41-year-old American actor Jon Bernthal spent time in jail as a teenager, was menaced at gunpoint in Moscow in his twenties, and nearly killed a man when he was thirty-two. As he takes on his biggest role since The Walking Dead—starring on Netflix’s new series The Punisher—Bernthal talks to Esquire US about owning guns, his role on The Punisher, his relationship with Oliver Stone, one thing he’s always been afraid of, and how he finally learned to keep his demons at bay.
· On what it’s like to work with him on set of The Punisher: “Ask people on set and they’ll say I’m difficult. But it’s not about my trailer or the food; it’s always about making the role make sense.”
· Responding to the Punisher symbol being spotted on military helmets in Iraq and biker jackets, and seen on the shoulders of alt-right protesters at the white-supremacy rally in Charlottesville, VA: “I feel honored to play a guy who people putting their life on the line identify with.” And the alt-righters? “Fuck them.”
· On guns and gun control: “I’m a gun owner. I have a gun in my house to keep my family safe. I’m trained in that gun’s use. I know how to keep it away from my kids, and I know how to use it if I need to. Should there be a way that a guy with mental issues like the asshole in Texas can’t get guns? Absolutely. We have to have a dialogue, and that’s not happening.”
· Before Bernthal and Oliver Stone became good friends, the actor snapped at the director during the filming of World Trade Center: One day during filming [Stone] screamed that the actor’s takes were either too over-the-top or too tepid. Eventually, Stone walked over from the video village and shouted at Bernthal and a few other actors. “You are all so fucking vain,” Stone said. He turned to Bernthal and jabbed a finger in his face. “And you are the worst.” Bernthal slapped the director’s hand away. “Let me tell you something, dude. You might be Oliver Stone, but I will beat your fucking ass right here on this set. In front of everybody here, I will beat your ass. You got that?” Stone retreated. Nicolas Cage, one of the stars of the film, wandered over and said, “Wow, man, there was adversity and you threw more adversity at it.”
· One reason he hasn’t settled into being a superhero: “You talk about Leo, you talk about Brad, the guys I really, really respect—and they have all kind of stayed clear of the superhero stuff.”
· What he hopes for his kids, particularly his sons: “I want them to see kindness as masculine, not a sign of weakness.”
Jon wears coat by Prada; jeans by Simon Miller; and boots from Early Halloween, Vintage Clothing, N.Y.C. on the February cover of Esquire US shot by Beau Grealy. (source)