Paul Danziger on Puncture
Chris Evans plays lawyer Mike Weiss in the film directed by Adam and Mark Kassen. Mark Kassen also plays Weiss’s partner Paul Danziger. The lawsuit that Weiss and Danziger fought so hard to win was a battle against GPOs, a “purchasing cartel” that had a monopoly like grip on what supplies and equipment are purchased by hospitals. Their client has developed a safety syringe that would prevent medical professionals from being infected by contaminated needles.
Free Press Houston spoke to the real life Paul Danziger by phone. Danziger wrote the original story then hired another writer Ela Their to shape it into script form. The Kassen Brothers were approached and took on the project, bringing in another writer, Chris Lopata, to get the story closer to their vision of the movie. After a development process of about 15 months the movie was a go project with Evans attached as the star.
Danziger allows that the casting was spot on with Evans capturing all of Weiss’s idiosyncrasies. “Weiss was a bit of a genius,” Dazinger stated, “And that genius came with a host of crazy clothes, ties, tattoos and animals.” In Puncture Weiss is seen having a wild party at his house and in addition playing with his pet reptiles. “Weiss had those exact pets,” acknowledged Danziger.
Danziger also praised the look of Puncture, “the skyline of Houston adding a statement about the power of the city.” He also noted that supporting actor Brett Cullen totally nailed the character of the opposition lawyer Nathaniel Price. “He had the correct amount of swagger and bravado you see in a lot of Texas lawyers.” Danziger has a cameo in Puncture playing a lawyer on Price’s team who’s introduced to Mark Kassen (playing Danziger).
I ask Danziger if Weiss’s colorful clothing gave him a psychological advantage in the courtroom. “If anything it gave him a psychological disadvantage. He had one judge tell he ‘You can’t wear that in my courtroom.’” But then once Weiss opened his mouth he was so eloquent and well informed that people listened and stopped staring at his apparel.
As played by Evans, Weiss is a tragic character, a functioning drug addict who at times seems to be fighting windmills. The drugs take their toll and Weiss overdoses fatally. “Mike’s cell phone rang all the time but when he suddenly died, within a week or two it stopped ringing. Everyone can be replaced,” Danziger sadly said.
Danziger set up an unofficial website for Puncture that contains many of the facts about the case, testimonials about Weiss and photos from the film. Several very moving statements about Weiss can be found under the heading of Weiss’s memorial service. A local businessman and civic leader Darryl King had this to say about Weiss.
“He took responsibility for many, many, people. He took precious little responsibility for himself. He didn’t care for thousand dollar suits, new shoes, or hundred dollar silk neckties. What he found excited him was engaging in conversation; a duel of the mind. A treat for him was good people, no matter what their status. You could be poor, you could be rich, you could be male, female, black or white, you could be a racist as long as you were willing to state your case in an intelligent fashion. He would talk to you. With Mike, you were measured by how you treated him and other people. If you engaged him, he would light up at the opportunity to get in your mind and see what you were thinking.”
– Michael Bergeron