In which Bill Murry takes time out of his busy schedule dropping in on random quinceañeras in Iowa to answer questions about Garfield, sandwich, fan interactions, Lost in Translation, and SNL for Reddit.
Somehow, it’s even better than it sounds. Here’s the best of the length question-and-answer.
(See it all one page here.)
someone asked “what movie was the most fun to act in” and deleted their comment, so here goes:
Well, I did a film with Jim Jarmusch called Broken Flowers, but I really enjoyed that movie. I enjoyed the script that he wrote. He asked me if I could do a movie, and I said “I gotta stay home, but if you make a movie that i could shoot within one hour of my house, I’ll do it.”
So he found those locations. And I did the movie.
And when it was done, I thought “this movie is so good, I thought I should stop.” I didn’t think I could do any better than Broken Flowers, it’s a film that is completely realized, and beautiful, and I thought I had done all I could do to it as an actor. And then 6-7 months later someone asked me to work again, so I worked again, but for a few months I thought I couldn’t do any better than that.
The rumor is that you went up to someone that was eating french fries, and took a french fry and ate it and said: “No one will believe you.” Did this really happen, or is it an urban legend?
Well I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Someone asked “will there be a Garfield 3?”
I don’t think so. I had a hilarious experience with Garfield. I only read a few pages of it, and I kind of wanted to do a cartoon movie, because I had looked at the screenplay and it said “Joel Cohen” on it.
And I wasn’t thinking clearly, but it was spelled Cohen, not Coen.
I love the Coen brothers movies. I think that Joel Coen is a wonderful comedic mind.
So I didn’t really bother to finish the script, I thought “he’s great, I’ll do it.” So then it was months before i got around to actually doing it, and I remember i had to go to a screening room in somewhere, and watch the movie and start working. And because they had had trouble contacting me, they asked my friend Bobby to help corral the whole situation together. So Bobby was there, and you know when you’re looping a movie you’re rerecording to a picture?
So this was an odd movie because the live footage had been shot, but the cat was still this gray blob onscreen. So I start working with this script and I’m supposed to start re-recording and thinking “I can do a funnier line than that” so I would start changing the dialogue that was written for the cat. Which kind of works, it sort of generally works, but then you realize the cat’s over here in a corner sitting on a counter, and I’m trying to think how I can make it make sense. So the other characters are already speaking these lines, and so I’m going “did he really say THAT?” and you’re kind of in this endgame of “how do I chess piece myself out of this one?”
So I worked like that with this gray blob and these lines that were already written, trying to unpaint myself out of a corner. I think I worked 6 or 7 hours for one reel? No, 8 hours. And that was for 10 minutes. And we managed to change and affect a great deal.
The next day I came into work and the producer gave me a set of golf clubs, and I thought “that was kind of extreme, especially since I can’t go play.” And the second reel was even HARDER because the complications of the first ten minutes were triangulated. It was really hard to write my way out of that one. And there were all these people on the other side of the recording studio, and at the end of the reel I was SOAKED In perspiration. I had drunk as much coffee as any columbian ever drank, and I said “you better just show me the rest of the movie.” And they showed me the rest of the movie, and there was just this long, 2 minute silence.
And I probably cursed a little, and I said “I can fix this, but I can’t fix this today. Or this week. Who wrote this stuff?”
And it appeared that one of the people behind the screen was the misspelled Joel Cohen. And I said “how could you have THAT scene take place before this scene? This can’t possibly happen? Who edited this thing?”
And another person behind the glass was the editor of the film. He quit the film that week to go work on another job, so that began a long process of working on the film. I worked the rest of the week on it, and I said “Bobby it is still nowhere near done. But I can’t fix it all, we have to try to do this again.”
It was sort of like Fantastic Mr Fox without the joy or the fun. We did it twice in California, and once in Italy when I was working on the life Aquatic, we were working on an INSANE place in Italy, with a woman who was a voice from above interrupting everything, I cursed again, and she left to take another job, and that was just the first once.
And we managed to fix it, sort of. It was a big financial success. And I said “just promise me, you’ll never do that again.” That you’ll never shoot the footage without telling me.
And they proceeded to do it again. And the next time, they had been shooting for 5 weeks. And I cursed again. I said “I just asked for one little thing, letting me know.” and that one was EVEN HARDER. The second one was beyond rescue, there were too many crazy people involved with it. And I thought I fixed the movie, but the insane director who had formerly done some Spongebob, he would leave me and say “I gotta go, I have a meeting” and he was going to the studio where someone was telling him what it should be, countermanding what I was doing.
They made a movie after that second miscarriage, that went directly to video. So they sort of shot themselves in the foot, the kidneys, the liver and the pancreas on the second one. If you had a finer mind working on them? The girl, Jennifer Love-Hewitt, she was sweet. In the second movie they dressed her like a homeless person. You knew it wasn’t gonna go well.
Every year my dad and I watch Groundhog Day together on Groundhog Day. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. What was it like filming the same scenes over, and over, and over?
Well, that part was fine, the filming of the scenes over and over because you know that’s what the story is. The scripts is one of the greatest conceptual scripts I’ve ever seen. It’s a script that was so unique, so original, and yet it got not acclaim. To me it was no question that it was the greatest script of the year. To this day people are talking about it, but they forget no one paid any attention to it at the time. The execution of the script, there were great people in it. It was a difficult movie to shoot because we shot in winter outdoors. If you ever get to go to Puxatawney, you should go, it is one of the few things that is BETTER than advertised. It’s really something to see. But doing the movie, shooting the scenes over and over, it’s like an acting challenge. It’s like doing a play and those same scenes over and over and again, so you can try to make it better or deeper or funnier than you made it previously.
What do you think of the current SNL cast?
They’re good. I don’t know them as well as I knew the previous one. But i really feel like the previous cast, that was the best group since the original group. They were my favorite group. Some really talented people that were all comedians of some kind or another. You think about Dana Carvey, Will, Hartman, all these wonderful funny guys. But the last group with Kristen Wiig and those characters, they were a bunch of actors and their stuff was just different. It’s all about the writing, the writing is such a challenge and you are trying to write backwards to fit 90 minutes between dress rehearsal and the airing. And sometimes the writers don’t get the whole thing figured out, it’s not like a play where you can rehearse it several times. So good actors – and those were really good actors, and there are some great actors in this current group as well I might add – they seem to be able to solve writing problems, improvisational actors, can solve them on their feet. They can solve it during the performance, and make a scene work. It’s not like we were improvising when we made the shows, but you could feel ways to make things better. And when you get into the third dimension, as opposed to the printed page, you can see ways to solve things and write things live that other sorts of professionals don’t necessarily have. And that’s why I like that previous group. So this group, there are definitely some actors in this group, I see them working in the same way and making scenes go. They really roll very nicely, they have great momentum, and it seems like they are calm in the moment.
Does that make sense?
What did you whisper in Scarlett Johansson’s ear at the end of Lost In Translation?
You know? I forget.
What was the oddest experience you had in Japan?
The oddest… well, I was eating at a sushi bar. I would go to sushi bars with a book I had called “Making out in Japanese.” it was a small paperback book, with questions like “can we get into the back seat?” “do your parents know about me?” “do you have a curfew?”
And I would say to the sushi chef “Do you have a curfew? Do your parents know about us? And can we get into the back seat?”
And I would always have a lot of fun with that, but that one particular day, he said “would you like some fresh eel?” and I said “yes I would.” so he came back with a fresh eel, a live eel, and then he walked back behind a screen and came back in 10 seconds with a no-longer-alive eel. It was the freshest thing I had ever eaten in my life. It was such a funny moment to see something that was alive that no longer was alive, that was my food, in 30 seconds.
Hi Bill, welcome to Reddit! Yes, people, this is the real Bill Murray. Verified.
I guess? I’ve got ID. I have a passport and a driver’s license. That should get me to Tijuana anyway from here.
How was your experience working on Fantastic Mr.Fox. This is an amazing movie.
Well that was great fun. It was great fun, because it just dragged on and on and on. And it was this fun bunch of people. First we went to our friend’s farm, and we all stayed at her place for a handful of days while we recorded during the day and then at night we would have these magnificent meals and we would all tell stories. We had a LOT of great food, a lot of great wine and great stories. It went on until people started literally falling from their chairs and being taken away. And then we had to go to another place and do it again, we went to George’s place, but then something happen and the whole party broke up, and George said “you don’t have to go, do ya” and I didn’t, so we just kicked around Northern Italy for a while. It was a real fiesta. And then Wes was working in England, so I had to fly to England for like 3 days to re-record, but the re-recording only took about 70 minutes, so that was fun. And then I had to go to Paris, once again, another disaster having to go to Paris to re-record for 20 minutes. It was a terrible, terrible experience. That was a really good job and he did a great job on the film. And Wes’ brother Eric did a great job as the character, he was just amazing. To me he was the high point of the whole thing. And the artisans working in England that built all those sets and did all that work, the mechanicals, to see them work – that was like a treasure. That was like getting to go backstage to see the finest artists at work.
Bill, what’s the best sandwich you’ve ever ate in your life and where was it from?
You know, there’s a place not far from Warner Brothers, I think it was called the Godfather? And they made all kinds of sandwiches with smashed avocado and sprouts and stuff like that. And they really tasted good. And when you were having a bad day, I remember a particularly rough movie, you’d get sandwiches from this place. And they were very filling and very tasty, and then you’d forget about the morning.
How do you feel about recreational marijuana?
Well that’s a large question, isn’t it? Because you’re talking about recreation, which everyone is in favor of. You are also talking about something that has been illegal for so many years, and marijuana is responsible for such a large part of the prison population, for the crime of self-medication. And it takes millions and billions of dollars by incarcerating people for this crime against oneself as best can be determined. People are realizing that the war on drugs is a failure, that the amount of money spent, you could have bought all the drugs with that much money rather than create this army of people and incarcerated people. I think the terror of marijuana was probably overstated. I don’t think people are really concerned about it the way they once were. Now that we have crack and crystal and whatnot, people don’t even think about marijuana anymore, it’s like someone watching too many videogames in comparison. The fact that states are passing laws allowing it means that its threat has been over-exagerated. Psychologists recommend smoking marijuana rather than drinking if you are in a stressful situation. These are ancient remedies, alcohol and smoking, and they only started passing laws against them 100 years ago.
Do you still talk to your deaf/mute assistant? If so, does he pretend like he can understand what you’re saying?
Well, we didn’t part well. I don’t communicate with her, she was a she. I was sort of ambitious thinking that I could hire someone that had the intelligence to do a job but didn’t have necessarily speech or couldn’t quite hear or spoke in sign language. She was a bright person and witty but she had never been away from her home before and even though I tried to accommodate more than I understood when I first hired her, she was very young in her emotional self and the emotional component of being away from her home was lacking. I tried my best, but I was working all day. She was lovely and very smart, but there’s a lot of frustration when you meet people who can’t speak well. Being completely disabled in that area causes a great amount of frustration, and this was going back 30 years or so before ether were the educational components that there are today. It didn’t go particularly well for me, but for a few weeks she really was a light and had a real spirit to her. She was like one of your own kids that never had a job, and then they get a job and realize that certain things are expected, and you can’t react to everything you don’t like or care about. So the first time you have a job and someone says “you have to do this” – it was more complicated than she imagined. We were both optimistic, but it was harder than either of us expected to make it work.
(I’m ducking out of using a cute GIF for this response.)
Do you like peanut butter and pickle sandwiches? I do.
No, I like pickles, I put pickles in lots of sandwiches. I’m big on pickles, but I’ve never had them with peanut butter. I really like peanut butter though. I’m kind of surprised because I like them both so much that I haven’t combined them.
What is it like being so awesome?
Well, nothing prepared me for being this awesome. It’s kind of a shock. It’s kind of a shock to wake up every morning and be bathed in this purple light.
Hi Bill, for some reason my computer has started playing up, freezing and opening random pages when I tried to open up this link. I think my computer is excited that you are on Reddit. I just wanted to ask you, what is one of your best memories of meeting a fan?
The best experience with a fan? It happens sometimes where someone will say “I was going through a really hard time. I was going through a really hard time, and I was just morose or depressed.”
