What links Jon Bernthal to the Monkees and Richard Gere?

Follow the ‘hot and goofy’ actor down the rabbit hole to find unlikely links to the original American Gigolo

Feel the Bern

Jon Bernthal
The new American Gigolo is Jon Bernthal … Photograph: Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Occasionally a “that guy” actor becomes a name you fully know. Jon Bernthal, “one of America’s pre-eminent hot, goofy fellas” with an acting style of coiled intensity, is one. He’s had major roles in The Walking Dead and with Marvel, as well as in The Wolf of Wall Street. This summer, he stole the show in the miniseries We Own This City. And he’ll be seen in Lena Dunham’s new film Sharp Stick as well as American Gigolo.

Fountain of creativity

Adam Schlesinger
… whose cousin Adam Schlesinger produced the Monkees’ album Good Times! … Photograph: Getty Images

Bernthal is a cousin of the musician Adam Schlesinger, who died of Covid-related complications in 2020. Schlesinger was in powerpop perfectionists Fountains of Wayne (you’ve heard their 2003 hit Stacy’s Mom). He was also a composer and producer: he wrote the signature song for Tom Hanks’ film That Thing You Do!; and, staying on a theme, he produced the Monkees’ 2016 album Good Times!.

Corrections and clarifications

Someone using correction fluid to correct the word Mistake on a piece of paper in a manual typewriter
… Monkee Mike Nesmith’s mother invented the first correction fluid, and Bob Rafelson and Bert Shneider invented the Monkees … Photograph: Alamy

Bette Nesmith Graham, mother of Monkee Michael, invented the first ink correction fluid – she later sold her brand, Liquid Paper, to Gillette for $47.5m. But avoiding a corporate rabbit hole, let’s stay with pop culture: Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider were the brains behind the Monkees concept …

Easy pieces

Bert Schneider
… Schneider also produced the anti-Vietnam war documentary Hearts and Minds … Photograph: Bettmann Archive

Rafelson, who died in July, and Schneider were guiding lights of 1970s New Hollywood. They helped bring Easy Rider and The Last Picture Show to the screen. Rafelson directed and co-wrote with Jack Nicholson the 1968 cult Monkees movie Head; though his masterpiece remains Five Easy Pieces. Schneider produced the anti-Vietnam war documentary Hearts and Minds, and read a message from the Vietcong leadership when collecting an Oscar.

The original himbo

Richard Gere
… and Days of Heaven featuring Richard Gere, who is now passing the American Gigolo baton to Bernthal for the TV reboot … Photograph: Alamy

In 1978, Schneider co-produced Terrence Malick’s stunning Days of Heaven, featuring one of Richard Gere’s earliest roles. Two years later, Gere starred in Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo. Now he’s passing on the himbo baton of Julian Kaye to Jon Bernthal for a TV reboot of the neo-noir drama. Schrader, who isn’t involved, declared himself a Bernthal fan, but said remaking his film was “a terrible idea”.

Bright blue headphones on  pink background

Pairing notes

Listen Bernthal has a podcast, Real Ones, in which he interviews “authentic people living on the frontlines of the big issues of our time”.

Drink Over on Instagram, you can sample Bernthal’s everyman quality by throwing on a sleeveless shirt and chugging cans of Miller Lite.


Larry Ryan

The GuardianTramp

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