HOLLYWOOD superstar Ray Stevenson is best known for playing the famous Marvel vigilante The Punisher.
But it’s a little known fact that the actor, also well known for his roles as Volstagg in Thor and Firefly in GI Joe, is actually from Lisburn, Co Antrim.
Next month Ray, who turned 50 last year, will hit the big screens starring alongside Game of Thrones actor Ed Skrein in The Transporter Refueled.
Ray left Northern Ireland at an early age when his father moved the family to England in an attempt to protect his children.
“I was born in Lisburn almost 50 years ago” said Ray, adding: “I have fond memories of playing on the Giants Causeway with my brothers, of building Go-Karts from broken bicycles and crates, climbing trees and creating general havoc.
“Alas I also have memories of soldiers on the streets, armoured vehicles and one particular night, bathed and scrubbed for school the next day, the windows nearly blown in from a huge explosion at a pub some two miles away.
“I must have been five or six years old and not long after that my father moved us to Newcastle in the north east of England.”
Unfortunately due to his work and family commitments Ray isn’t able to return to Northern Ireland much.
He explained: “To be honest I’ve seldom been back. One time for a bereavement in the family. Then I got a part in King Arthur which shot in Co Wicklow for five-six months. I was staying in Dublin and had a blast (of course) hurtling across the Irish countryside on a huge horse and a sword In hand.
“I do have family in Northern Ireland but seldom get to see them these days.”
One of Ray’s best known roles to date was as the The Punisher, a role he revealed he couldn’t turn down.
He said: “The director (Lexi Alexander) literally told me that I was not allowed to turn this role down. She said if I had doubts she’d sort them out, and this was before I even read it.
“Well, she needn’t have worried.
“The character was incredible and I leapt at the chance to play him.”
Recently Ray was seen starring alongside Ashley Judd and Kate Winslet in Divergent and Insurgent. He played Marcus, the head of one of the “five factions” in an unsavoury underground world created by writer Veronica Roth.
And last year he appeared in the box office hit Big Game with Samuel L Jackson.
“I played the head of close protection to Samuel’s President of the USA in Big Game” said Ray, adding: “It’s my characters last tour with him as my health is failing having taken a bullet for him.
“My character becomes increasingly dissatisfied with this President whom he sees is weakening America’s position and he effectively orchestrates to bring down Air Force One securing his escape in the ‘Pod’ and turning him into the worlds biggest ‘Game’ for hunting.
“Working with Samuel is exactly how you would imagine. What you see is what you get.
“He is larger than life and a very generous actor to work with. We had a lot of fun shooting this movie.”
Despite being a busy working actor Ray is also a dedicated family man and a business man.
The star owns a production company, is a keen painter and juggles it all with great skill. Once married to English actress Ruth Gemmell he has moved on and become a father of three.
He revealed: “It is an easy step to accept the gypsy life of an actor but the hardest thing is asking your loved ones to also accept this life as it takes you away so often.
“I am in a relationship now. I’ve been so blessed in life. My partner is Italian, Elisabetta. We have two gorgeous boys, Sebastiano (six), and Leonardo (nearly three), and our number three son on the way.
“We live on a beautiful island with three cats and a rescue puppy. It’s a world away from my work and when I finish a job my life is 24/7 family.”
The Transporter Refueled, starring Ed Skrein as Frank Martin as a former special-ops mercenary living a less perilous life is out September 4 in cinemas across the country.
Ray Stevenson will play Frank’s father who, after paying his son a visit, ends up the victim of a femme-fatale (Loan Chabonal) as the father and son bonding weekend descends into chaos.
According to some film critics The Transporter Refueled is a reboot of the story of transporter Frank Martin and “a fresh personification of the iconic role of Frank Martin, launching him into the present-day and reinvigorating the high-octane franchise into the next generation”.