Jack Black may be one of Hollywood's funniest guys, but he wasn't laughing when he visited a maximum-security prison.
He was there to meet the convicted murderer he plays in his new film, Bernie.
"It was scary," Black tells me. "It was intimidating…Yeah, we're safe because there are guards around, but you don't feel safe. You feel like you can get killed any minute."
Bernie, directed by Richard Linklater, tells the real-life story of Bernie Tiede (Black), a small-town Texas mortician who was sentenced to life in prison 15 years ago for killing his friend, 81-year-old wealthy but mean-as-heck widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine).
The prosecutor (Matthew McConaughey) on the case actually had the trial moved, fearing none of the locals would find Tiede guilty even though he confessed to the crime because they loved him as much as they hated Nugent.
"I definitely feel like he served his time," Black said. "He deserved punishment, to do hard time because it was murder—but not all murders are created equal."
He said, "Bernie is just the sweetest, softest and most lovable guy. It's like you shouldn't be here with these killers."
And you may see the character on stage one day. Black and MacLaine have talked about developing a musical adaptation. "I'd love to do some Broadway," Black said. "But it's not going to be done next week. We got a lot of work to do."