Somewhere along the line the truly great stop being real, flesh and blood people and become legends. Most actors in Hollywood would kill to get their hands on a high-profile film script, but Bill Murray can’t be bothered. In 2005, Bill Murray announced that he would be taking a break from acting. Soon the rumors began circulating—no one in “the biz” knew how to get a hold of him anymore. He fired his agent and vanished. Now, if someone in Hollywood wants to reach Murray they have to call a phone number, leave a message, and hope that the 60-year old actor returns the call.
More often than not, Murray doesn’t return the calls. Instead, the esteemed SNL-veteran seems to randomly appear in quick-cameos and smaller-budgeted independent films. That’s a pretty big change for Murray, who only ten years ago was starring in mediocre, run-of-the-mill Hollywood fare like Osmosis Jones and Charlie’s Angels. Like the insurance salesman who retires to fish and play golf, Murray seems to be behaving like any other successful retiree: he’s doing what he wants, on his own schedule.
This maverick behavior shouldn’t surprise people too much; Bill Murray’s always marched to the beat of his own drum. But even the most jaded observer of modern Hollywood and popular media can’t help but marvel at what has become of Bill Murray. Not only has his film career become erratic (if not incredibly interesting) of late, there’s also the little matter of the bizarre public appearances. From jumping out of airplanes over Chicago to crashing the random frat party, one never knows where or when Bill Murray will surface. Or what incredible thing he will be doing.
Like in 2008 when Murray jumped out of an airplane with the U.S. Army Parachute team The Golden Knights as part of Chicago’s 50th Air & Water Show. Or how about the Green Bay Packer fan who was playfully pushed by Murray at a Bears/Packers game back in January? Unusual, but not that strange? How about crashing a fraternity party in Scotland? Back in 2006 USA Today reported that then 56-year old actor showed up at a large house party with 22-year old college student Lykke Stavnef. Murray reportedly drank booze from a coffee cup and then helped keep the party going by washing some dirty dishes gathering in the kitchen sink. Earlier this year a group of young New Yorkers partying at a popular karaoke bar were stunned when Murray walked into a bar and accepted their invitation to party with them. The photos of this unexpected evening must be seen to be believed.
Stories of Murray appearing and partying appear all over the Internet. Were it not for the photographs, these tales might easily be disregarded as a product of the overactive imaginations of a celebrity obsessed culture. But these Bill Murray encounters are real and they seem to be happening with greater frequency. Visit any “celebrity sighting” website and you’ll discover hundreds of strange encounters.
Most of these tales unfold like this: someone is sitting in a public place (the park, a restaurant) when a stranger comes from behind and places his hands over him/her. Before the storyteller can react, the stranger removes his hands…to reveal that the prankster is Bill Murray! “No one will ever believe you,” he tells them softly, with a wink. Then he vanishes back to wherever it is that Bill Murray goes. This story is repeated so often; albeit with dozens of different variations (sometimes Murray snatches a french fry from someone’s plate instead of covering their eyes). Even when one takes into account the many copycats and liars, the fact that this story is told so often online lends many to believe that there is a kernel of truth to this urban legend.
In a recent interview with GQ Murray was asked about this frequent rumor, and his response was classic Murray: “I know. I know, I know, I know. I’ve heard about that from a lot of people. A lot of people. I don’t know what to say. There’s probably a really appropriate thing to say. Something exactly and just perfectly right. But by God, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Just so crazy and unlikely and unusual?”
Besides giving us stellar performances in recent films such as The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Get Low, perhaps Murray’s greatest gift to the cinematic world is the performance he continually refuses to give. Since 1989 there’s been much speculation as to whether another sequel to Ghostbusters would materialize. Every few years it seems the rumor mill will spew forth a new chapter in the Development-Hell-saga that is Ghostbusters III. After many years of doubtful speculation, the rumors picked up a little bit more credibility when Murray appeared with his fellow co-stars in the Ghostbusters video game. With the game making Atari millions, another film in the beloved series became a hot topic once again. A script was written and after a series of re-writes, everyone but Murray signed on to do the movie.
Last week, while promoting the DVD release of Get Low, Murray appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show. When asked by Stern if he was the reason the film hadn’t yet been made, Murray admitted that, “Yeah, I guess I’m the problem. Before I was an asset, now I’m a problem. There’s a script somewhere, but I haven’t read it yet.”
How could he have time to read it? The man’s way too busy sneaking up on people. Hopefully he’ll let whatever bastardization of Ghostbusters Hollywood has cooked up continue to molder on his desk and keep doing what he does best–being Bill Murray.