Shirley MacLaine grows old and mean - for "Bernie"

Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:15pm EDT
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Shirley MacLaine has portrayed many characters in the movies, and she won an Oscar in "Terms of Endearment" as a mother whose relationship with her daughter encounters many ups-and-downs over a long period.

But for her new independent film "Bernie," which reaches theaters in major U.S. cities on Friday, MacLaine, 78, is as mean and spiteful on screen as anyone has ever seen her.

Directed by Richard Linklater, "Bernie" is based on the true story of a hateful millionaire widow, Marjorie Nugent (MacLaine), who is befriended by a much younger companion Bernie Tiede, the town's beloved assistant funeral director. But when he grows tired of her ever-increasing demands, he shoots her.

Marjorie's death went unnoticed for months because Tiede (played by Jack Black in the film) went to great lengths to conceal it. When he does confess to the crime, the townspeople of Carthage, Texas where the murder took place in 1996, rallied to his defense because Marjorie was so unliked.

In real life, MacLaine is nothing like Marjorie Nugent, and she let her good humor show through in this recent interview with Reuters about "Bernie."

Q: Your character, to put it politely, is not a very nice person. Did you enjoy playing someone unlikeable?

A: "Everybody hated her. I think she would drive Mother Theresa to murder. I loved experimenting with being absolutely horrifically irascible. I loved it like I loved it in 'Steel Magnolias.' Maybe I'm rehearsing for my older age, but to me it's funny."

Q: Most of your scenes are with Jack Black. Was it fun working with him day in and day out.   Continued...

U.S. actress Shirley MacLaine reacts as the 37th American film festival of Deauville pays tribute to her career, in Deauville September 4, 2011. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau