Director Richard Linklater’s 2011 film “Bernie” told the strange but true story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), who later confessed to the shooting of a wealthy 81-year-old widow, Marjorie “Marge” Nugent (Shirley Maclaine), for whom he’d served as caretaker. The facts were not in dispute: Bernie did the deed in late 1996, then confessed to it nine months later, after Nugent’s son found his mother’s body in a garage freezer. Still, some in the community believed it was a simple act of murder and that Tiede deserved his life sentence. Others thought the fact that Tiede had no prior record of any sort of lawbreaking and that Nugent was a widely disliked Carthage resident who was believed to have emotionally abused Tiede should have been taken into account during the sentencing phase of the trial.
This year the original prosecutor in the case, District Attorney Danny “Buck” Davidson (played in the movie by Matthew McConaughey), modified his position on the case. He agreed with Tiede’s appeals lawyer that Tiede had been in an abusive relationship with Nugent, and the killing may have been triggered by flashbacks to Tiede’s own sexual abuse as a child. Buck let Tiede be released on $10,000 bail on the condition that he live with Linklater, one of the most vocal advocates for modifying Tiede’s sentence, and that Linklater agree to tell the court immediately if Tiede violated any terms of his probation.
I spoke to Linklater on the phone and asked him to clarify some of the particulars. I also took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his new movie “Boyhood,” a drama about a boy growing into a young man that was shot piecemeal over the course of 12 years, more or less in secret.
Read the interview at RogerEbert.com.