Running Time: 104 minutes
Genre: Crime drama/Dark comedy
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance)
Assistant funeral director Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is one of the most-beloved residents in the small Texas town of Carthage. Sunday-school teacher, choir member and creator of spectacular funerals, Bernie is a friend to everyone, including Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a rich but nasty widow whom no one else likes. When Marjorie is found shot to death and stuffed in a freezer, Bernie is charged for the murder, and concerned Carthage citizens immediately spring to his defense.
- Notes provided by Millennium Entertainment -
But it wasn't long before Bernie, who never had an unkind word to say about anyone, became one of Carthage's most beloved residents. His greatest attribute, however, was his ability to create beautiful funerals for Carthage's deceased. As one townsperson said, ``With Bernie doing your service, you just knew you were going to get to heaven.
One afternoon Bernie organized the funeral for Rod Nugent, a rich Carthage oilman and chairman of Carthage's bank. There, he met Marjorie Nugent, the town's domineering grande dame, despised by almost everyone in Carthage for her arrogance and rude behavior. Like he did with many of the town's widows, Bernie regularly visited Mrs. Nugent after the funeral. Soon, she began asking him to run errands for her, to take her to both lunch and dinner, and act as her escort on trips. Then, in August 1997, in a story that made headlines in newspapers around the country, Mrs. Nugent was found dead, shot four times in the back, and buried under some frozen foods in the large, rectangular freezer in her garage.
In the dark comedy ``Bernie, directed by Richard Linklater, Jack Black plays Bernie Tiede, Shirley MacLaine plays Mrs. Nugent, and Matthew McConaughey plays the town's blustery real-life District Attorney, Danny Buck Davidson, who was determined to get to the bottom of the crime. ``It's my Fargo in East Texas, where I grew up says Linklater, ``a story that captures all the hilarity, friendliness, eccentricity and absolute strangeness of small-town Texas life.
What made the story of Mrs. Nugent's murder so peculiar was that she had been dead for nine months before people noticed she wasn't around. (``The truth was that no one really cared about looking for her because no one missed her, one resident said.) What made the story truly bizarre, however, was the announcement by police that Bernie not only had murdered Mrs. Nugent but had been using her money to give to people in need throughout Carthage. He even donated $100,000 in Mrs. Nugent's name to build a new Sunday school building at the Methodist church. Almost immediately after his arrest, Carthage citizens rallied around Bernie, going so far as to drive around the courthouse blowing their horns, and begging District Attorney Davidson not to prosecute their favorite assistant funeral home director.
``Bernie is filled with the kinds of characters that one might think could only be invented in fiction -- characters that do things that are simply unpredictable. But much of the movie is a re-telling of what actually happened. Linklater even hired numerous East Texas citizens--many of them Carthage residents who knew Bernie and Mrs. Nugent--to play minor roles or act as extras in the movie.
Back in December of 1998, I read Skip Hollandsworth's Texas Monthly story about Bernie Tiede, Marjorie Nugent, and the town of Carthage and something just clicked. It's hard to articulate what exactly draws one to a particular story, and what would compel one to undertake the often lengthy and often fruitless task of trying to make a movie out of a real life story. Maybe it was my being a native East Texan and feeling like I knew everyone involved. Maybe it was Bernie's unique character and the complex relationship between him and Marjorie. He played roles in her life from chauffer to chef to best friend and confidant. Maybe it was the interesting legal proceedings that were playing out at that time. Maybe it was what I saw as the dark humor surrounding the entire story. I called Skip and we started talking about how it might work as a movie. I optioned the rights, and not long after we were attending some of the trial, where I would first see the real Bernie, Danny Buck, Scrappy, the many visitors from Carthage and the jurors from San Augustine where the trial had been moved. It all ended for Bernie in the opposite way it felt it was going at the time of the article. In the movie, it is overly apparent during the trial that those on Bernie's side truly believed that he had done nothing wrong and didn't deserve to be punished. One witness even says ``It's not as bad as people say; he only shot her four times, not five.
Early on, Skip gave me all his journalistic notes and the treasure was revealed: with Marjorie now gone and Bernie sitting in jail, unable to give interviews; it was what the many townspeople were saying about them that would be the record. Whether you like it or not, on a perception level, you ARE what they say you are, especially in a small town. The majority of the story is told through townspeople's accounts of what happened and their feelings of Bernie and Marjorie. They are the narrators. I'd never seen a movie told from the perspective of a group of gossips, but in this case it seemed like the proper narrative technique that would reveal everything you could ever really know about the town and the people involved. And what characters! There's no storytelling like that of a townsperson from East Texas with that deep southern drawl. It was also this unconventional storytelling device that almost kept the movie from ever getting made. But eventually, ten years later, once Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey had come aboard, Bernie, Marjorie, and Carthage's story could finally be told.
