Bill Murray Opens Up
Thanks to reader Jon for pointing us to this Bill Murray interview that is far more revealing than any he’s done lately (he never does them at all). ¬†Reading through it, it’s easier to understand why Murray isn’t Mr. Popular in Hollywood. ¬†One has to be Marlon Brando or Katharine Hepburn good for the AMPAS to put up with people who have attitudes. ¬†When Bill Murray was up against Sean Penn, Penn took the lead because Clint Eastwood sort of forced him to do the monkey dance. ¬†And he did it well. ¬†He put on a suit and shook a lot of hands, gave a lot of speeches – his above-it-all ‘tude was just not there. ¬†Bill Murray, on the other hand, showed up but he didn’t really do the monkey dance. ¬†I can see how this would be irritating after a while. ¬†If you’re an actor you pretty much have to do the other part of the job. ¬†It can’t just be you on your own private island. ¬†Somehow, Murray has done this and earned himself a nifty indie street cred in the process.
He’s clearly a pain in the ass. ¬†But hard to not like the guy, ¬†I guess, no matter what. ¬†Here is Murray on why he did Garfield, “not for the dough!”:
No! I didn’t make that for the dough! Well, not completely. I thought it would be kind of fun, because doing a voice is challenging, and I’d never done that. Plus, I looked at the script, and it said, “So-and-so and Joel Coen.” And I thought: Christ, well, I love those Coens! They’re funny. So I sorta read a few pages of it and thought, Yeah, I’d like to do that. I had these agents at the time, and I said, “What do they give you to do one of these things?” And they said, “Oh, they give you $50,000.” So I said, “Okay, well, I don’t even leave the fuckin’¬†driveway for that kind of money.”
Then this studio guy calls me up out of nowhere, and I had a nice conversation with him. No bullshit, no schmooze, none of that stuff. We just talked for a long time about the movie. And my agents called on Monday and said, “Well, they came back with another offer, and it was¬†nowhere near $50,000.” And I said, “That’s more befitting of the work I expect to do!” So they went off and shot the movie, and I forgot all about it. Finally, I went out to L.A. to record my lines. And usually when you’re looping a movie, if it takes two days, that’s a lot. I don’t know if I should even tell this story, because it’s kind of mean.¬†[beat] What the hell? It’s interesting. So I worked all day and kept going,¬†“That’s the line? Well, I can’t say that.” And you sit there and go, What can I say that will make this funny? And make it make sense? And I worked. I was exhausted, soaked with sweat, and the lines got worse and worse. And I said, “Okay, you better show me the whole rest of the movie, so we can see what we’re dealing with.” So I sat down and watched the whole thing, and I kept saying, “Who the hell cut this thing? Who¬†did this? What the¬†fuck was Coen thinking?” And then they explained it to me:¬†It wasn’t written by that¬†Joel Coen.
And on his acting style:
I have developed a kind of different style over the years. I hate trying to re-create a tone or a pitch. Saying, “I want to make it sound like I made it sound the last time”? That’s insane, because the last time doesn’t exist. It’s only this time. And everything is going to be different¬†this time. There’s only now. And I don’t think a director, as often as not, knows what is going to play funny anyway. As often as not, the right one is the one that they’re¬†surprised by, so I don’t think that they have the right tone in their head. And I think that good actors always‚Äîor if you’re being good, anyway‚Äîyou’re making it better than the script. That’s your fucking job. It’s like, Okay, the script says this? Well, watch¬†this. Let’s just roar a little bit. Let’s see how high we can go.
Bill Murray is great at comedy, and he’s not bad at the serious stuff. ¬†He is REALLY GIFTED with comedy, however. ¬†No one ever really likes to play the buffoon for very long, though. ¬†Sooner or later, the funny guys reveal a much sadder guy underneath. ¬†They learned throughout their life to make fun of themselves and allowed people to freely laugh at them. So when they get a little power they stop wanting to be “that guy.” ¬†Woody Allen, Bill Murray, Steve Martin – they just want to be taken seriously. ¬†But then, when they do let the funny back in and out, their loss is our gain.