SAN DIEGO – Bill Murray made his first appearance at San Diego Comic Con Thursday morning and to say he charmed the Hall H crowd was something of an understatement.
The legendary comedy star was on hand to promote his upcoming film “Rock the Kasbah” and entered the venue to blaring guitar riffs as he pretended to be his character from the movie, Richie Lanz. The Barry Levinson directed flick centers on Lanz, a once great music manager, who gets stuck in Afghanistan when a USO tour with his one remaining client (Zooey Deschanel) goes wrong. Screenwriter Mitch Glazer was also in attendance, but it was a sunglasses wearing Murray who dominated the hour (and, no, he never took them off).
With Lucasfilm recently announcing that a young “Han Solo” movie was in the works moderator Josh Horowitz asked Murray if he could clarify the rumors he was up for the role in 1977's “Star Wars” and if he was gunning to finally play him now.
“I don't know if I was up for it,” Murray insists. Then adding, “I am working out now in hoping of getting this new thing. A lot of swimming and pilates. Really gonna work hard at it.”
It was that sort of panel.
Of course, questions from the Comic-Con audience can always be an adventure and it provided Murray with a slew of comedic opportunities that he pounced on like a pro. The first question came from a woman dressed up in a unicorn themed outfit and she asked if Murray's character from “Kasbah” was taking on any new clients.
“It's all contractual, but everyone is looking for a unicorn. We all are,” Murray says. “If you've got something you'd like to sing this instant?”
She paused for a moment and sang a few bars to “It's A Small World.” Murray's smile was the only response needed.
Earlier, Murray told a story about how his “Kasbah” co-star Bruce Willis informed him of their secret past when working on “Moonrise Kingdom.” Willis had actually been an NBC page that worked on “Saturday Night Live” when Murray was in the ensemble and told him, “Only you and Gilda were nice to me. You were the only ones.” That prompted an audience member to ask him what the notoriously prickly Willis was like to work with on set.
“He's a real movie star and sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands and really often in the name of just respecting the crew,” Murray says. “There are people who try to take over a situation and dominate and I don't want to say producers, slimy, but there are people who want to take over a situation and dominate. A movie star can take over and say, 'That's not gonna happen.'”
He continues, “That's story is going to be repeated, but the 'movie star' they are a noble race, they really are. Sometimes they get loud and cantankerous but protecting the [movie can be a good thing.]”
Murray also had no problem taking on a pretty serious inquiry asking why there aren't enough minorities in the movie business. It actually prompted his longest response of the day.
“The world is changing. It's very slow,” Murray says. “There is a justice in the world, but it just doesn't come when we want it. It comes very slowly.”
Murray reflects, “There is a flag flying in a building in South Carolina, but it's gonna change. It doesn't change because something says so. It needs to change in the way it is. We were a country that was founded with a glorious Declaration of Independence, but we still had slavery. Ir you really look at the history of it, they made like a 50 year plan to get it done. It was insane, but you had to make some kind of compromise to get it done. It was wrong, but you can only make it happens so fast. It really starts with yourself. We are slaves to our own weakness. To our bodies and our emotions. IF you can free your own self that's really the best you can do. THat state you do affects everyone around you.”
On a less serious note, a woman with a “Ghostbusters” bag asked Murray what is favorite role has been so far. He smartly retorted, “'Well, once upon a time I did save the city of New York.”
As it was his first visit to Comic-Con (the list of A-listers who have not ventured down to the annual confab continues to widdle away) Murray was asked if he had any favorite TV or movie Sci-Fi franchises. Basically, “Where do you fit in amongst us?” Murray had actually given it a good deal of thought it before trekking down to the convention.
“That's a great question. I have a taser with me. I didn't know what to expect,” Murray says to one of the loudest laughs of the day. “I honestly didn't know what my place was before I came. I have been nearby, but seen sort of television coverage of what is happening, but it feels wonderful to be in this room. I have a lot of dress up outfits at home that I'd surprise you with, but I feel comfortable with this room. I don't know if it's passion, but I like when people get excited about something. There are a lot of people that don't get excited about much at all, but the fact you are all excited about something in particular.”
He notes, “It's nerdy, but some of the best parties I've ever been to were with crazy insane nerds. I was at a party at Skywalker Ranch — you talk about nerds. They should have their blood checked.”
Murray also praised shooting in Morocco (“It's a Muslim country, but I like their interpretation of the book”), his love of “[expletive] good” Miley Cyrus (“I don't want hear any more bad rapping on Miley Cyrus”) and pondered why Comic-Con regular “Button Lady” had so many (“How many guys does she sleep with? Does she get a button after they leave?”). Still, his best answer was probably regarding the rumors of the now legendary party crashing stories that have circulated for decades. Imagine a perfectly timed pause and this perfectly deadpan reply and you'll have an idea of just how entertaining the hour really was.
“I don't know what you're talking about,” Murray says.
“Rock the Kasbah” opens nationwide on Oct. 23.