Jack Black (Bernie Tiede) returned as ``Po in Kung Fu Panda 2 for Paramount Pictures this past May grossing $125 million in its' international opening weekend.
In October 2012, Black released The Big Year with Academy Award(R) winner Anjelica Huston and a comedy super cast of Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Jim Parsons, Rashida Jones and Joel McHale for 20th Century Fox. He has also recently been seen in The Muppets, written by his Gulliver's Travels co-star, Jason Segel, for Disney.
In 2010, Black released the highly anticipated Gulliver's remake for 20th Century Fox. Black, who produced the film, starred as ``Lemuel Gulliver opposite Academy Award(R) nominated Emily Blunt, Segel and Amanda Peet. Gulliver's grossed nearly $238 million worldwide.
In 2009, Black voiced video game character Eddie Riggs (modeled after him) in the widely popular Brutal Legend. The game follows roadie (Riggs) into a fantasy world of heavy metal. Black was nominated and won for Best Voice at the Spike Video Game Awards in 2009.
The year 2008 was very busy; starting by lending his voice to the lead animated character of ``Po in Paramount Pictures' Kung Fu Panda, which earned more than $626 million worldwide. In August, Black found himself on top of the box office again for the Paramount release of Tropic Thunder. Directed and written by Ben Stiller, who also starred in the film, Black was joined by the star studded cast Robert Downey Jr., Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey. The film was 1 in the box office for two straight weeks and has earned over $110 million domestically.
Being 1 is nothing new for Black. In September 2003, he proved his box office draw with a 1 opening for Paramount Pictures, School of Rock, from producer Scott Rudin, and writer Mike White. In the film, Black received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. The next year Jack reunited with White to release Nacho Libre, which marked the first production under Black & White Productions, formed in late 2004 by White and Black.
In December 2005, Black was seen in the highly anticipated cinematic blockbuster and Academy Award(R) winning film, King Kong. Directed by Peter Jackson, the film opened at 1 and remained on top for three weeks in a row, and grossed over $540 million worldwide.
Black's other screen credits include the comedies Bob Roberts, High Fidelity, Saving Silverman, Shallow Hal, Orange County, Envy, Shark Tale, The Holiday, and 2000's independent drama Jesus' Son and 2007's drama Margot at the Wedding.
Fans also know Black as the lead singer of the rock-folk comedy group Tenacious D, which he created with friend Kyle Gass. Their self-titled album was released in the fall of 2001 with Epic Records and was quickly certified at gold-selling status. The band had a variety series on HBO that aired in 1999. The duo completed their first feature Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny for New Line Cinema, which released in November 2006. Following Pick of Destiny, two documentaries were released in relation to the film. The first, directed and produced by Black titled, The Making of 'The Pick of Destiny' reveals a behind the scenes look at the making of the film. The second, D Tour: A Tenacious Documentary focused on the band's world tour in support of their film and soundtrack.
Black currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Tanya and their two sons.
Shirley MacLaine's (Mrs. Marjorie Nugent) illustrious career comprises more than 50 feature films highlighted by an Academy Award(R) win and six nominations, six Emmy(R) Awards nominations, seven Golden Globe(R) Awards - including the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award - and the title of international best-selling author. Recently, MacLaine appeared in the ensemble film, VALENTINE'S DAY, and the Lifetime made-for-TV movie COCO CHANEL, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe(R) and SAG Award(R). She released her best-selling book ``SAGE-ING WHILE AGE-ING in 2008, followed by her latest New York Times best-seller, ``I'M OVER ALL THAT - AND OTHER CONFESSIONS, released on April 5th, 2011. In the Fall of 2011, she received France's most prestigious cultural award, the Legion of Honor, presented by France's Minister of Culture and Communication, Frederic Mitterrand, at the French Cinematheque.
