9:27 am - 05/07/2014

Real Life "Bernie" Released From Prison - as Long as He Moves in with Richard Linklater


If this idea were pitched as a script, it might get laughed out of the room. But this is a true Hollywood story.

The real-life murderer who was the subject of Richard Linklater's underrated dark comedy "Bernie," which featured Jack Black in a Golden Globe-nominated, arguably career-best performance, was released from jail on Tuesday — on the provision that he moves in with the director.

As the film depicted, Bernie Tiede, a former funeral director, confessed to shooting his elderly benefactor, 81-year-old Majorie Nugent (shrewdly portrayed by Shirley Maclaine in the 2011 film). After killing her in 1996, he stored Nugent's body in a deep freezer in her Carthage, Texas, home for several months. He was convicted of the homicide in 1999 and has been serving a life sentence ever since.

However, per the Texas Tribune, new evidence has emerged in the case which suggests Tiede was the victim of sexual abuse during his adolescence, a factor that the prosecution agreed should commute the jury's sentence in his case.

Two-time Oscar-nominated writer-director Linklater ("Before Sunset," "Before Midnight") attended Tiede's original murder trial and co-penned the screenplay for "Bernie" with Skip Hollandsworth, the journalist who wrote about the case for Texas Monthly. The filmmaker agreed to allow Tiede to live in the apartment above his garage following his release from prison. Tiede will also be required to seek counseling for the sexual abuse incidents, which a psychiatrist concluded caused a "dissociative episode" which lead to the shooting of Nugent, who was, as the film indicated, suspected of abusive behavior toward Tiede.

While Linklater's film indicated that the townspeople of Carthage were sympathetic to Tiede — to the point that his trial had to be relocated for fear of juror bias in favor of the defendant — Panola County District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson disagreed. The prosecutor said that living in Austin is necessary because the locals from his former home town "don't want him walking the streets."

Linklater, who alongside Black spent time with Tiede during the film's production, once referred to his real-life subject as "a sweetheart of a guy" and openly wondered "what's that guy doing in prison still."

Now, it looks like Linklater has the unique opportunity of having his art imitate art and then actually impact (his own) life. And he'll have a new houseguest — albeit one with a rap sheet — to show for it.

We can smell the sequel brewing already: "Bernie 2: After Jail."

I really love the movie so much. And the article it's based on claims the townspeople really loved Bernie and were on his side though this article disputes that. Either way, I think he's pretty fascinating ngl.

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magnetic_rose92 7th-May-2014 02:01 pm (UTC)
Oh shit, I had no idea this movie even exists. I'm gonna have to watch it this weekend. Jack Black's been in a lot of flops lately but I'll always have a soft spot for him ngl. I blame School of Rock.
ellie_andrews 7th-May-2014 02:03 pm (UTC)
It might still be on Netflix, that's where I watched it. He's really good in it.
appalionshannon 7th-May-2014 02:04 pm (UTC)
It's on netflix, one of his best films imo
appeasing 7th-May-2014 02:12 pm (UTC)
just here to say the same thing; it's a good film and he's great in it
xpirate_queenx 7th-May-2014 02:39 pm (UTC)
I really like him, too.
areusuretho 7th-May-2014 02:55 pm (UTC)
I've never liked Jack Black, but he was great in Bernie.
frozenish 7th-May-2014 03:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah just backing everyone up that it's a hilarious movie and he's wonderful in it. Dude is really talented, even if he is in a lot o stupid shit.
missedith17 7th-May-2014 04:00 pm (UTC)
It's a great movie
maybalade 7th-May-2014 04:20 pm (UTC)
It's actually really good, one of his best actually. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
buffyx 7th-May-2014 04:34 pm (UTC)
I watched it on Netflix a month or so ago. I wasn't blown away, but it's an interesting story and I liked how it was done. The cast was great too.
bent_ley 7th-May-2014 05:47 pm (UTC)
it's SO good.i watched it on netflix w. no idea what it was about and was so pleasantly surprised
ponpiri 8th-May-2014 01:49 am (UTC)
It's a great movie.
crazyventures 7th-May-2014 02:04 pm (UTC)
I've had this movie on my Netflix queue forever. I'll try to watch it after finals!
goldpolkadot 7th-May-2014 02:05 pm (UTC)
This movie was great, I wish it got more love.

Anyway, this article (which is a really interesting account of the murder by Marjorie's nephew) seems to back up the idea that the townspeople supported Bernie. I can't imagine someone being so universally reviled that what was essentially a pretty mercenary killing can be (almost) excused by the community.
ellie_andrews 7th-May-2014 02:11 pm (UTC)
That just blows my mind. And I guess he donated to the church and bought failing businesses. Idk, I guess I just can't wrap my head around the whole thing.
goldpolkadot 7th-May-2014 02:16 pm (UTC)
I know, he turned into Robin Hood overnight and no-one questioned where the money came from? So bizarre and so fascinating at the same time.
imnotasquirrel 7th-May-2014 02:38 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine someone being so universally reviled that what was essentially a pretty mercenary killing can be (almost) excused by the community.

