Murray came on the innovative late night program to replace breakout star Chevy Chase and took a bit to find his place among the “Not Ready For Prime Time Players”, but gradually got a groove going with such popular recurring characters as Nick the lounge singer, the “showbiz reporter” on Weekend Update, and the teenage Todd DiLaBounta– one of the most notable nerds in television history.
If you came to Murray in the early ‘90s you got a puffier even smarmier incarnation of the former SNL schmoozer – this worked like a charm in such films as WHAT ABOUT BOB?, GROUNDHOG DAY, and his only directorial effort QUICK CHANGE, but not so much in such forgettable mediocre work as LARGER THAN LIFE (pair Murray with an elephant and wait for the laughs!) and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE.
Since the 90's Murray has been in an era in which, with a few glaring exceptions (CHARLIE'S ANGELS, GARFIELD and its sequel, various cameos, etc.), he has eschewed major studio work and worked mainly with directors such as Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, and Sofia Coppola whose LOST ON TRANSLATION earned Murray his only Academy Award nomination.
This anti-big budget blockbuster stance was noted by Roger Ebert In his review of Jarmusch’s THE LIMITS OF CONTROL last year. Ebert remarked that Murray “is appearing so frequently in such films I think it is time for him to star in a smutty action comedy.”
It’s telling that Murray has dismissed talk of GHOSTBUSTERS 3 as “a bunch of crock” because he seems happy where he is now – in small budget indie films like GET LOW which opens this Friday in Raleigh at the Rialto Theater.
In a cameo as himself in another Jarmusch film, COFFEE AND CIGARETTES (2004), Murray is recognized by rappers GZA and RZA of the Wu Tang Clan working as a waiter in a dive diner. RZA: “You’re Bill Murray – Bill-Groundhog-Day-Ghost-bustin’-ass Murray!”
Murray replies: “I know that, just don’t tell anybody.”
Seems pretty clear doesn’t it? Murray would rather hide out in the art houses these days than headline at the multiplex. He’s been there, done that.
Back during his post SNL movie star heyday (i.e. the early ‘80s), Murray already had different notions about what to do with his career than what audiences and studios expected.
Murray only did GHOST BUSTERS on the condition that his dream project – an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s 1944 novel THE RAZOR'S EDGE would be made in exchange by Columbia Pictures. The film, featuring Murray’s first dramatic performance, flopped and the actor took 4 years off from show business and retreated to France. His only appearance during this time being a brief cameo in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1986).
Another more recent cameo in a major studio picture occurred in last year’s ZOMBIELAND. Murray appeared as himself – albeit disguised as a zombie version of himself for the purposes of warding off real zombies.
He’s accidentally shot by a scared Jesse Eisenberg with a rifle and is asked as he’s dying if he has any regrets.
He ponders the question: “‘Garfield’ maybe.”
In a recently published interview in GQ Murray reveals that the regret actually came from taking the role of Garfield because of a misunderstanding that Joel Coen had co-written the screenplay. Even in such expensively CGI saturated studio circumstances, Murray was looking for indie cred.
However, in that same interview Murray does say: “I want to go make a comedy like the ones I used to like to make. And…well, I think I can do it. I think I probably should direct one, too.”
Until that happens though, we’ll know where to find him – hiding out at the local art house theater away from the mainstream and pleased as punch at the prospects.