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."