Piecing Together Jigsaw: Punisher's Dominic West

In his official biography, Dominic West stated he left his burgeoning career in England for Hollywood because he was getting tired of doing costume dramas.

“Completely,” West acknowledged while doing an appearance for MTV. “Jigsaw was the complete opposite of anything I ever played in England. I played this ridiculously sadistic bastard and I loved it. In the UK I always got the chick flicks, romantic leads and all that. Not that I mind playing against Julie Roberts or Sandra Bullock. I just really wanted to play the villains. They usually have the better parts.”

West was making an impression here in the U.S. before he took the role of one of Frank Castle’s main nemeses. In 2002, he did a memorable bit in the musical Chicago. He also hit immediate cult status when he got the role of McNulty on The Wire. In 2007, with the series finally coming to an end, he moved on to the mob crazed mob boss.

“It’s not really very different when you really look at it,” says West talking to Newsarama. “What was appealing about going from The Wire to Punisher War Zone is Jigsaw is played in very broad strokes. There’s not much subtlety in playing him. In The Wire, it was all about subtlety. That was what drew me to Jigsaw. He was the most evil sadist I ever read for.”

It was also the first time he ever worked against the latest incarnation of Frank Castle, Ray Stevenson.

“I really only got to work against him near the end,” says West. “Most of the film I got to strut my stuff as Vinnie and then Jigsaw, being generally unpleasant. Then when I was on the same set as him, that’s when I realized he was 6’4” or something like that. He’s vast and ripped, both of us with serious hardware on us. Then we went hand-to-hand. Mind you I’m about six foot tall. Still, he has this big physical presence and is a trained fighter as well. So no matter what, he was the guy in charge. So to work with him, and it was good.”

Not that it was the easiest role West ever took on. The makeup process alone consumed a considerable amount of time.

“It took about two hours to get on and about an 1 ½ hours to get off, every day,” he said. “The advantage of it was filming in Montreal in December, where it was often –10 degrees, it kept me warm, which was quite nice. Once you get that stuff is stuck all over your head, you really do feel the part. The makeup does a lot of acting for you. I thought about it while I was working outside in –10 degrees, putting two hours of prosthetic make-up ever day and always shooting at night.

“It should have been one dreadful experience, but I always remember it as very fun. I remember getting along great with Doug Hutchinson, who played my sidekick Loony Bin Jim. Lexi Alexander is also very cool person. She also wrote the script, and really when you get down to it she wrote some really good material.”

Not that he has been idle between the Punisher shoot and release. West worked on a four-part TV special called The Devil’s Whore, where he played another notorious man, Oliver Cromwell.

“It’s a costume drama, but I do play a very nasty piece of work,” he said. “Oliver Cromwell is absolutely fascinating, a most amazing man. At the same time he did a great job of killing the greater populace of England and Ireland. It was a really fascinating time in English history. They were doing stuff that 150 years later would be repeated in France. Also, the descendants of many of the people who left thanks to him would go on to write the American Constitution. It was a period of fascinating people.”

If anything, it sounds like he’s back to costume dramas, but with a big difference. You can’t call these outings chick flicks.

“I’m working in Scotland that is based on a piece of history between the last Roman Legions and the Celts. It’s called Centurion, and will be out this January,” says West. “I’m hoping to direct a new episode of the series David Simon is producing. It’s based in New Orleans and is about the musicians who still live there.”

As for playing Jigsaw? There’s only one thing he now wishes for being the former Eton grad is now a father.

“I want to get my doll,” he jokes. “I hope there’s a figurine of me to give to my kids. That would impress my children, who haven’t been impressed with any of my other roles. You really don’t score points with the kids until you’re an action figure.”


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