How Daredevil ‘s Jon Bernthal Became the Baddest Man in the Marvel Universe

You will probably never see Jon Bernthal in a Nancy Meyers romantic comedy. He’s okay with that; getting to play Marvel badass The Punisher in the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil is a fine consolation. But don’t think he wouldn’t jump at the chance to be the hunky doctor in your wife’s (or, if you’re being honest, your) next favourite flick. “Look man, it’s not that I don’t want to do a romantic comedy,” he says. “It’s just that nobody wants my ugly ass in them.”

Jon Bernthal Daredevil Punisher

Leather jacket ($7,775) by Brunello Cucinelli; cashmere sweater ($1,025) by The Elder Statesman; cotton jeans ($100) by Levi’s.

Let’s call bullshit on that last part. He’s a little rough-hewn, yes — the man has broken his nose 14 times (he likes to box) — but in a grittily handsome sort of way. The 39-year-old is the last of a dwindling breed in Hollywood: an actor who can play granite-hard, take-no-crap tough guys and look perfect for the part. And that means he’s not exactly perfect for an underwear ad. When you see him kicking ass — whether it’s slaying zombies in The Walking Dead or shelling Nazis in Fury — you believe he’s truly capable of doing it. Just look at those eyes: they’ve seen some hell.

LEFT: Cotton blazer ($130) by Calvin Klein White Label; cotton sweater ($895) by Brunello Cucinelli; cashmere t-shirt ($620) by The Elder Statesman. RIGHT: Nylon jacket ($545) by EFM; cotton sweater ($110) by Life After Denim; cotton jeans ($180) by Nudie Jeans; leather sneakers ($760) by John Varvatos.

Of course, it takes more than hardened looks to exude the kind of intensity Bernthal does on camera. A textbook method actor, he dives straight into the deep end for every role, no matter how dark. For The Punisher, that meant adopting the mindset of a war veteran who turns vigilante after witnessing his family’s murder.

Jon Bernthal Punisher Daredevil

Leather jacket ($2,000) and cotton sweater ($360) by John Varvatos; cotton jeans ($180) by Nudie Jeans; metal sunglasses ($200) by Ray-Ban.

“I had to stop all contact with my wife and kids for months at a time,” he says. “I’d put a bunch of weight in my backpack and walk back and forth over the Brooklyn Bridge alone. I really locked myself down with the source material and stayed within that darkness, not getting distracted by anything unrelated to the character.” In case you’re not impressed yet, he also filmed most of his own fight scenes (that boxing hobby proved handy).

LEFT: Cotton jacket ($200) by Calvin Klein Jeans; cotton T-shirt ($75) by LNA Clothing; cotton jeans ($180) by Nudie Jeans; leather shoes ($1,150) by Esquivel. RIGHT: Wool-silk blend jacket ($2,480) by Jeffrey Rüdes; polyester button down ($240) by VINCE; metal sunglasses ($200) by Ray-Ban

But all that isn’t to say Bernthal’s M.O. is doom and gloom. It doesn’t take long to notice the everyman affability behind his mean-mugging exterior. He’s macho but kind, aggressive but charming. The type of guy who’ll make self-deprecating jokes (see: above), or volunteer for dog rescues like The Majority Project (“I’ve rescued many pit bulls. It’s a big passion of mine”). He’s a bruiser who cares deeply — about other beings and about his craft.

LEFT: Leather jacket ($2,000) by John Varvatos; cotton sweater ($215) by Alex Mill; cotton button down ($310) by Bespoken. Right: Cotton trench coat ($2,095) by Burberry; cashmere sweater ($1,025) by The Elder Statesman; cotton T-shirt ($70) by Kelly Cole; cotton jeans ($100) by Levi’s; leather boots ($655) by Frye.

That duality seems to be working well for him in 2016. Besides a rumoured Punisher spin-off, he’ll be starring alongside Ben Affleck in the action-thriller The Accountant and Lake Bell in indie prison drama Shot Caller. Sure, those will all be dark, violent roles. But Jon Bernthal has a soft side, too. Give him a chance to explore it on screen, and the waterworks will follow.

“It’d have to be the right movie, man!” he laughs. “I’d be down, though.” Hear that, Nancy? Your move.

Photography: Ari Michelson
Styling: Jenny Ricker at Starworks Group
Grooming: Kim Verbeck at The Wall Group
Styling Assistance: Marcus Fabro