MacLaine made her professional debut dancing in a Broadway revival of OKLAHOMA! in the 1950s. Her first film appearance was in Alfred Hitchcock's THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, earning her a Golden Globe Award for ``New Star of the Year - Actress in 1955. At the same time, she starred in SOME COME RUNNING, which led to her first Academy Award(R) nomination and an additional Golden Globe(R) nomination. She also starred alongside Audrey Hepburn in THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, based on a play by Lillian Hellman. MacLaine received a second Oscar(R) nomination for her work in the award winning film, THE APARTMENT, co-starring Jack Lemmon and directed by Billy Wilder. She reunited with Lemmon and Wilder for IRMA LA DOUCE in 1963, earning yet another Academy Award(R) nomination.
In 1975, MacLaine received her fourth Oscar(R) nomination, this time for best documentary as a producer and star of THE OTHER HALF OF THE SKY: A CHINA MEMOIR. Two years later, she was once again nominated for her starring role in THE TURNING POINT. In 1983, MacLaine finally won an Oscar for her work in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT. Later, she also received a Golden Globe(R) Award for her 1989 performance in MADAME SOUSATZKA. MacLaine was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Golden Globe Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1998.
MacLaine's additional credits include notable films such as STEEL MAGNOLIAS with Julia Roberts, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE with Meryl Streep, IN HER SHOES with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, and RUMOR HAS IT with Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner.
MacLaine's television credits include the telefilms, ``THESE OLD BROADS, ``CAROLINA and ``SALEM WITCH TRIALS. She also starred in the CBS miniseries, ``HELL ON HEELS: THE BATTLE OF MARY KAY, the life story of the cosmetics queen Mary Kay Ash.
A longtime outspoken advocate for civil rights and liberties, women's rights, and spiritual understanding, MacLaine is known for her faith in reincarnation, angels, the power of crystals and other New Age beliefs. She addresses these topics at length, as well as her Hollywood career, in her books, OUT ON A LIMB and DANCING IN THE NIGHT. MacLaine went on to author numerous other books including THE CAMINO and OUT ON A LEASH, all of which are international bestsellers.
In addition to BERNIE, MacLaine can be seen next in WILD OATS, starring Jacki Weaver and directed by Howard Deutch. She can also be seen on stage during her one-woman show tour as it hits cities across the globe, combining a montage of memorable film moments with private revelations about her extraordinary life, career, and spiritual journey. MacLaine will be honored with the prestigious American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award on June 7, 2012.
Matthew McConaughey (Danny Buck Davidson) is one of Hollywood's most sought after leading men whose films have grossed over a billion dollars at the box office. He is a Texas native who, while attending the University of Texas in Austin, planned to be a lawyer. When he discovered an inspirational Og Mandino book The Greatest Salesman in the World before one of his final exams, he suddenly knew that he had to change his major from law to film.
2012 is going to be a film-packed year for Matthew McConaughey. In addition to ``Bernie, Matthew will star in the dark drama "Killer Joe" directed by the legendary William Friedkin. In Summer of 2012, McConaughey can also be seen in the Warner Bros release "Magic Mike" directed by Steven Soderbergh. The film also stars Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer and centers around the life of a male stripper. To round the year out, Matthew just completed production on the Lee Daniels film, "The Paperboy" with Nicole Kidman and Jeff Nicols' "Mud" with Reese Witherspoon.
McConaughey's other film credits include ``The Lincoln Lawyer, adapted from the hit novel series by best-selling author, Michael Connelly, ``Ghosts of Girlfriends Past opposite Michael Douglas and Jennifer Garner, Ben Stiller's wildly successful action comedy, ``Tropic Thunder, the critically acclaimed drama ``We Are Marshall, the inspiring story of a small West Virginia town's struggle with devastating loss, ``Fool's Gold opposite Kate Hudson by director Andy Tennant and opposite Al Pacino in the drama ``Two for the Money.
