Bill Murray
Photo by Armando Gallo

Bill Murray: “I’m not one of those guys”

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Short Profile

Name: William James Murray
DOB: 21 September 1950
Place of Birth: Wilmette, Illinois, USA
Occupation: Actor, Comedian

Mr. Murray, you don’t have an agent or a manager and people say you don’t even own a cell phone. What does it take for a filmmaker who has a perfect role in mind for you to bring you on to a project?

The key really would be to have a good script. It’s not that hard. If you have a good script that’s what gets you involved. People say they can’t find me. Well, if you can write a good script, that’s a lot harder than finding someone. It’s much harder to write a good screenplay than to find someone, so you can find someone. I don’t worry about it; it’s not my problem. My problem is having a little peace and quiet. So they need to find me, that’s really their issue. I am not taking ads out or anything, standing on the street corner.

Was there a point in your career where you realized, now I can play "hard to get"?

I don’t really think it changed a whole lot. It’s just sort of a cumulative thing that happens where you get more and more attention and much of it is pleasant, but a lot of it doesn’t really serve you or help you getting anything done, it just takes up a lot of your time. So it’s pleasant enough but it means I don’t get anything else done.

Can you give me an example?

It’s like if I were in the fan mail business – I don’t answer fan mail. I don’t have time for that. It’s like there are hundreds of thousands of people that think they’re going to become millionaires getting autographs from movie actors. I don’t have time for those idiots. I got stuff to do. Spelling my name? I did that a long time ago. When I run into someone on the street that’s one thing, but answering mail for a living? Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay… I like a job where you sleep late, get kind of goofy and have some fun.

Do you ever feel any pressure to keep things fun on set?

I feel that pressure in life. Actually I don’t feel like it’s a pressure, it’s sort of an obligation – not to entertain and be funny but to have a certain levity. I don’t mean in terms of just being jocular, I mean that there’s got to be a lightness in your way. There has to be a lightness; you have to be as light as you can be and not get weighed down and stuck in your emotion, stuck in your body, stuck in your head. You just want to always be trying to elevate somehow.

What do you like about being on set?

You get it together and you get together. It’s a group effort and you’re very intense and you’re very intimate. You have to completely focus and throw all your energy on the highest level of your ability to work at this one task. It only lasts a little while and then you split up and you may never see any of these people ever again. But it’s a complete commitment to this one thing and then it just goes puff! And it’s gone. It’s always the joke, “I’ll see you on the next one,” because you never see anyone.

A shot study of Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation (2003), starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.

Lately you’ve appeared in a lot of independent films. Is that more appealing these days?

I love independent films but it’s fun to do studio movies, too. You should do both. You don’t want to be like, “Oh he’s an independent film guy.” It sounds like he makes his own dresses or something you know? It just doesn’t sound right. But the funding, the way financing independent movies goes is great, because you get the money from the guy who is actually doing the distribution in France, for example. You say you want a kick into this movie? You want a piece of this movie? And he has got to sell this movie to get his money out, to get his money back. That’s the brains of it. That’s the genius of this way of financing. That’s how it works and it’s like: why isn’t everyone doing this? But you still have marketing of the movie and the American domestic is a big part of it. But the financing can be done like this and it’s cool, it’s kind of fun.

You seem to have had good experiences with foreign co-producers.

We’ve had crazy guys on our movies and we had an interesting bunch of producers. We had these Polish guys that came: “The Polish guys are coming.” What is that? The Polish guys come and they’re like happy-go-lucky Polish guys and then the German guys came along and here come the German guys. One of the Polish guys says to me (speaks in Polish accent) “Hey when movie come, you come to Poland?” Yeah, okay. We went to Poland for the cinematographer’s film festival up there and it was a total blast! It was much cooler than Cannes.


It was just cooler, it was like the coolest festival because it was just the real artists. Everyone was a filmmaker themselves, these were the guys. It was cool.

Do you even prepare for your roles anymore?

I’m not that organized. I’m not one of those guys. I mean you read it, you look at it, and you go: I have that in me, I can do that. I don’t necessarily get all mental. There are people that are working with you on every level and on a movie you’re working with people that are, ideally, all serving the same goal and that’s what helps me get into a role.