not a mercenary killing, but i always found the ken mcelroy case fascinating for a similar reason. town bully, shot in broad daylight in front of a ton of witnesses, none of whom ever came forward to publicly identify the killer.
rosewood39 8th-May-2014 12:09 am (UTC)
My parents live near where all this when down and the people all really did support him and apparently hated the lady, the movie was big there.
ghostsaddle 7th-May-2014 02:07 pm (UTC)
this movie was sf good
mammary_glands 7th-May-2014 02:11 pm (UTC)
that seems rather evolved for texas
caravels 7th-May-2014 02:15 pm (UTC)
...why does he have to live with director i really don't get what's going on here
viudanegra 7th-May-2014 02:17 pm (UTC)
theupperdrive 7th-May-2014 02:19 pm (UTC)
bnlmaroonvwbug 7th-May-2014 02:21 pm (UTC)
Maybe it was like "if you can find someone willing to take you in under their supervision then we'll release you" and with the article saying Richard didn't understand why Bernie was in jail, he volunteered.
frozenish 7th-May-2014 03:07 pm (UTC)
Yeah lol it's not like some kind of out-of-the-box sentencing. Plenty of ex-cons only get released if they have a stable relative (or rich director, I guess) willing to put them up. Or else they go to a halfway house.
ellie_andrews 7th-May-2014 02:18 pm (UTC)
Here's the article the movie's based on (the writer co-wrote the script) if anyone's interested: http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/midnight-garden-east-texas
bent_ley 7th-May-2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
awesome- thanks! i love that they used the exact quotes in the movie.

i think i will watch the movie today actually
ellie_andrews 7th-May-2014 06:07 pm (UTC)
luvthatdrtywata 7th-May-2014 02:19 pm (UTC)
Bernie was such a great movie. I went in expecting nothing of it and had all the feels by the time the credits rolled.
emmy0001 7th-May-2014 02:20 pm (UTC)
Jack Black was so good in Bernie. I love his singing voice.
ellie_andrews 7th-May-2014 02:21 pm (UTC)
I made my mom watch the movie and when he started singing she was like "ooh! he sounds nice!" lol
mizzchia01 7th-May-2014 02:23 pm (UTC)
Great movie and such an interesting story. Like how awful must this woman have to be that the whole town was willing to vouch for him? I mean the story is just so sad, while nothing excuses him of killing her, it's just so awful how he felt there was no other way out. Truly terrible on both ends of the spectrum.
ellie_andrews 7th-May-2014 03:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah I can't really figure out how I feel about him tbh. The townspeople made him out to be so wonderful then he goes and murders someone. and then donates her money to the church and people who need financial help. It's just hard to reconcile in my brain.
frozenish 7th-May-2014 03:16 pm (UTC)
You would never see anything like it outside of a small town, I don't think. Particularly a small town in a place like East Texas. Small communities like that, where everyone knows everyone else, and that includes the cops and the DA, justice is more a matter of public opinion than it is even in the rest of the country. These are places where people's families go back ages, where your opinion of someone isn't just based on that person as individual but that person as a part of the community. They're extremely insular and if they don't like you, it's bad news, but if they do, they'll go to extreme lengths to protect you. Imo that was one of the most interesting and hilarious/perturbing parts of the movie is how well they portrayed that.

What not that I know from experience or anything.
mizzchia01 7th-May-2014 04:34 pm (UTC)
I think that desperation is what makes me so quick to sympathize with him. You hear of guy murdering an old lady and you automatically want to damn him, but the situation wasn't black in white. I don't think he was originally in it for the money and I think they genuinely formed a friendship,but in a town that small where one family controls everything...I can see the logic behind his actions and why he would act on impulse. Plus I've learned anywhere you go/live in Texas you're going to find people with warped views on just about anything, it's comes along with the territory of living here.
zombeats 7th-May-2014 07:14 pm (UTC)
Oooo damn your icon!!!
kneadyrn 7th-May-2014 02:23 pm (UTC)
So a life sentence is only 15 years now? Our criminal justice system is seriously messed up. What does sexual abuse as a teenager have to do with killing someone later in life? I love the movie and sympathize with Bernie but he did kill someone.
bent_ley 7th-May-2014 05:50 pm (UTC)
life sentence almost always means 25 years. in some places life does mean life (in my state, PA, life means no parole and it's mandatory for all first degree murder convictions) but he was probably sentenced to 25 years and was now up for parole

and sexual abuse is usually considered a mitigating factor during sentencing. it's to give context to the person's life and maybe their motivating factors behind their crime
ponpiri 8th-May-2014 01:51 am (UTC)
We usually note a difference between "life" (25 years) and natural life.
bnlmaroonvwbug 7th-May-2014 02:25 pm (UTC)
I got this movie at dollar tree

Edited at 2014-05-07 02:26 pm (UTC)
ellie_andrews 7th-May-2014 03:12 pm (UTC)
lucky! sometimes the movie rental place I used to work at sells DVDs for $5 - I need to go scope it out.
ellie_andrews 7th-May-2014 03:00 pm (UTC)
speaking of true crime, can anyone recommend a true crime podcast? I've been listening to True Crime Time but the hosts are starting get on my nerves. Quite a bit, actually.
maybalade 7th-May-2014 04:21 pm (UTC)
Great movie. I think I'll rewatch it this weekend.
bent_ley 7th-May-2014 04:41 pm (UTC)
this movie was SOOOO GOOOOD. i watched it randomly not knowing what to expect and was so pleasantly surprised
dommon5844 8th-May-2014 01:55 am (UTC)
Same here. I always recommend it to people
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