Additional film credits include: the popular romantic comedies ``Failure to Launch, with Sarah Jessica Parker, and ``How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, opposite Kate Hudson; the sci-fi adventure ``Reign of Fire, with Christian Bale; the ensemble drama ``Thirteen Conversations About One Thing; the horror thriller ``Frailty, written and directed by Bill Paxton; and Adam Shankman's hit romantic comedy ``The Wedding Planner, opposite Jennifer Lopez, the World War II action drama ``U-571, Ron Howard's ``EDtv, Steven Spielberg's ``Amistad, Robert Zemeckis' ``Contact, and Joel Schumacher's critically acclaimed courtroom drama ``A Time to Kill, as well as ``Lone Star, ``Angels in the Outfield, ``The Newton Boys, and ``The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
In addition to his film career, Matthew also takes the time to give back. In 2008, he started The just keep livin Foundation which is dedicated to helping boys and girls transform into men and women through programs that teach the importance of decision making, health, education, and active living. The just keep livin Foundation has partnered with Communities in Schools in West Los Angeles to implement fitness and wellness programs in two large, urban high schools. CIS is the nation's largest, non-profit, dropout prevention organization. Through the j.k. livin afterschool program, they are able to give kids a healthy start in life and the promise of a healthy future. The official website is: www.jklivinfoundation.org
Richard Linklater's (Director, Writer) credits include ``It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988); ``Slacker (1991); ``Dazed and Confused (1993); ``Before Sunrise (1995); ``Suburbia (1997); ``The Newton Boys (1998); ``Walking Life (2001); ``Tape (2001); ``Live From Shiva's Dance Floor (2003); ``School of Rock (2003); ``Before Sunset (2004); ``$5.15/Hr. (2004, TV); ``Bad News Bears (2005); ``A Scanner Darkly (2006); ``Fast Food Nation (2006); ``Inning by Inning: A Portrait of a Coach (2008); ``Me and Orson Welles (2009); ``Bernie (2011).
Linklater also serves as the Artistic Director for the Austin Film Society, which he founded in 1985, to showcase films from around the world that were not typically shown in Austin. The Austin Film Society has given out over $1,000,000 in grants to Texas filmmakers and in 1999, received the DGA Honor which was given by the Directors Guild of America in recognition of its support of the arts.
Skip Hollandsworth (Writer) has been a staff writer at Texas Monthly since 1989. He has been a finalist four times for a National Magazine Award, the magazine industry's equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, and in 2010 he won the National Magazine Award for feature writing for his story about a young man who, after suffering a crippling football injury in high school, spent the next 33 years in his bedroom, unable to move. ``Bernie, which he co-wrote with Richard Linklater, is based on a story he wrote for Texas Monthly in January 1998 titled ``Midnight in the Garden of East Texas. It is his first screenplay.
Mandalay Vision is Mandalay Pictures' independent development, production and financing company, which builds upon the brand's impressive history of producing films for the global marketplace. Matthew Rhodes is the President of Mandalay Vision. Cathy Schulman oversees the division's creative affairs on behalf of Mandalay Pictures.
Focusing primarily on films exhibiting innovative storytelling with auteur directors and premier talent, Mandalay Vision completed production on three films in 2010 including ``Bernie. The company premiered two films at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival: ``Salvation Boulevard, a comedic thriller directed by George Ratliff and starring an impressive ensemble cast including Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marisa Tomei and Ed Harris to be released July, 2011 through IFC/Sony; and ``Another Happy Day, writer/director Sam Levinson's debut film starring Ellen Barkin, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Bosworth, Thomas Haden Church, Ezra Miller and Demi Moore, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the festival's closing ceremony and will released later this year by Phase 4.
Mandalay Vision's ``Soul Surfer in theatres now; released by Tri-Star. The picture stars Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Carrie Underwood and AnnaSophia Robb, and is the true story of competitive teen surfer Bethany Hamilton and has grossed over $40 million at the US box office. Mandalay Vision's debut release, the Golden Globe winning and 4-time Oscar nominated The Kids Are All Right, a 2010 Sundance Film Festival darling directed by Lisa Cholodenko and starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo, was one of last year's most successful independently produced and financed films.
Wind Dancer Films is an independent motion picture and television development, production and financing company. The company was founded by Matt Williams and David McFadzean, who created and produced such television hits as "Roseanne" and "Home Improvement".
Wind Dancer has developed and produced such successful films as ``What Women Want starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt (which earned $350 million in worldwide box office) and ``Where The Heart Is starring Natalie Portman. In addition to ``Bernie, Wind Dancer is working on a number of feature films including ``As Cool As I Am starring Claire Danes and James Marsden, which completed principal photography in June 2011, ``What Men Want written by Pete Chiarelli (``The Proposal) for Paramount Pictures, ``BFF to be directed by Charles Shyer (``Father of the Bride) and a remake of the hit German film, ``Over My Dead Body with director Andy Fickman (``The Game Plan).
Among the company's slate of television development and production projects is a half-hour sitcom starring comedienne ``Leanne Morgan and ``Chess, a one-hour drama series created by Jim Manos (``Dexter) for Showtime.