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‘Punisher’ gets Lionsgate overhaul

October start date set for new franchise

Lionsgate is overhauling “The Punisher,” setting an October start date for a new franchise that will be built on the broad shoulders of “Rome” star Ray Stevenson.

Director Lexi Alexander, the German-born former world kickboxing champ who directed “Hooligans,” will helm the film, which will aim for an R rating.

Nick Santora, Kurt Sutter, Matt Holloway and Art Marcum wrote the script. Gale Anne Hurd and Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige are producing with Ari Arad. MHF Zweite Academy Film is financing.

Stevenson was first seen in Hollywood alongside Clive Owen in the Antoine Fuqua-directed “King Arthur,” but he’s known for playing the Roman soldier Titus Pullo in the HBO series.

“Ray was the first name I wrote down after I saw ‘Rome,’ because he managed to keep the audience caring about him despite being the most violent guy,” said Feige.

New project will mark the third screen incarnation for “The Punisher,” which originated in a comicbook about Frank Castle, a Marine-turned-vigilante who is driven by a desire to avenge the murder of his family after they witness a gangland killing.

Property was turned into a 1989 film that starred Dolph Lundgren and then into a 2004 pic that starred Thomas Jane.

New film will be set in New York, where Castle runs up against a mobster.

Pic will be exec produced by Oliver Hengst, Bill Johnson, Mike Paseornek and John Sacchi. Ernst-August Schneider and Wolfgang Shamberg are associate producers.

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