Thomas Jane, currently starring in Warner Bros' Dreamcatcher,has signed to play the lead role in Artisan Pictures and Marvel Studios' superheroadaptation The Punisher.

Set to start shooting in July with a view to a Summer 2004 release,the project is the latest example of the joint venture between Artisan andMarvel to develop, produce and distribute Marvel-based programming across allmedia.

The companies plan to share profits equally after distributionfees and are already at work on adapting another popular comic book character, IronFist.

In The Punisher, Jane will play former Special Forces and FBI agent Frank Castle,who seeks to avenge his murdered family.

The film was written and will be directed by Jonathan Hensleighand will be produced by Marvel's chief executive officer Avi Arad (The Hulk, Daredevil, Spider-Man) and Gale Anne Hurd (The Hulk, Aliens, The Terminator).

The story first appeared in Marvel Comics more than 25years ago and remains one of the company's best selling titles.

"Thomas Jane, being a character actor, is going to have allthe dimension necessary to bring to life the depth of a character who is boththe hero and the victim with the physicality of a super hero," Arad said in astatement.

"Thomas is a very talented and focused actor who possessesboth the physical and dramatic qualities we were hoping to find in our Punisher. He brings with him an intensity andstrength that we believe will help to define the character and energize thefilm," added Artisan Pictures production president Richard Saperstein.

Jane's acting creditsinclude Dreamcatcher,The Sweetest Thing, UnderSuspicion and DeepBlue Sea.