And I met one person who said I couldn’t find anything to cheer me up and I was so sad. And I Just watched Caddyshack, and I watched it for about a week and it was the only thing that cheered me up. And it was the only thing that cheered me up and made me laugh and made me think that my life wasn’t hopeless. That I had a way to see what was best about life, that there was a whole lot of life that was wonderful. And I happen to know (from her own spirit) that that person has really triumphed as an artist and as a human being, and if it’s just a moment when you can reverse a movement, an emotion, a downward spiral, when you can quiet something or still something and just allow it to change and allow the real spirit rise up in someone, that feels great.
I know I’m not saving the world, but something in what I’ve learned how to do or the stories that I’ve tried to tell, they’re some sort of representation of how life is or how life could be. And that gives some sort of optimism. And an optimistic attitude is a successful attitude.
Fuck, 30 minutes late. Now Bill Murray won’t ever acknowledge my existence.
What? What do you mean by that? Acknowledge your existence?
If you’re acknowledging your existence, and I’m acknowledging it, it’s happening.
Hi Bill, you are the inspiration for a presentation my colleague Mike made about advertising on reddit: “Making Ads Suck Less (Or Why Brands Should Be More Like Bill Murray)”. Will you pretty please take a look at the presentation and tell us what you think? We would love a quote from you, our hero and spiritual guide.
Well I don’t know if brands should be more like Bill Murray, but there’s no question they should suck less. I think if you just hold that though in front of yourself, like a marching brand trumpet player has the music mounted on his trumpet, about how to make ads suck less, then that will inform your daily life. It will be the last thing you think before you go to bed, and the first thing you think about in the morning, and you will add up the cumulative data of which ads are bearable to you, which ads you respond to. Ads aren’t bad in themselves. It’s just the attitude. We all have to go to the store, we all have to have groceries, but there’s a way to sell you things to make the exchange more of a human one. Sometimes you buy things from someone because you like their style. They watch with some fascination about the way YOU choose. If you think the ad will work backwards to what you’re trying to tell them in the first place.
If you could go back in time and have a conversation with one person, who would it be and why?
That’s a grand question, golly.
I kind of like scientists, in a funny way. Albert Einstein was a pretty cool guy. The thing about Einstein was that he was a theoretical physicist, so they were all theories. He was just a smart guy. I’m kind of interested in genetics though. I think I would have liked to have met Gregor Mendel.
Because he was a monk who just sort of figured this stuff out on his own. That’s a higher mind, that’s a mind that’s connected. They have a vision, and they just sort of see it because they are so connected intellectually and mechanically and spiritually, they can access a higher mind. Mendel was a guy so long ago that I don’t necessarily know very much about him, but I know that Einstein did his work in the mountains in Switzerland. I think the altitude had an effect on the way they spoke and thought.
But I would like to know about Mendel, because i remember going to the Philippines and thinking “this is like Mendel’s garden” because it had been invaded by so many different countries over the years, and you could see the children shared the genetic traits of all their invaders over the years, and it made for this beautiful varietal garden.
Where was the last place you played golf and where is your favorite place to play golf?
My favorite place to play golf is in Ireland. that’s where my ancestors come from, and it’s the most beautiful country to play golf in, and when you come as a guest to play golf you are treated like a king.
And the last place I played golf? Well the last place I can think of is I was working on a job in Hawaii with Emma Stone, and one day I got to play golf at a place called Weilea on a place called Oahu. I played with Scott Simpson, and I played with 3 other great, great Hawaiian guys who were SO much fun and so positive, and one was the club champion. And when you play with great players, you play better, it just elevates your game. A high tide raises all boats, you’ve heard that one?
I played so well, I won $50. Winning $50 playing golf? That’s money. So I won $50, and they couldn’t believe I could putt, and that I didn’t choke. We played into the sunset on the pacific ocean, with leaning palm trees, laughing the entire time.
But then this very positive group of people said on the next day, “we want to take you on a outrigger canoe to go surfing waves in the pacific.”
It was delirious. It was something everyone should get a chance to do.
That was a round of golf, where it went EVEN further. And they now are my friends.
And I went from the surf, to the plane, and that was the end of my job. I was all salty, I had a lei around my neck, I was charmed.