July 21, 2010

Bill Murray's Coen Brothers Film

Bill Murray - one of my favorite actors - explains one of his strangest film choices in a new interview with GQ Magazine.   First, a little backstory...  Murray is a tremendously difficult actor to book for directors.  Years ago he fired his agent, manager and publicist - essentially deep-sixing the Hollywood machine -  and decided to handle all of the aspects of his career himself.  Replacing Team Murray was a voicemail box that he would check sporadically, at best.   The producer behind Murray's next film, Get Low, talked about the difficult task of booking Murray and detailed the long stretches of waiting after sending him the script and ultimately sending him an offer.  Until Murray arrived on set, he wasn't sure whether he would really be in the film or not, which complicated things because a major investor in the film was contingent on Murray's involvement with the picture.   So is it that an actor notoriously picky and difficult to book agreed to do a piece of shit movie like Garfield?  (Murray even ripped his choice to do the movie during his hilarious Zombieland cameo where he plays himself.  As he gasping his last breath, he's asked if he has any regerts and offers up Garfield.)  So why did he make it? Amazingly, Murray signed on because he thought he was agreeing to do a Coen Brothers movie.  The script was sent to Murray and he saw that it was written by Joel Cohen, who he mistakenly thought was Joel Coen.   So instead of agreeing to do a film with the celebrated scripter of The Big Lebowski, O' Brother Where Are Thou? and No Country For Old Men, he had instead inked a deal to do the voice-over for a lasagna eating cat in a script penned by the man behind Daddy Daycamp and Cheaper By The Dozen.

Murray never read the screenplay; he agreed to join the project on Cohen's reputation alone, never realizing his error even after he'd arrived in Los Angeles to do the voice over work.  Here's what happened next, in Murray's words:   "So I worked all day and kept going, 'That's the line?  Well I can't say that.'  And you sit there and go, 'What can I say that will make this funny?  And make it make sense?'And I worked.  I was exhausted, soaked with sweat, and the lines got worse and worse."  So there Murray was, in a voice over booth in Los Angeles re-writing a script on the fly - a screenplay he thinks is the product of an Academy Award winning screenwriter.  Finally, after realizing what a piece of shit he was dealing with, he demanded to see a cut of the film.  "So I sat down and watched the whole thing, and I kept saying 'Who the hell cut this thing?  Who did this?  What the fuck was Coen thinking?'  And then they explained it to me: It wasn't written by that Joel Coen."  Murray - who didn't explain why he ended up doing a sequel to this piece of shit - did have one good thing to say about the movie: "At least they had what's-her-name.  The mind reader, pretty girl, really curvy girl, body's one in a million?  What's her name?  Help me, you know who I mean...."  When it was pointed out to him that the actress in question was Jennifer Love Hewitt, he added "At least they had her in good-looking clothes. Best thing about the movie."