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“Bernie” Turns True Story Into Macabre Movie

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - You’ve heard the line “you can’t make this stuff up?” That’s describes to a T the plot of the new film “Bernie” starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey.

In the mid ’90s, a young, unmarried assistant funeral director in Carthage, Texas was just going about his business. Known as the most beloved resident of the small east Texas community, Bernie Tiede was involved in almost every aspect of his local community’s activities. He was the choir director, he volunteered at schools, he helped widows transition to their new lifestyles. In general, he was the town’s Mr. Nice Guy.

And then he met Mrs. Marjorie Nugent.

Bernie was used to befriending relatives of the dearly departed in Carthage. He liked to spend time with the grieving. But Mrs. Nugent was unlike the others. At 81, she was mean, nasty and controlling, but Bernie ignored her reputation and made an effort to help her get over the loss of her husband — a very successful millionaire Texas oilman.

Because Bernie was so likable, soon, even Mrs. Nugent melted. Within months, the two were inseparatable, traveling to glamorous destinations around the world — and all first class. Then one day, as Mrs. Nugent walked to her car, Bernie shot her four times in the back. Then, he placed her body in the garage deep freeze. No one noticed for nine months.

This macabre 1996 Texas story was investigated and told by award-winning Dallas writer Skip Hollandsworth in Texas Monthly magazine in 1998. For 14 years, the impossible-but-true story lay dormant. Now, he and filmmaker Richard Linklater have turned it into an extraordinary film filled with locals who pepper the movie with amusing and chilling true tales of times with Bernie and Mrs. Nugent. The performances from the townsfolk — but especially all three stars — are first rate, with insiders already predicting nods come award season.

“Bernie” is currently playing in select theaters citywide. Do not miss it! You just can’t make this stuff up!

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