Big Update on Jon Bernthal's Next Movie

Former The Walking Dead star Jon Bernthal has several projects in the pipeline, including Small Engine Repair. The already completed film, based on the critically-acclaimed stage play by John Pollono, now has a distributor and could hit theaters in time for awards season. Bernthal starred in the original Los Angeles production of the play in 2011, while still starring on The Walking Dead.

Vertical Entertainment acquired the worldwide distribution rights to the film on Thursday, Deadline reports. The distributor is targeting a September theatrical release in the hopes of attracting awards attention. The film was completed last year and was scheduled to play at South by Southwest. After the festival went online-only due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pollono and Bernthal withdrew the film. It instead debuted at the Electric Dusk drive-in festival in October.

"Small Engine Repair started out as a late-night show in 2011 with a budget of about $500. But from that first performance, we were connecting with audiences and the play moved to bigger stages all over the country and even the world," Pollono said in a statement. "Ten years later, we updated the material and captured the same heart we had in that late-night show. The central themes, for better and for worse, are more relevant than ever."

Small Engine Repair is a black comedy about lifelong friends Frank (Pollono), Swaino (Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) who love the Boston Red Sox and feel protective of Frank's daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo). Frank invites them to a whiskey-fueled evening to ask them to help Crystal, but the night gets out of control. Jordana Spiro and Spencer House also star. Pollono wrote and directed the film adaptation. It was produced by Peter Abrams, Rick Rosenthal, Noah Rothman, and Bernthal. Eric Bernthal, Steven J. Toll, Tom Stoner, Andrew Mcinnes, Thomas Wesley Pentz, and Trevor Engelson are executive producers.

The play opened in Los Angeles in 2011, with Pollono, Michael Redfield, Bernthal, and Josh Helman starring. In 2013, the play had its Off-Broadway premiere, with Pollono returning, but James Ransom, James Badge Dale, and Keegan Allen playing the other three principal roles. The original Los Angeles production won Outstanding Production, Writing, and Directing at the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards.

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Bernthal, who starred as The Punisher in Netflix's Marvel shows, has several projects coming soon. Earlier this year, he starred in Those Who Wish Me Dead, opposite Angelina Jolie. He also stars in the upcoming The Sopranos prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark, which opens on Oct. 1. He was also recently cast in Showtime's upcoming series adaptation of American Gigolo. Bernthal will play the part originated by Richard Gere in the movie, Julian Kaye, who finds himself working in the Los Angeles sex industry after being released from prison.