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Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched all 13 episodes of Netflix's The Punisher.
While comic book fans likely suspected The Punisher's end game would involve an epic faceoff between Frank Castle and Billy Russo, the latter wasn't even revealed to be a villain until that mid-season twist. But the carousel brawl became immediately inevitable after that reveal, and it was indeed one for the ages. The most horrifyingly violent moment came when Frank dragged Billy's lovely face through all the glass shards of that broken mirror, but there's actually a funny story behind it. Here's what Punisher star Ben Barnes told CinemaBlend after I'd asked him more about that crazy moment.
They made me a half-plastic mask that would go against my cheekbone, and one of the best moments of filming for me, they said, 'Okay, we're gonna do this scene now, this take of this happening.' For me, obviously, this is the moment. This is the moment where Billy becomes the other thing. We went and tested it, because there was only one set of mirrors we were allowed to break, so I said, 'Look, I'll just shout the word stop if I feel in trouble, or if anything is breaking,' or whatever. And then obviously I let out this blood-curdling [scream during the scene] -- you know, we're in the middle of the night and the emotions are very high anyway -- and I let out this blood-curdling scream. And they said, 'Cut.' And then Jon turned to me and said, 'How you thought I was supposed to know the difference between that scream and the scream of actual horror and death, I have absolutely no idea. Let's not do that again.' [laughs] So I think he was more freaked out than I was.
Ha! It appears Ben Barnes should have been paying more attention to Col. Morty Bennett's S&M habits with his mistress, since both of them could have maybe explained to the actor that safe words sometimes work better when they're out of context and aren't as simple as "Stop." But then it would have been kind of hard to understand anything that Barnes would have been saying in that moment, considering his screams were nearly as jagged as the glass shards going into his face-mask. Based on that scene alone, he should be allowed in as an honorary Scream Queen.
I'd love to know what was going on in Jon Bernthal's head just then, too. His headspace was clearly on Frank Castle getting another slice of long-awaited retribution, and everything about that scene was incredibly intense. So I wonder how much of his attention span was focused on listening in for Ben Barnes' ragged howls to get "real" on the off chance that he'd actually be hurt. Anybody who's watched The Punisher knows just how fully Bernthal inhabits Frank during hectic sequences, so while I do wonder what he was thinking, I'm just glad nothing actually went wrong and that he didn't misinterpret Barnes' screams.
That finale battle was as good as it got in The Punisher -- check out our ranked list of fight scenes -- but it wasn't exactly a walk in the park to make it happen. Plus, Ben Barnes told me the fight was somewhat bittersweet, because as an actor, he'd really wanted to work more with Jon Bernthal over the course of the season, though he definitely understood how difficult it is to have two enemies in the same room without them trying to kill each other. But Barnes at least got to train with Bernthal for the brawl, and he said that was a one-of-a-kind experience. Here's what else the Westworld vet told me.
I think I had more time than Jon in terms of actual rehearsal on that particular fight. But Jon is obviously a hugely accomplished action man. The man is a boxer; he's very strong, and he's kind of a savage human being when he wants to switch it on. And he's a sweetheart when he turns it back off again. I'd been practicing with my own stunt double, and I'd practice with Jon's stunt double in a gym, but there's nothing quite like Jon Bernthal staring down at you with a bloody face. [laughs] There's just no feeling quite like it.
I think I'll be okay with going the rest of my life without that particular experience, but it does sound like a special one. The Punisher Season 1 is currently available to stream in full on Netflix. Stay tuned for more exclusive stories from Ben Barnes and other Punisher stars. For those already finished the binge-watch and are looking to dive into more TV shows, head to our 2017 Netflix schedule, as well as our fall TV premiere schedule, to see what's left to debut this year.