Inside this week's EW: The Curious Case of Bill Murray

Bill-MurrayImage Credit: C Flanigan/FilmMagic.comIn a feature story in this week’s issue, Entertainment Weekly asks Bill Murray about his elusive, unpredictable ways and uncovers exactly what it takes for filmmakers to get him into their movies nowadays.

Bill Murray is Hollywood’s White Whale. There have always been sightings of the enigmatic actor, and a generation of young filmmakers came in to the biz with the Quixotic dream of eventually landing him for their passion projects. Wes Anderson (Rushmore) pulled it off. So did Sofia Coppola—though it took her months to get him to call her back before he even read Lost in Translation. Today, in lieu of an agent or publicist, Murray makes do with a 1-800 number, where producers, studio heads, and journalists can leave their messages at the beep. “Getting in touch with Bill Murray remains one of life’s greatest mysteries,” says Rob Burnett, executive producer of Late Show with David Letterman. “The plus/minus on that return call can be anywhere from 24 hours to six months. That’s just how it is.”

What’s odd is that Murray is often hiding in plain sight. There he is, toying with the gallery at Pebble Beach. There he is, playing himself in a web-short about hyper-vigilant fact-checkers. There he is, rooting for his beloved Cubs at Wrigley Field, or tending bar in Austin, or reading Emily Dickinson poems to beefy New York construction workers. Heck, he once showed up at Monmouth Park, the New Jersey racetrack where I worked while in college, and signed my brother’s program with the baffling but beautiful line, “Forty percent discount after 6 p.m. — Bill Murray.”

There’s a scene in Groundhog Day where Murray’s calendar-challenged Phil Connors plays chicken with an approaching train and then says, “I’m not going to live by their rules anymore!” Murray has done the same thing in his own career. He has his own code, and woe to the costar, the grip, or the studio executive who violates it. During the filming of Groundhog Day, producers pleaded with Murray that he hire a personal assistant to facilitate better communications between the studio and their star. Murray acquiesced, sort of, hiring a deaf-mute who spoke only American Sign Language. Don’t worry, Murray explained, I’m going to learn sign language. “That’s anti-communication,” says Groundhog Day director Harold Ramis. “You know, ‘Let’s not talk.'”

If Murray hasn’t decided to teach you a lesson, however, he might just do you the honor of turning your pet project into something transcendent. Just ask Coppola; or Dan Beers, a director who landed Murray for his web-short in exchange for a 12-inch hunting knife; or Ruben Fleischer, the Zombieland director who couldn’t believe Murray said yes to a crucial cameo after Mark Hamill said no.

The phone calls keep coming because, let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as “someone like Bill Murray.” There’s just Bill Murray, and in 2010, the 59-year-old is as cool as Steve McQueen and as beloved as Johnny Carson. So he has that going for him. Which is nice.

What’s you favorite Bill Murray public appearance? Do you have any idea what “Forty percent discount after 6 p.m.” means? And are you impressed that I lasted 420 words before I touretted an obligatory Caddyshack line?

For more about Bill Murray, pick up a copy of this week’s Entertainment Weekly.

Comments (42 total) Add your comment
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  • D’s Advocate

    And that 1-800 number is….?

  • Lisa

    Sorry, but no way is Bill Murray as cool as Steve McQueen was.

    • Bob Jones

      Because you knew them both and everything.

      • Raz

        Yeah. Murray is cooler…but McQueen was a better dresser.

        The article is a must read. Absolutely spectacular.

    • Rumplestiltskin

      Murray is cooler because, aloof as he might be, you’d like to hang with him. I’d would never have wanted to hang with McQueen.

      • Stephen R. Tod

        Fortunately, for many, life is not either-or. It’s both-and. We can enjoy McQueen and Murray for their unique and in many ways, mutually-exclusive gifts.

    • The Other Guy

      Sorry, but yes he is. Steve McQueen wasn’t in Zombieland.

  • Leo

    I loved him in Lost in Translation and I kind of think he’s alot like that character. He’s mainly an observer of the world, an inhabitant rather than a participant. I wonder if the words he whispered in Scarlett Johanssen’s ear were as nonscensical as your brother’s autograph! (at the end of the film he whispers to her and they have never revealed what he said). I like the mystery about him, frankly. Everyone else in hollywood seem to practically announce when they have their period so its refreshing.

  • Tom

    Sounds interesting. Wonder how they got him to do Garfield?

    • Strepsi

      According to Murray, he said yes because it was written by Joel Coen. Only after being in studio, and reading the crappy jokes, was he told “not THAT Joel Coen!”


      Garfield was written by Joel CoHen

  • arielle

    garfield was probably just a mortgage payment.

    • Madd

      My favorite quote ever (I’m paraphrasing): “I’ve never seen it. However, I have seen the house it built, and it’s terrific.” -Michael Caine about some Jaws sequel he starred in.

