About a decade ago, Bill Murray’s public persona took an almost mythical turn when stories emerged of him crashing karaoke parties and snatching others’ french fries. The stories first surfaced as, just that, stories, but photographic proof eventually appearing on social media, and it all felt delightfully random. Folks yearned to experience the urban legend that ended with a whisper: “No one will ever believe you.” Yet Murray also revealed that forcing an encounter with him can lead to ill-tempered disaster, so what would happen if someone chose to pursue Murray across the country with that very purpose?
That’s exactly what Sadie Katz (Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort, Blood Feast) set out to do after reaching an existential crossroads. As star and director of the new documentary, The Bill Murray Experience, her quest — to find the man she referred to as “the magical unicorn” — spiraled into an obsession. It was a process that, as Katz tells it, cost her several friends, a boyfriend, and a chunk of her sanity.
Along the way, Katz received some valuable insight from Murray’s Stripes co-star, P.J. Soles (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Carrie, Halloween), and his brother, Joel (Mad Men). Soles, who found herself at the mercy of Murray’s ad-libbing abilities during the world-famous “Aunt Jemima Treatment” scene, was gracious enough to chat with us about Katz’s project, which is now available on iTunes and VOD platforms.
You’ve not only had a Bill Murray experience but a Michael Myers experience and a Ramones experience, which were all very different than the Bill Murray experience in Katz’s movie.
[Mine] were all planned and ad-libbed, but she’s looking for the Bill Murray Experience where he comes by and grabs a french fry off the plate. I guess really as she found out at the end of the movie, you can’t create your own Bill Murray experience. you just have to let it happen.
It is an obsession, but I just thought, “Let me jump in here. She wants to interview me, it looks like fun.” A darling girl, and it’s not easy to be an actress, first of all, and second of all, and she directed the movie and let herself be filmed going crazy, basically. [Laughs.] It ended up being really a cute adventure, and I love Jim Towns’ animation in it, too, and that’s how I actually met her. He directed her in a couple of horror films, and then he said, ‘This friend of mine is doing a movie, and I mentioned that I knew you, and since you were in Stripes, and you got to work with Bill Murray, and this is about Bill Murray …” They told me the premise, and I thought, “This sounds crazy, but okay.”
During the film, you state that what Murray is doing is “not unusual, it’s just [that] social media is capturing it.” Can you elaborate?
Well, I obviously think this is more accessible, and people can know about it. Because yes, I think that Bill has always been up to capers, but it wasn’t ever photographed, and it wasn’t ever documented, but now, everybody whips out a cell phone… so, the Bill that I knew back in the ’80s was always up to little antics, so [it’s] nothing new, but now I think he’s having more fun, and the rest of the world is just being able to see what he does.
He probably would have preferred for everything to remain anonymous because he gets his own secret joy out of it. I think one of the first times that I heard of it, he did grab some guy’s french fry off a plate, and he said, “Oh, your friends are never gonna believe that Bill Murray took a french fry off your plate at a Burger King… Hahaha!” But now they will [believe it] because they’ll say, wait a minute, can you do that again? Let me take a picture of it.
Do you think there’s a danger in meeting your idols, and maybe it’s best not to happen at some point?
In this situation, possibly. It is true that you build up such an idea in your head, and it might be left alone, better off to have your imagination carve out what you think, who this person really is. And that’s sort-of the fantasy of this movie.
Bill is one of those very original, unusual, and enigmatic characters that we’re lucky to have in the world at the moment. Harold Ramis has already passed on, and he too was such a wonderful guy, full of heart and love and so bright, and just great. Bill, on the other hand, is quite moody. I say that to everybody, so I’m not breaking any new ground here, and you never know what he’s going to be up to. And I think because of his moods, he’s probably able to just reach out a little further with making himself happy every day.
And that’s his goal. He’s been married three times, and with each wife, he’s had two sons, he’s got six boys all there… but he’s had a full life, and the world is his oyster. So I think he’s having a lot of fun.
I was going to ask, “Are you surprised that he shows up at karaoke sessions?” Yet it sounds like you’re not entirely surprised at what goes on in this film. [Katz eventually catches Murray’s attention, but there’s an execution flaw with the full “experience.”]
I’m actually really surprised because I know he must have ears everywhere, and he hasn’t heard about Sadie Katz. I’m really surprised that he hasn’t made any contact yet. Either he thinks she’s completely on another planet and is afraid to get close to her, or he’s just letting the game go on. Or Sadie’s secretly married to him, I don’t know.
There’s one part in the film where Joel hinted that Bill was hiding from Sadie and onto what she was doing. I couldn’t tell whether he was joking and having a little fun, too.
And you know, the other thing would be… [she’s chasing him around with] balloons, so why burst her bubble or burst her balloon by meeting him? The whole point of her obsession is that it’s bringing her joy, to pursue him. So once she’s accomplished that … then what does she do with the rest of her life? Gotta come up with another idea.
Oh, that’s a solid point.
So if he has heard about it, and obviously he knows what his brother’s up to, and he’s seen this crazy lady on the fringes of a golf course, he thinks, “Well, this is gonna have to last a lifetime, I can’t make her dream come true, she’ll have to come up with another dream.” That’s my opinion.
There’s a bittersweet moment where Sadie admits, “I want to find him, but I want it to be organic.” It’s a self-aware reflection that probably fuels her decision at the end of the film.
I think what she meant by organic was that she wanted to bump into him, or she wanted him to bump into her like he does with everybody else. I think that’s what her hope is, but at this point, that’s impossible because she’s obviously on the lookout. So when she walks down the street, every fourth person looks like Bill Murray to her, I feel bad for her. This is an obsession now.
I’m gonna stick with my original conclusion — that it’s best if she never meets him, unless it is, and it’s unexpected. Wouldn’t it be great if she was on an airplane, and he’s up there in first class, and she sees him, and he sees her, and there’s an empty seat next to him, and he says, “You’re Sadie Katz!” We’ll hope for the biggest dream possible for her.
The Bill Murray Experience is available on iTunes. Watch the trailer below.