INTERVIEW: Jack Black On Playing A Closeted Mortician In The Dark Comedy Bernie


Did you feel like you were turning into Bernie off-camera?

Nah, I’m not really that guy. Well, maybe a little bit. But I don’t like lose track of time, like, “Where was I?” You know, those people who sink so deep into their character that the real Jack Black disappears.

When we watch your performance, it seems like Jack Black is just dying to get out. How do you hold it back?

How do I hold back the real Jack Black? Maybe that is the real Jack Black. Maybe those other times I was forcing a clown show. But the real Jack Black is like Sean Penn. How about that?

How about the mustache? Is that the real Jack Black?

That is my secret weapon. Whenever I bring out the ‘stache, my most powerful performances come to life. I don’t know if you saw Nacho Libre, but it’s like a superpower when I grow it.

In the beginning of the movie, when you’re driving and just start singing along in the car. It communicates this giddy happiness that’s so central to Bernie. Did Linklater just put you in the car?

It’s a great song. It’s got a great bounce to it. It was fun to sing along to it. It was important to Rick that I know every lyric. I was like, “Really? Can’t I just come in and out?” He goes, “He would know every lyric. Bernie would know every lyric.” So I really studied it hard. I’m not really one of those people that remembers lyrics or jokes. Even my own. I’m in the middle of trying to remember all the new album.

You mentioned how sweet Bernie is, but he did commit this heinous crime. Was he a con guy who was there to take advantage of a vulnerable old lady or was he just a nice guy who couldn’t take her abuse anymore?

I think it’s more the latter. He was a sweet guy who was a real pleaser. He liked people to like him, to a fault. To a degree where it’s better maybe just to leave her and let her hate you than to stay and let things get as bad as they did. I do think the corrosive corrupting power of money was involved. On the one hand, he wanted her to love him, so he didn’t want to leave her and risk her being angry. In addition to that, he had become accustomed to the money. He liked having money, mostly to give to other people. I mean, he enjoyed going on trips with her but mostly he just liked giving it all away and seeing the effect it had on other people. It was seductive, yeah, but I don’t think it was devious, like he made plans to get all her money by killing her.

Bernie doesn’t do a very good job of covering his tracks. Do you think he wanted to get caught?

I think he was relieved when he got caught, for sure. He’s afraid of everybody hating him, and the huge shitstorm that was about to hit his life. I’m sure he was conflicted with that.

You actually got to meet Bernie Tiede in prison, right?

Yes. It was a relief to see that he was, in fact, a sweetheart. It felt it was reinforcing our theory of what he would be like. But it was very surreal. I had never been in a maximum-security prison before. Lots of hardened criminals in there, doing hard time for hard crime. And then there was Bernie, who’s just this big sweet soft gentle mammoth of a man. He didn’t really fit in with the general population in there, to say the least. It was good just to connect with him and talk with and listen to his accent and his behavior; ask him a few things about his life.

But you didn’t ask the real Bernie if he was gay.

No. I didn’t feel like it was any of my business. I should’ve asked more questions, but I’m kind of a shy person. I don’t like to probe.

What was it like working with the legendary Shirley MacLaine?

Shirley is a hero of mine. I was always been a fan of her performances, going way back to The Apartment. It’s rare that someone can be that beautiful and that talented. There was no one hotter than her back in the day. She’s hands down the most talented and hot. It’s a powerful combination. She’s like a Jack Nicholson level of awesome. She put me at ease early on. She would laugh at all my dumb jokes and make me feel like I was worthy.

You reunite with director Richard Linklater on this film. What happened with the proposed School of Rock sequel?

I’d love to do a School of Rock sequel. We’re just trying to figure it out. We never came together and saw eye-to-eye on what that story would be. [But] never say never. At this point, I think it would have to be about how rock is dead and how it’s Stewie’s job to figure out how to bring rock back to life somehow.

So what is your next project?

My next Tenacious D album comes out next week. And then we do a world tour. Well, we’re going to do all of the United States and then Europe. We’re not going to Australia or Asia. Then I’m really hoping to get started on the Charlie Chaplin movie right after the Tenacious D tour.



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  • Greg

    I’m a big fan of Jack. can’t wait to see this.

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones

    He never said that he was gay and, in that community, I don’t think there’s many flamboyantly out-of-the-closet gay people.

