A Q&A With Skip Hollandsworth

The executive editor on what it was like helping Richard Linklater turn his East Texas murder story into a star-studded film.
A Q&A With Skip Hollandsworth

In January 1998 TEXAS MONTHLY published a story by executive editor Skip Hollandsworth about a darkly humorous tale of murder that took place in the tiny town of Carthage (“ Midnight in the Garden of East Texas.”) A few days after the story was published, director Richard Linklater ( Slacker, Dazed and Confused) called up Hollandsworth to ask if he would like to work together on a screenplay based on the true story of Marjorie Nugent and Bernie Tiede. After nearly fifteen years of winding through the Hollywood process, the movie, Bernie—starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Shirley MacLaine—finally debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival last year and South by Southwest this past march. In the May 2012 piece, “ Lights, Camera, Carthage!” Hollandsworth takes readers behind the scenes to tell the story of how a magazine article becomes a motion picture.

What was Bernie’s reaction when he learned Richard Linklater wanted to make movie about him and Mrs. Nugent?
Initially, he was dubious. He was worried the movie would make him out to be a vicious murderer. But he and Rick swapped letters, and Rick explained that the movie was basically a retelling of the factual story of what exactly happened. Rick also admitted to him, straight up, that there would be a comic tone to much of the movie. Bernie still didn’t understand how a story about his life with Mrs. Nugent could be a comedy. Then he had one of his friends in prison read the TEXAS MONTHLY story that I had written. And from across the prison dormitory, Bernie heard his friend laughing out loud as he read the story.

What was your reaction when you learned Linklater wanted to do the movie?
Well, as I explained in this month’s story, I knew all about who Linklater was, but I had never met him. In truth, I pronounced his last name “Linkletter,” as in Art Linkletter. (The real pronunciation is “Link-late-her.”) And to be really honest, at that

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