Greatest Man Alive, Bill Murray, turns 63 today, and he’s led one hell of a brilliant career, starting out on Saturday Night Live, and hitting a streak of comedies in the 80s and 90s — Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, What About Bob?, and Groundhog Dog, just to name a few — that would cement his status as one of the greatest comedic actors of all time. It wasn’t until 1998’s Rushmore, however, that Bill Murray’s acting career took on true legendary status (and it might have come earlier had he accepted a role offered to him in Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket). Rushmore led to Lost in Translation, and suddenly, one of the best comedic actors of the generation was one of the best dramatic actors, and an Oscar nominated one, at that.
Of course, with all the success, Bill Murray famously fired his poor agent during the Oscars one year, the very agent who connected him with Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola (it was another instance of what Dan Aykroyd refers to as Murray’s legendary mood swings). Since then, Murray installed a 1-800 number, and if anyone wants to hire him, they leave a voice mail, and if Bill Murray feels like taking the part, he might take the role (Dan Harmon has famously left voicemail messages requesting that Murray play Jeff Windger’s Dad, while Parks and Rec still wants him has the Mayor of Pawnee). Mostly this works out for the best. Sometimes, he stars in Garfield.
The man has been acting for nearly 40 years, and he’s played a lot of roles (70, to be exact). But there’s a lot of roles he’s also passed on, or was nearly cast in. Let’s take a look at the best 10.
1. He turned down the role of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, which went to Tim Allen.
2. He was considered for the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in the 1989 Batman film, until Tim Burton came along and cast Michael Keaton (can you imagine? Bill Murray vs. Jack Nicholson?)
3. He turned down the role of Willy Wonka in 2005’s Charlie and the Charlie Factory. The role went to Johnny Depp.
4. He declined the role in Little Miss Sunshine that would go to Steve Carell.
5. Boon in National Lampoon’s Animal House was written for him, but he couldn’t do it due to scheduling conflicts.
6. He was briefly considered for the role on Han Solo in Star Wars.
7. He was considered for the Eddie Valiant role that went to Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
8. He was considered for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role in Kindergarten Cop.
9. He turned down the role of Charlie Babbit that went to Tom Cruise, opposite Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. Hoffman had originally wanted Murray to play the role.
10. Bill Murray was the first choice to play the lead in Bad Santa. The role went to Billy Bob Thornton.
Most of those roles went to the right people, but I won’t like: I would’ve loved to have seen him in Bad Santa, Toy Story, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.