free. If you do, you kill the business, and then we don’t make those movies anymore because the numbers that are reflected say that this movie did poorly when the opposite is true. So, you want to make another one and nobody wants to put up the cash. So, it sucks.

You said you’ve probably done a few too many B movies. Did you have anything in mind when you said that? Mutant Chronicles. Movies that don’t make money, they hurt your career, because then it’s harder to make the next one. You’re always taking a risk with those movies, because you’re usually working with a director who’s unproven and you don’t have as much money to make the movies that you want to make and that’s just the facts of the business. You’ve got to do more mainstream stuff. Do you have a favorite project? You say you don’t like looking back on things. Oh, I don’t watch any of them. I liked making Stander and I liked making 61*. I liked making Boogie Nights, Punisher, and I love making Hung. I think Hung is probably my best work. I know you said you didn’t see Punisher: War Zone, but that you hated the script and had to turn it down. Well, I did see it and you probably saved yourself from career suicide on that. It was absolutely horrendous. It was a hard decision to make because they offered me a lot of money. That was part of my contract, but that was the only thing hard about it. It was not something I had to even think twice about. I said, “Fellas, I’m not doing this movie if you paid me $5 million. It’s not gonna happen.” So the next six issues of Bad Planet, can you give us an idea of where that’s going to take everything? Apocalypse. I’m really interested in the theory that this civilization that we’re living in — our current civilization — is not the only advanced civilization that has been around on this planet. There’s a theory that recorded history started between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago. And the traditional science tells us that we evolved up from the Neanderthal into a civilized society that lived for thousands and thousands of years without any way of recording history. I really believe that every 20 to 25,000 years, an apocalypse happens that has wiped out civilization, and I think it’s happened at least once. I think it’s happened more than once. But if you think about it, if this civilization were to end, in 1,000 years there would be absolutely no vestige to say that we were here, except for a very few couple of surviving artifacts, like maybe the Statue of Liberty.

Well, we find millions-of-years-old fossils all the time. Yeah, we find bones. We still find bones that are puzzling to us. If you do any serious research — there’s all kinds of evidence of civilizations that have existed that fall outside of the parameters of what we know to be. That’s my theory. Bad Planet explores the idea that the universe is full of intelligent, civilized life, full of it. Literally, millions of planets exist where the life forms have advanced to the point where they have become part of a universal community. Interstellar travel and communication and trade between planets exist. These guys are smart enough to know that each planet has to develop by itself to become a part of the bigger picture. They have to get off their own planet. In order to do, in order for us to get off our own planet, we have to work together in such a way that we don’t spend any time or money on war or on boundaries or on countries, on saying, “This is my land, this is your land.” We need to work together and put our minds together in such a way to create the technology to get off our own planet. If we’re busy making war and squabbling, that’s never going to happen. So, the aliens come down. They give us about 20,000 years to get it together. And then when it comes to a point where they realize that this breed, this particular strand of DNA is not going to develop far enough, we’re not physically or spiritually molded properly to enable us to all work together and become part of the community, they come in and wipe us out and start over. They can’t interfere because each planet has to grow organically in order to have something to contribute to the rest of the universe. So at a certain point, they can’t let it continue. Exactly. This is a bad planet. We’ll wipe it out and start over. In 20,000 years we’ll be back, and we’ll see what’s happening with you guys and we’ll try again. So we have to let it grow organically. But it’s been a couple of times and it’s not working out yet. It’s happened on other planets. It takes maybe four or five growths before the right combination is found and we grow into a species that is capable of joining the universal melting plot. Is it all written? Yes. Yes it is. And issue 7 is done. I had an artist named Gregory Staples out of the UK — brilliant artist. He finished issue one and then he quit. The work that I ask for is incredibly demanding. Not a lot of artists are capable of it, and even fewer artists have the will or desire to continue with it. The money in comics as you know, or maybe as you don’t know, is not any good. So it’s really done for the love of something. It’s a miracle that this got finished, and we lost Greg because he said after the first issue, “This is way too hard and it’s not worth the money and you can’t pay me enough.” And I said, “What’s it going to take? How much money?” He said, “There is no money to pay me to finish this, it’s too much work." It’s going to be around after I die, so it’s gotta be something that I really believe in. It costs me a lot of money. I break even on the books, but that’s it. What else is coming through Raw besides the next set of Bad Planet? The Lycan. It’s a six-issue story that I outlined, and I hired a guy named Mike Carey to do the script, and he did a tremendous job. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of because Mike captured the flavor of how people used to talk in the late 1700s, and the story is tremendously cool. It’s about seven big-game hunters on a ship that come back from Africa with pelts and stuff and they’re coming to sell their stuff to Europe and they see a distress signal on an island, like the Isle of Man, from the lighthouse and they stop in a storm, and they find that the whole town’s been abandoned; everybody’s holed up because a giant beast is terrorizing the village. RAW Studios also helped produce this movie called I Melt With You. We’re producing another movie called Glen Sherley, which is the real-life story of Glen Sherley, who is a criminal in Folsom Prison in the '70s and learned how to play guitar and he literally sang himself out of Folsom Prison. He got released into the custody of Johnny Cash. It’s a great story. And the Western — A Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand — I’m going to do that. So those are some of the things that we’re doing, and then we’ve got digital comics that are coming out soon, too.

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