With his latest film coming out, Rock the Kasbah, sees Bill Murray play the manager of rock star Zooey Deschanel as they both travel to Afghanistan for a gig. The film follows Murray as he loses his star in the middle of Afghanistan. Murray then finds another singer he sees potential in, and attempts to get her to Kabul in order to sing in a competition. In celebration of the great funny man, we take a look back at his incredible career so far, spanning five decades and over 60 feature length films, not to mention a four year run on Saturday Night Live.
William James Murray was born in Wilmette, Illinois in 1950 to Lucille Collins and Edward Joseph Murray II. Bill got his first shot at acting in a short film back in 1973 in The Hat Act, playing a bookstore owner, but it only took two years for Murray to receive his big break on comedy sketch show Saturday Night live, along with soon to be collaborator Dan Akroyd. His first major feature film was 1979’s Meatballs, where he played Tripper, a film about counsellors and campers at a summer camp. Over the next three years, Murray starred in multiple comedies, including the two cult classics Caddyshack and Stripes.
Bill Murray and Harold Ramis’ first film project together saw Murray playing Carl Speckler, a groundskeeper at an exclusive golf club, opposite another alumni from Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase. Murray and Chase infamously did not get along since their SNL days, when a long lasting feud meant no scenes could be shot together. Ramis decided against this and wrote a scene after the original script was finished, the now famous scene of Webb’s (Chase) golf ball flying through Spackler’s (Murray) ramshackle house. This was because Ramis realised that his two biggest stars didn’t even share a single scene in the film.
In 1984 Bill Murray starred in one of the most definitive films of the 1980s; Ghostbusters, where he starred alongside Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis. Directed by Ivan Reitman and written by both Ramis and Akroyd, the film went on to not only receive two Oscar nominations (for special effects and original song) but cemented its place as a cult classic that still holds up well to this day. The film, about a group of unemployed para-psychology scientists who set up a business of trapping ghosts, went on to spawn an equally successful sequel in 1989. In order to keep interest going during the film’s initial release, Ivan Reitman played a ‘trailer’ for the film, but used the in-film commerical advertising the Ghostbuster’s service instead, replacing the number with a 1-800 number for people to actually call. Whoever phoned got an answering machine message with Murray and Akroyd explaining they can’t get to the phone as they were out catching ghosts. It was so popular that the phone received over 1000 calls a day, 24 hours a day for over three weeks. Almost none of the scenes in the film were shot as scripted, with the host of comedians improvising as they went along, in fact most of Murray’s lines, as was the case in Caddyshack, were ad-lib. The film was so successful, it went on to make almost $300million worldwide.
Lost in Translation
As Bill Murray has grown maturer, so has his films. 2003 saw the Sofia Coppola written and directed Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Faded movie star Bob Harris (Murray) ventures to Tokyo to film a commercial and strikes up an unlikely friendship with Charlotte (Johansson), a jaded and lost young woman who is staying in Japan with her photographer boyfriend. The film went on to win an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay and Murray himself has confessed that it is his favourite film.
Wes Anderson and Bill Murray have collaborated on no more than six films; Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom. Anderson sent the script to Murray, not knowing if he would even hear back from him, but Murray in fact loved it, and since then has worked with Anderson for over a decade and a half. Murray thought so much of Anderson, that on the set of Rushmore, when Disney declined Anderson’s request for $75,000 in order to film a helicopter scene, Murray stepped in and wrote a blank cheque to cover the cost of the shot. The scene never actually made it into the film so it is rumoured that Wes Anderson framed the cheque and hung it above his computer.
Rock the Kasbah will be released later this year in October.