    Why do straight people also associate being openly gay, with flamboyancy? Some of us are, a lot of us are not. When are they going to understand that?

  • kevininbuffalo

    @Mr. Enemabag Jones:First off that’s how the media portrays us. Secondly most straight people probably don’t spend 10 seconds a month thinking about GLBT people, they may have things to think of that are more important to them. Third, if you’re really worried about our image you might consider changing your handle Mr. Enemabag.

  • Peter Fitz

    I have just always taken for granted, that Jack Black was gay
    but than again, I always thought John Edwards was gay

  • LadyL

    @Mr. Enemabag Jones: I was thinking the same thing! “flamboyantly, out of the closet gay”?? Excuse me? I take kevininbuffalo’s point in his reply to you, but I’m not convinced that logic applies to people like Black and others in the entertainment industry. He works with (and is interviewed by) too many LGBT movers and shakers too regularly to be so annoyingly tone deaf.

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones


    That’s Mr. Enemabag Jones, to you!

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones



  • EvonCook

    This actually sounds like Doris Duke and her butler. Remember he inherited everything after she died. I ran a gay charity at the time and contacted him and he promised to give us a lot of donations from the estate –but, then he died suddenly from alcoholism, years of alcoholism finally took its toll. Perhaps having a tough mistress had kept him going.

  • J Stratford

    @Mr. Enemabag Jones:

    Because for a long time now (and still on going) flamboyant gays compose a greater portion of the out of the closet gays and “manly” gays compose more of the closeted ones.

    Of course, nowadays, its getting to be less and less so. but think about it, who is less likely to be out, femme or straight-acting?

    Hence, the way straight people view us. The only solution really is for self-confessed manly gay men to come out and show our other side – just like Mr Gay World is advocating.

  • J


  • J

    @J Stratford: You know what? Most gays are girly like.That’s just how we are! That’s the norm.The remaining minority are the exception who are naturally manly.

    It’s just like most straight guys are manly and a minority are girly like.Yes,I have seen straight guys who are kind of girly.

  • Paul F

    @Mr. Enemabag Jones: Right, next thing someone is going to try to tell me that Floyd the barber on the Andy Griffith show was a closet case. (He just liked the feeling of running his hands through the hair of all the guys in town, there was nothing gay about that, is there?)

  • Stephen

    @ J Stratford

    No. We’re just as out of the closet. We don’t always get credit for it because we’re not as obvious, though, so there is that.

    @ J

    What planet are you on? Gay guys are just guys. Some are naturally “girly” (like some straight guys are naturally “girly”). Some aren’t, but develop that affectation to “fit in”. Most are, you know, just guys, somewhere in between the two extremes, and can be “camp” when required, but otherwise wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, because they’re just average guys.

  • James M. Martin

    I know a local gay man who looks and acts just like Jack Black. When I first saw one of his movies I did a double take. Unfortunately, this person locally I find nauseating and thus I was predisposed to dislike Black. He has lived up to my worst expectations, too.

  • David Ehrenstein

    Love this movie and love Jack Black. He doesn’t portray Bernie as “effeminate’ or even “flamboyant” as it’s generally understood. It’s simply obvious he’s not a “Manly Guy” by Texas standards.

    There’s a very subtly written and played scene of Bernie chatting up a hotel bellhop that says everythig about his gayness and how he had managed to compartmentalize it in his life. To me Bernie’s ceasless efforts to get everyone to love him were his way of “making up for” being gay — even though his gayness was pretty well closeted. Fascinating subject.

  • Skeeter Sanders

    This isn’t the first time that Jack Black has played a gay character in films. Remember “Saving Silverman?” In it, Black played J.D. McNugent, a member of a three-man Neil Diamond tribute band called “Diamond in the Rough,” who comes out of the closet to his bandmates — who are also his best friends since grade school.


  • Marc Devin

    I find it very unnerving that so many of you are so upset that Jack Black is portraying Bernie as slightly effeminate, and yet, seem to have no problem with him portraying someone who shot his “friend” in the back and then blew her face off at point blank range so that he could continue stealing her money, as delightfully whimsical.

    Likewise it bothers me tremendously that, whereas at the time of trial the prosecution was forbidden to bring up Bernie’s homosexuality because it was thought that it would be unduly prejudicial to the jury, now it is being used to make him look sympathetic and harmless.

    The truth is that Bernie is a convected murderer. The Nugent family are the only ones who deserve sympathy.

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