Though he played Shane in “The Walking Dead,” Jon Bernthal goes all Rick Grimes in his new movie, “Pilgrimage.”
The actor stars alongside Richard Armitage (“The Hobbit”) and Tom Holland (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”) in the film, which follows the journey of monks trying to protect a relic from others who want to obtain it for their own nefarious agendas. Bernthal plays a mute with a mysterious past and a knack for fighting. Some of that fighting even involves a bit of neck biting, which may remind some “Walking Dead” fans of a famous moment where Rick Grimes did a little of that himself.
At the heart of the movie is a mystery. In “Pilgrimage,” people give their lives to protect an ancient relic, which may or may not be a very powerful object.
Bernthal tells us he’s dubious.
“I think that the only power that it has is [that] all these people think it has powers. That’s oftentimes what an icon is and, I think, interestingly, I made the decision as The Mute. I think he’s a guy who’s seen both the full glory and he’s seen religion have as sublime an effect on people as it can possibly have, but I think he also bore witness to the absolute torment and torture and degradation that it can cause, going through the crusades and seeing the as-negative-as-it-gets part of religious fervor,” said the actor.
He continued, “I think that he really thinks they’re transporting a rock, and the rock is not important. What’s important is the people that are transporting it, and sort of that soldiers’ creed that, at the end of the day, I’m fighting for the guy next to me, not for any sort of political or religious ideal. That’s really how I wanted to center that character, that it has nothing to do with anything except for his love for the character The Novice, played by Tom Holland. That’s something worth fighting for. That’s something worth dying for.”
The movie is out now and on VOD, so you can check it out and decide for yourself what’s really important.
But before you go, Bernthal also opened up about his brutal fight scenes and whether he thinks we’ll see his Marvel character, The Punisher, show up in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie one day.
Richard Armitage said you didn’t even have internet while at your hotel in Ireland. What was it like being so remote?
I think it was deeply helpful. I think it colored the film and made it richer as a whole. There was no bar. There was no restaurant. There was no internet or TV. We were just kind of out there together and each location would blow your mind away, and you would say this was the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen until you got to the next one. I thought it was a really smart thing the creative team did. Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars creating beauty, we just hauled our asses into it.
The fight sequences were great. There’s even some neck biting, which definitely reminded me of Rick’s neck biting in “The Walking Dead.” What was it like doing those fight scenes?
I think our back was very much against the wall in this film. We had a half day to shoot the fight scenes in this movie, and what that takes is an unbelievable amount of preparation, but then it often takes an unbelievable amount of cohesion and collaboration. On the day, we had to scrap things on the fly. We were literally chasing the light to get these scenes, but I think what that does is it adds a level of vitality and stakes and danger to the fight scene. We really gotta just get it. We gotta just go for it. We don’t have time to see if we connected or not, so the best way to do it is connect for real. We were really lucky that Richard Armitage is great with a sword, and he and I could really go at it. It took a ton of preparation.
That’s another benefit of being stuck in the middle of Western Ireland with nothing to do is it gives you a lot of time to practice your fights. Everybody was really dialed in, and I’m proud of the fight scenes in the movie. Had this been a different movie with a different budget, we would’ve probably spent two to three weeks on each of those fight scenes instead of just a half day, but I think you gain something in that, as well.
You’ve spoken about how you were all really a family on set, and we know you’re in the Marvel family, too. What are the chances we may see The Punisher in an upcoming Marvel movie?
All I know is I’ll probably be the last one to find out. I’m sure you know Marvel information is very much hard to come by, and it’s not just in terms of what we say to you guys. It’s in terms of what they say to us, too.
It’s an honor to play Frank Castle. I care about him deeply. Right now, I’m really concentrating, focusing and hoping that the show resonates, and the Netflix show does the character justice. I’m hoping that the performance does right by him and I’m focused on one thing at a time.