Oh, Bill Murray! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
1) He loves good music. He hosted the Crossroads Guitar Festival, a weekend of the best guitar players in the world curated by Eric Clapton. The line-up included BB King, Jeff Beck, Albert Lee, Buddy Guy to name but a few. The whole time Bill stands on the side of the stage rocking his socks off. (On a side note YouTube Tal Wilkenfeld, Beck’s bassist, she’s jawdroppingly good).
2) At the age of 58 he still loves to have a good time. He was great drinking buddies with Hunter S. Thompson (more later), which puts him in the realms of hardest drinker on the planet. George Clooney once tried to keep up with him and woke up in a wheelchair in a hotel lobby at 7 in the morning. He has no recollection of how this happened.
3) He has no publicist or agent. He checks in on an answerphone from time to time and if he likes the messages or film ideas, he responds. Admittedly this means he misses out on choice scripts but it also means he doesn’t have to play the fame game. A worthy sacrifice.
4) He has six sons. That guy’s penis makes other penises. The mark of a true man.
5) His name is Bill. Which puts him in the great pantheon of funny Bills. Hicks, Connolly, Bailey, Maher, Shakespeare, O’Reilly… so when I was younger (okay I was still about 20) me and my brother named our cats Bill and Murray. That’s fanboy dedication.
6) He made the 80’s not suck. He is the only good thing to come out of the 80’s. Except for The Smiths, maybe.
7) He grows a damn fine beard.
I could go on (and on, and on) but I haven’t even mentioned his films. So without further ado. The best of Bill…
Out-and-Out Bill – ‘Ghostbusters’ (1984)
Quite possibly his defining role. As “Doctor” Peter Venkmen he delivered every single line (of an admittedly excellent script) with such aplomb it seemed like he was making it up as he went. And he very likely was. How much was Murray’s improvisation varies wildly with every re-telling of the making of the film; some say he never even read the script, and improvised so much he deserves a writing credit, while others insist that he only improvised a few lines, and used his deadpan comic delivery to make scripted lines seem spontaneous. Whichever way it was, no other man in the history of all time could deliver the line “It’s true your honour, This man has no dick” quite as well as yer man.
See also – ‘Stripes’ (1981), ‘Caddyshack’ (1981)
Leading Man Bill – ‘Groundhog Day’ (1993)
How can a film starring Andie McDowell be a five-star, cast-iron, 24 carat certified classic? Because it also has Bill Murray in it. As risible an actress as Andie is, the film never dips when she’s around because Bill is ALWAYS around. He is in every single scene and practically every single shot. Once more his deadpan delivery of a well-written script puts most ‘thespians’ to shame. To say that this is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Jimmy Stewart’s performance in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is a bold claim. But it’s one I’m more than willing to make.
See also – ‘Quick Change’ (1990)
Culty Bill – ‘Where The Buffalo Roam’ (1980)
Who has the quintessential Hunter S. Thompson portrayal on the silver screen? Johnny Who? Not in my blinkered eyes. Without taking anything away from Depp’s more iconic take on the Gonzo journalist, he was helped considerably by Terry Gilliam’s terrifying visuals and constantly moving camera. In contrast Murray’s portrayal is almost stage like, a static camera picking up every tic, every nuance. Hunter was so impressed with Bill’s interpretation of his life the two became very close friends. Rumour has it the actor was the second to last person he called before he ended his life.
See also – ‘Ed Wood’ (1994), ‘The Razor’s Edge’ (1984)
Oscar Worthy Bill – ‘Broken Flowers’ (2005)
The Oscars are a sham. Everyone knows it, comedy never gets a look-in, but fuck it must be nice to be recognised by your peers. Looking like he hated every second of the 2005 Oscars (where he was nominated for ‘Lost In Translation’) it still looked like he wanted to win. And while most would say the Tokyo set love story was the film he deserved it for, for me it was the following year’s Jim Jarmusch indie that showed he could do drama just as well as comedy. As Don Johnston, the past-it lothario searching for his fictional son, he exuded pathos in every scene. His hangdog expression never fitted a character better.
See also – ‘Lost In Translation’ (2003)
Wes Bill – ‘Rushmore’ (1998)
In Wes Anderson, Bill found a director whose phonecall he actually wanted to return. As well as this, the best ‘high school film not about high school’ he went on to accept invitations to ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, ‘The Life Aquatic’ and even popped up (all too briefly) in ‘The Darjeeling Limited’. So that’ll be every film (bar his debut) that Wes has ever made. What a lucky bugger.
See also – Those films I just listed above and this year’s ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’.
I wish there was more room to write about my love of all things Bill Murray (like how ‘Larger Than Life’, ‘Scrooged’ and ‘The Man Who Knew Too Little’ are still always re-watchable even though as films they suck) but I’ve already jabbered on way past the point that most people will say “Man that dude’s really got a hard-on for that old actor” and stop reading. Those who are still here, post your favourite Bill movies and stories below and thanks for getting through my ranty sychophancy.