On a purely personal level, there isn’t a more interesting movie star working in Hollywood than Bill Murray. Brad Pitt uses his classic-type-of-movie-star status to appear in movies you wouldn’t expect the Sexiest Man Alive to choose. Pitt’s buddy George Clooney makes similar role choices, and they both use their influence to try and better the world. Bill Murray doesn’t seem interested in crap like that, he seems like a real guy. Where Pitt and Clooney have aged with grace and neither has lost their signature jaw lines, Murray has gotten pudgier and let his hair thin.
Once a comedy leading man, crazy ol’ Bill has spent recent years appearing in Wes Anderson’s indie movies and playing golf. He’s transformed from Stripes and Caddyshack (two of the most loved comedies ever, keep in mind) to Anderson’s new movie Moonrise Kingdom, where he probably won’t step too far out of the spacey, solemn older man role he’s settled into. But more than his acting choices, Murray is such an interesting guy because he doesn’t seem to have ever left that “greatest smartass” role behind.
The dry, sarcastic sense of humor his characters always have seems like it’s a real part of Murray’s personality, which is probably why he’s so good at it. The characters he plays in Lost in Translation, Rushmore, and The Life Aquatic just seem like people his Stripes and Ghostbusters characters would be after 20 or 30 years. During his life he broke Robert DeNiro’s nose, jumped into a trash-filled dumpster on Letterman, and was once arresting for trying to smuggle 9 pounds of marijuana through O’Hare airport in Chicago.
When Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis stopped by WTF with Marc Maron last year, he mentioned the time he met Bill Murray. While in Chicago, Sudeikis got a panicky call from a friend, who told him to rush downtown and meet him at a bar, there was no time to explain. Once he arrived, Sudeikis entered through the back door and sitting in a dingy kitchen with his friend was Bill Murray, drinking a beer and watching his beloved Chicago Cubs. They talked about Murray’s days on SNL, how the show has changed, and areas it’s stayed the same. It’s probably not much of a stretch to guess every actor in L.A. or New York has a Bill Murray story.
It’s clear he doesn’t care about the politics of Hollywood. When people want to pitch him a movie, they don’t contact an agent or manager but Bill’s own personal answering machine. Apparently, he might go weeks at a time without checking it and only relies on his gut to decide what roles to take. According to the linked article, Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola spent seven months calling the answering machine trying to get him to read the script. This method has even cost him a few roles (Full Disclosure: this is according to Wikipedia but was too irresistible to not mention) including Steve Carell’s role in Little Miss Sunshine, Sulley in Monsters Inc., and Willy Wonka.
Now, Murray is in the news again because of Moonrise Kingdom (after Kingdom’s screening at Cannes Murray threw a dance party), his portrayal of FDR in the upcoming film Hyde Park on Hudson, playing golf at Pebble Beach in a Ghille suit (see picture above way above, classic), and for appearing in a short film with a fan who requested an autograph. That’s right, Murray took part in some random dude’s slow-motion walk with a couple of his friends (the link to that video won’t show up on WordPress, just click here to see it).
The question remains as to whether Murray would be a fun guy to hang out with. While popular opinion would probably be a resounding YEAH DUH! I have my reservations. Dan Aykroyd nicknamed him the “Murricane” because of his infamous mood swings on set. He married his first wife on the set of Stripes but they divorced in 1996 after Murray had an affair with a woman who he’d go on to marry, Jennifer Butler. Butler divorced Murray in 2008, citing domestic abuse, drug addiction, and infidelity. Yowza. That may or may not be true, but while we’re projecting ont0 Murray we might as well assume he’s kind of a loner based on his history.
Regardless, even with a career dating back to the ‘70s Bill Murray somehow has remained one of the freshest movie stars in Hollywood. It might be because he spend his time drinking beer and watching baseball just like the rest of us.