      • Jerry

        “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
        Best quote ever.

  • rc

    He was filming in Jamaica when i was there about 5 years ago. We stayed in the same resort. I never approached him but he was extremely gracious to all who did approach him. He seemed like a really nice guy.

  • Madd

    Bill Murray is awesome. That really just sums it up.

  • pattycupcake

    sounds like something about how museum admissions are often discounted afterhours to promote visits…he might have just visited a favorite museum and wanted to promote it, or share his moment of pleasure, but only elliptically. obviously i have no idea, but it’s the first thing that occured to me. unless monmouth park has discounts after 6. that’d make sense too.

  • Flora

    Last September, I was at the premiere of “The Men Who Stare at Goats” in Toronto. All the stars came in black SUVs to the fenced, private area outside the red carpet. Bill Murray? Walked, by himself, through the fan area. Got two-thirds of the way through completely unnoticed before the cameras finally caught on (and started hounding him.)Made him quite awesome in my mind.

  • Emmie

    Love him. Here’s my Bill Murray encounter – I waited on him in a bar about 15 years ago. He drank white tequila and pineapple juice. He clearly wanted to be treated like a regular guy. After the bar cleared out he was very gracious and signed autographs and took pictures with the staff. Gave me a fantastic tip.

  • Sydney

    I read the article in this week’s EW when it came to my house today and now that I have watched the youtube links in the above article, I am in completely awe of this man. I would love to meet him; he sounds like one of the most laid back, interesting people I will ever meet.

    • Stormy

      He’s typical Chicago, friendly and open but not into the whole famous thing. As are John and Joan Cusack, Gary Sinese and many other stars out of Chicago.

      • PJM

        Perfect description. Pretentious Chicagoan is a contradiction in terms.

        Sadly, the closest I ever came to a Bill Murray encounter is caddying at the club across the road from where he used to be a looper. And about ten years apart, too. :-(

      • Zachary

        I live on Idyllwild Place, between Sheridan and Guadalupe just north of Willow Road.I think my home lies odsitue of the proposed boundary of the proposed city. Please let me know if the western boundary will be Guadalupe.Thanks,Fred Hartman

    • Kiera

      , no amount of deenfse attorney posturing or attempts to create reasonable doubt can ever relieve Murray of his responsibility to have watched and monitored Jackson.I was interviewed by Michael Flanagan, one of Murray’s deenfse attorneys, as the first anesthesiologist chosen to be a witness on behalf of Murray’s deenfse.Prior to this interview, when I had written the Michael Jackson chapter in Getting Over Going Under,’ I assumed Murray was over his clinical training and expertise giving propofol .Flanagan dispelled that impression when he described how Murray gave propofol for cardioversions (electrical activity delivered to a heart with atrial rhythm disturbance). Flanagan said, Murray did not even start an intravenous. He simply mainlined’ the propofol directly into a vein.’I told Flanagan that he impressed me but not at all in the manner in which he had hoped.There is no word in the English language to describe the recklessness of Murray mainlining’ propofol for cardioversion. Not even a day one intern right our of medical school would be so reckless and cavalier.The only thing more reckless than Murray’s conduct at Jackson’s home would have been to have taken Jackson up in a plane and pushed him out without a parachute. Mainlining’ propofol along with Murray’s failure to provide child support for the multiple illegitimate children he has fathered with multiple women & his long history of failure to honor other financial obligations leads me to reassess my diagnosis of Murray’s personality.Murray is the poster child’ for Sociopaths of America. He is not an ignorant fool but a person who does not think the norms of behavior apply to him.When he disclaims responsibility for the death of Michael Jackson, it is the sociopath speaking who is convinced of his own words and clearly believes he will convince a jury as well.Another attempt to rehabilitate Murray’s image to the public included a release saying he had never been sued for malpractice. As if never being sued would be to give testimony to his wonderful doctoring. An informed listener should quickly recognize this record is a greater testimony to a sociopath’s slick talking, not to great doctoring.Do not believe a single Murray utterance that cannot be independently confirmed.Sadly, even if convicted and deprived of a license to practice medicine, Murray is unlikely to stop practicing. The rules just don’t apply to him, at least, in his mind anyway.

  • Lindsay

    He owns the minor league baseball team in Charleston, South Carolina where I am from. He comes to the games all the time and just sits in the regular seats. I talked to him once and he was very nice.

  • bedc01

    My favorite moment, which I read in the news, was the time he hit a lady with a golf ball by accident. He immediately went to her and checked if she was fine, then stayed with her and was making her laugh and playing with her.. I always felt if that was me in that situation, I would have said “holy sh–! A ghostbuster came to my rescue”

  • WTF

    Thanks for reminding me of Rushmore. Great movie. “I like your little nurses uniform”. “These are OR scrubs”. “Oh, are they?”

  • Anna

    He sounds nuts, but in a good way.

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