Everyone Really Thought The Punisher Tore That Guy’s Face Off

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To a lot of people Jon Bernthal’s take on everyone’s favourite Marvel disciplinarian, The Punisher, is the definitive portrayal of the character on the big or small screen. A side effect of this though is that the sheer intensity of his performance often overshadowed his co-stars, one of whom screamed so convincingly during a take everyone on set including Bernthal thought his face was actually being torn off.

First though, for anyone unfamiliar with how seriously Bernthal took playing the skull-themed scourge of crime, he engaged in a punishing workout schedule for the filming of each season of the show and spent a not insignificant amount of time getting into the headspace of a man who just fucking hates crime, like so much you guys.

To this end, Bernthal spent months hitting the gym and several stunt men whilst helping refine the Punisher’s painfully-pragmatic fighting style, a unique blend of elite special forces CQC techniques built upon a base of Bernthal’s own boxing skills. The end result is a fighting style designed to put people down as quickly and painfully as possible that utilises the fact the Punisher is certifiably insane and powered seemingly by pure rage and adrenaline. To explain, something Bernthal was keen to happen in fight scenes involving the Punisher is for him to take hits to put himself in a more advantageous position.

Why? Well this goes hand-in-hand with something else Bernthal felt was key to fight scenes in the show being something fans would feel invested in. Emotion. Which is why you’ll notice that Bernthal’s Punisher doesn’t just coldly dispatch his foes with the ruthless, calculating efficiency you’d expect from an elite special forces veteran. Because, well, the character isn’t just trying to kill people, he’s there to punish them. Duh.

Which, yeah, is sort of his whole thing and brings us to the fight scene he had with actor Ben Barnes during the first seasons finale. For anyone unfamiliar with this scene it called for Bernthal to kick the ever-living fuck out of Barnes after the former’s character (the Punisher) learns the latter’s (Billy Russo) had something do with his family’s death.

Not wanting Russo to get off easy with a bullet to the gut or 85 swift kicks to the kidney, the Punisher, true to his name, tortures Russo by repeatedly slamming his face into a mirror and then dragging it along the broken surface. A double fuck you to Russo who’s a malignant narcissist obsessed with his looks.

The thing is, such a scene was initially believed to be impossible to film in as much detail as needed because, fuck, even dragging someone’s face down a non-broken mirror could be painful if you did it too roughly. Which was a genuine risk since Bernthal kept getting way too into the fight, reportedly accidentally socking Barnes on the jaw for real no less than three times.

Eventually a solution was found in the form of a plastic mask that would fit over half of Barnes’ face and an agreement between both actors that if, at any point, it actually started to hurt, Barne’s would scream and they’d immediately stop. The problem was, the scene literally called for Barne’s to act as if his face was being torn off. You can probably see where this is going.

According to Barnes the first take they did, of three potential takes they could do since that’s how many fake mirrors they had, he let out a scream so horrifying Bernthal immediately let up and the director called cut to bring out a nurse. When Barnes asked why they’d stopped rolling Bernthal helped the actor up and reportedly quipped –

How you thought I was supposed to know the difference between that scream and the scream of actual horror and death. 

How you thought indeed.