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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

[Artwork by Thomas Kain]

FRESH AIR

Actor Jack Black is best known for his comedic performances in films like Nacho Libre and School of Rock. In his latest film, Bernie, Black goes to a darker place: He plays a serious small-town funeral director who uncharacteristically murders his live-in companion, a wealthy widow played by Shirley MacLaine. The film is based on a true story. In 1996, 39-year-old Bernie Tiede of Carthage, Texas, murdered his 81-year-old companion, Marjorie Nugent, shooting her in the back four times with a rifle. A lengthy Texas Monthly article about the case notes that “what made the story peculiar was that Mrs. Nugent had been dead for almost nine months before people began searching for her. What made the story truly bizarre was the way many of the townspeople rallied around the 39-year-old man who had admitted to killing her and stealing her money — the soft-spoken, chubby-cheeked Tiede, the former assistant funeral director at Hawthorn Funeral Home who had gotten close to Mrs. Nugent when he supervised her husband’s funeral.” Tiede, currently serving life in prison, met with Black for 45 minutes at his maximum-security prison before filming began. “What was crucial was that he was really likable,” Black tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “You could really believe that the whole town could be in love with Bernie.” MORE

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