Bill Murray has been a comedy legend for decades. What’s the secret to his success? He’s a great actor, but there’s also the sense of fun and unpredictability he exudes behind the scenes. In interviews and public appearances, you never quite know what to expect!
He truly is full of surprises, so here are some eye-opening facts about the esteemed and hilarious Mr. Murray…
Big surprise – Murray keeps people on their toes! Take the autograph hunter who went for an unexpected dip. “When a woman clad in a fur coat asked him to sign a piece of paper,” Reader’s Digest writes, “he agreed, with one stipulation: he could toss her into the pool, fur and all.”
She promptly agreed – if anyone’s going to throw you into a pool, it may as well be Bill Murray! And it’s not just clothing spectators need to watch out for. In 2016 he made headlines, by throwing eager fans’ cameraphones off the roof of a restaurant…
He gave up acting for a while
Murray is best known for making people laugh, but like anyone he has a serious side. So when 1984 drama The Razor’s Edge failed at the box office, he quit acting for a few years. If it hadn’t been for The Razor’s Edge, Murray may not have starred in Ghostbusters – Columbia financed the personal project to get him on board the Ecto-1 in the first place!
During the career hiatus he went to Paris, in order to study philosophy and history at Sorbonne University. While in France, he also visited the Cinémathèque Française, soaking up some world class celluloid…
He doesn’t have an agent
Bill Murray is his own man, and doesn’t let a little thing like showbiz protocol stand in his way. He left his agent and started handling deals himself, via an automated 800 number. Maybe Murray should hire a Janine Melnitz (of Ghostbusters fame) to man the phone, because he reportedly doesn’t keep on top of his messages. Robert Downey Jr. wanted to talk to him about Iron Man, but couldn’t get hold of the laid back star in time.
One reason Murray doesn’t like agents could be his experience on Garfield, which he accepted via his reps. “I thought it would be kind of fun,” he told GQ. “Plus, I looked at the script, and it said, ‘So-and-so and Joel Coen.’ And I thought: Christ, well, I love those Coens!”
Eventually the truth was made clear: “It wasn’t written by that Joel Coen.” Once the penny dropped, it was too late. The film’s co-writer Alec Sokolow has since claimed the story is made up.
He was nearly Kindergarten Cop!
1990’s Kindergarten Cop is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s defining comedic roles. However Bill Murray was first offered the lead, as an undercover cop posing as a moppet wrangler. Though the deadpan actor would have brought a whole other dynamic to the part, he thought better of accepting. And in a way it’s probably best he left it to Arnie…!
Murray is also said to have turned down Splash with Daryl Hannah, Bad Santa (which went to Billy Bob Thornton) and numerous other movies…
He improvised one of his most famous characters
Carl Spackler of the movie Caddyshack (1980) was many viewers’ first exposure to the genius of Bill Murray. The country club groundskeeper had a golf course-sized grudge against a pesky gopher! Yet while Spackler is famous for his dialogue – such as the “Dalai Lama” speech – this was completely made up by Murray.
Mental Floss writes, “In fact, the only script direction for what became his ‘Cinderella speech’ read: ‘Carl cuts off the tops of flowers with a grass whip.’” Because of Murray’s offbeat approach, Spackler expanded from cameo role to classic character.
He has 8 brothers and sisters
Bill Murray hails from a big clan. He was raised in the suburbs of Chicago with Nancy, Edward, Laura, Peggy, Andy, John, Joel and Brian Doyle-Murray. Showbusiness runs in the family, as the last 3 are also actors. For instance, Brian appeared on TV in Sullivan & Son, Seinfeld and Supernatural, in addition to movies with brother Bill.
He’s had run ins with his co-stars
A Bill Murray movie set isn’t always the happiest of experiences. High profile run ins are part and parcel of Hollywood life, and this star is not immune to confrontation!
He famously squared up to Chevy Chase, when the latter left Saturday Night Live. Cast members wanted Murray to let him know they weren’t happy. “It was really a Hollywood fight, a ‘Don’t touch my face!’ kind of thing,” Murray told Empire. “Chevy is a big man, I’m not a small guy, and we were separated by my brother Brian, who comes up to my chest. So it was kind of a non-event… we all felt mad he had left us, and somehow I was the anointed avenging angel… But Chevy and I are friends now. It’s all fine.”
Last year Richard Dreyfuss explained how he and Murray didn’t exactly get along during production on What About Bob (1991), describing him as “an Irish drunken bully” in a Yahoo interview. He claimed the comedian screamed in his face and threw an ashtray at him…
He nearly drowned
Or rather, someone nearly drowned him! When Murray played counter-culture author and “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson in 1980’s Where The Buffalo Roam, he really got into character as this chemically-fuelled anti-hero. In a strange mirror of what happened to the lady in fur who asked for an autograph, the real Thompson bound Murray to a chair and threw him in a pool.
Why? It was part of a “trick”, with the men seeing who could be most like Houdini. Thankfully, Thompson got Murray out of the water in time…
He likes a party
Murray sounds pretty wild, so it’s no secret he likes socializing. He definitely lived up to this in 2006, though in an unexpected way. “Murray was in Scotland for a golf tournament,” writes Littlethings.com. “While there, he met a 22-year-old Norwegian student at a pub and accompanied him back to a party full of Scandinavian students.”
As if that image isn’t bizarre enough, wait for the punchline: “Murray stayed till the end and personally washed all the dirty dishes.”
His job title is “Director of Fun”
If anyone’s going to direct the fun, it’s Bill Murray. As part of his duties co-owning the Charleston RiverDogs baseball team in South Carolina, he even has the job description “Director of Fun”.
What does the role entail? The Telegraph mentioned that “Murray attended a RiverDogs game that was stopped by rain”. He decided to put on a show for the crowd, who “were treated to the sight of Murray joyfully skidding and belly-flopping all over the tarpaulin.”