Remembering ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ With Catherine Mary Stewart [Interview]
In the mid-1980s, Catherine Mary Stewart was Hollywood’s “It” Girl, hanging out on the beach in Wilmington, North Carolina with Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman in the comedy classic Weekend at Bernie’s (1989), having already helped save the planet in the sci-fi milestones Night of the Comet (1984) and The Last Starfighter (1984).
OBXentertainment.com got a chance to interview the talented actress at the second Blood at the Beach Horror Convention in Virginia Beach last November, and learned that she first came to North Carolina while filming Bernie’s and has since become a regular visitor and property owner on the Outer Banks.
Weekend at Bernie’s is the irreverent story of two buddies who drag the corpse of their boss Bernie (Terry Kiser) around with them on wild weekend of adventure, as no one seems to notice that Bernie is actually dead. Stewart is the female lead in the movie, which was shot mostly in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Catherine recalls, “We shot Weekend at Bernie’s in New York and Wilmington, which was supposed to double for The Hamptons, a very ‘tony’ area on Long Island. I had never been to North Carolina before and knew nothing about it.
“I discovered that Dino De Laurentiis (producer; King Kong, Serpico, Halloween II, Conan the Barbarian) had a huge studio complex there. We didn’t use it but we visited one day and Gene Hackman was shooting something. I don’t remember what the movie was but it was incredible to meet him.
“Bernie’s house was built from scratch right on the beach, pool and all. Fortunately there wasn’t a storm because there was no foundation. It would have been blown away.
“We were put up in some condos right on the beach. It was amazing. I didn’t have a lot of shoot days but I guess it would have been more costly to fly me back and forth from Los Angeles where I was living, when they needed to shoot with me so I had a lot of down time.
“I had the chance to explore a bit, even taking a ballet class in town with a bunch of kids. I did get a little bored with not a lot to do, so when I got to shoot I had the best time.
“I was always so excited to get to the set that I think I was a little overwhelming with my enthusiasm. I would burst into the make-up room declaring a very loud, very melodic “GOOD MORNING!!”. Poor Jonathon and Andrew. They were so patient, but I feel certain it was very annoying.”
“You can’t really compare North Carolina to New York or Los Angeles,” she said. “L.A. especially is all about the movie making industry. What was pleasant about North Carolina is that although it was nothing but a superior, professional experience, the shoot wasn’t taken for granted. Everyone wanted to be there, appreciated being there, and created a fantastic atmosphere on the set. It was a pleasure.”
The dark comedy has since become a part of American pop culture, as Stewart says that fans regularly email her when they spot a new Bernie’s reference in another TV show or film, but she admits she had some early concerns about how audiences might respond to the outlandish plot.
“When I first read the script,” she remembers, “I felt like it was a bit over the top. Bernie banging into the buoys behind the boat struck me as particularly offensive, but apparently I didn’t have my finger on the pulse of that kind of humor. I like to call it “sophomoric” humor.
“It’s become a huge part of the industry and I believe Weekend at Bernie’s was a ground breaker. It cracks me up how often this movie is referred to in television sitcoms, etc. I’m very happy to have been a part of it.”
Not long after working in Wilmington on Bernie’s, Catherine returned to North Carolina for her first visit to the Outer Banks and quickly fell in love with the area, where she and her family own a house and have vacationed regularly for past two decades.
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