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Lost in Translation is one of my favourite films of all time. That and Groundhog Day/St Vincent/Rushmore to me have their beauty in portraying isolation and connection side by side in such a convincing yet fragile way, and your characters in general have a great sense of comfort in who they are. My question is: Which of your characters do you relate to the most, and which would you get along best with?
Oh golly, that's kind of a long way to get to that one. Let's say I like this latest guy, he's closest to my head right now. He manages to make his way, and he has some contact with his conscience. Like most of us, it appears - his actual salvation is he finds his conscience. Some of the other fellas can wear it closer, but this guy is in a crisis situation and still gets in touch with his conscience.
Hey Murray! Do you remember that wild man Tom ***** from Boston? Well he’s my dad. I’ve heard a bunch stories about the two of you bumming around for a little while in the 70’s and according to him you even showed up at my grandparents house in Ohio looking for him once… He still tells the story about how you two walked around NYC on a mission to find pink rolling papers and heart-shaped sunglasses and I’m sure he’s only scratched the surface.
Anyway, if you’re ever in Boston and feel like catching up/shooting the shit I’m sure he’d love to see you and would probably shit his pants if you showed up. There wasn’t really a question in there but this is probably gonna get buried anyways so fuck it.
Edit: took out dad's name, probably smart...
Uh, yes, I know Tom. We called him "Co" back then, cause he was a hipster. I sent someone looking for Co looking for him years ago, this person found him, and he was running for office. The person I sent was not someone your father wanted to be affiliated with while running a campaign. He was a funny guy. If you're his kid, you're probably funny too. Tell your Dad to lay low, his past is gonna catch up with him.
We got pulled driving a car back in the days of rage in Chicago. When people pulled people over, Co had long hair. We got pulled over from a cop. We thought we were screwed. Co was driving the car, and he handed the cop his driver's license. The cop was so delighted, he said, "Do they have stoplights in Rocky River Ohio?" it sounds like what it looks like. Rocky River.
The cop enjoyed making fun of the hillbilly's long hair.
Here's another one about Co: Its almost the same story, we were riding around in the middle of the night, and I think I was driving this time and the cop pulled up. It was bad. I said "Excuse me, we're looking for the baseball bat?" and he paused and he backed up 2 steps and looked at me real hard. The Claes Oldenburg Baseball Bat, it's oversized, 150 feet tall.
So the cop says, "The Calder Standing Mobile is the city of Chicago building." And the Chagall painted windows at the First National Bank, we thought we'd be beaten. And the idea of 9 guys riding around looking for art installations, it was just funny.
How would you describe your relationship with Wes Anderson and the influence you have on his movies and roles?
You know, there's a lot of those guys who want those parts. There's a lot of bitter actors out there. We went to a SAG thing, during Oscar season you go to these things. They have the entire cast onstage, and the director. You think someone will ask a question? Not one. These are people who are really pissed and auditioning for the director at the same time.
I don't know what I bring to the movies. I bring to it, what he writes. What I got with him, when he had money to spend, like in Rushmore? I think I gave him confidence, and I fought the people who were ugly on set. I said don't worry about this thing, I'll make sure this shot happens. I'm like a uncle.
I don't know what I'm like.
We have a lot of fun. We go to shoot in Newport, in a Newport mansion, just to have the experience of it. While we work, the actors are there. The editing is there, and we just slouch down and have breakfast and go to work. He loves to live well and he loves to eat. He hires a cook, but basically means you can work 18 hours. Somewhere around 7:30, and then he wants 3 more scenes and you're doing the math. Then you eat dinner at midnight and its great but you gotta work til 10 and then you are waiting to shower, you're woozy. Then you go to sleep. I give nothing to the movie, but I'm good company.
We've had great success together, the people who work for him are slavishly devoted to getting it done and making sure his vision gets done in that way. There's sort of some guys who get a special pass, and sometimes suggestions are great. He doesn't like to fly, he prefers ground travel. I'm telling you guys this, and he came through, and we worked in Santa Fe. We gotta get down to this train, so we met these Mariachi band. 8 violins and a couple big guitars. They were striking! I said "OH, COME ON!" They had a layover. "Let's get something to eat".
We got great Mexican food. We ate outdoors. Wes said "I felt something funny when you opened the door" and the whole train station just got filled with their music. They played to them as the train pulled away. We had someone else on the film get married, and we got this same bland all women band to blast them with music.
What was the role that "got away"? (You didn't necessarily have to audition for it and not receive the part, you could just have missed your chance to play the role)
The only role i wanted I didn't get: The Year Of Living Dangerously by Peter Weir. I wasn't a big shot. Mel Gibson lived in Australia. I'd been to Indonesia and I thought I understood that movie. When I saw it, I was like, damn! That was the only one I wanted I didn't get.
Peter Weir is...something else.
Bill! My boyfriend has a tattoo of your face on his leg, and meeting you would be his absolute dream come true!
He wants you to sign below it so he can have your autograph tattooed as well.
Our questions are:
What motto/philosophy do you live by that makes you so happy and fucking cool/epic?
Would you ever run for president?
What would be your best advice for getting to meet you sometime?
Thanks for doing this AMA!
But, if my face is on your BF's leg, the best that I hope for is that you start with his leg every night. And you know, if you do it well enough, the colors bleed in an impressionist way.
I hope it didn't hurt him too much.
Love you man. Been enjoying your work for so many years.
What's the favorite movie you've ever done and why is it The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou?
Are you happy?
You can put one person into a dunk tank - Who is it?
You're not supposed to have favorite children. The early ones were fun when people weren't as fussy. Maybe, What About Bob, was reallly fun. We were on a lake in Smith Mountain, VA. We took over a resort, Labor Day night was a brawl and in the morning everyone was gone. We waterskiied on a full moon...its a moonshine county there. The party would start at 5:45pm and full tilt at 6:08. We crashed a MC Hammer concert, we're an hour from Roanoke. We had to find our way back to see the concert. I called CAA and said I want to see this show, I said I'm bringing people. We hired a bus, 55 people completely party all the way to the place get there and bouncers are like "Hey Bill! Aw man how many withchu" and they put us on the side of the stage. Anyway, that movie was fun. I think Broken Flowers, that was a perfectly directed movie, and I really did retire at that moment. Retire sounds horrible, I thought what can I do any better, I think Im doing pretty well, it so happened I started having a second life and working with Wes, Sofia and they kept coming. I thought I made my mark, made my bones. I thought there was something else I could do but nothing really appeared.
Who would you get to play the younger you in a biopic?
Who can I lay that on?
Would I be alive or dead?
I met a guy who played Belushi in a movie, and I wanted to kill him.
Who would I want to play? I wouldn't wish that on anyone...there's no one really... I like the little kid who was in The Royal Tenenbaums, one of the twins.
Who is the best raconteur you know?
I know some great ones! I enjoy listening to Jim Downey. Jim Downey is someone who can't and wouldn't shut up. He can really, really talk. He can really, really go. He is funny.
Hunter S Thompson was really about being alive in the moment. He wrote stories in his books, but he didn't tell you stories so much as you had to live what you were doing. He was a writer, for sure. But Jim Downey, he's the funniest.
Harvard Lampoon, SNL, all-time. His phone message, he didn't even used to have a telephone, now he calls and leaves 11 minute long messages.
Howdy Bill! What was the best party you've ever crashed?
Well, we crashed a famous party called the "Subway Party" to celebrate the premiere of Tommy (in the 70s). It was Gilda Radner, Belushi, Harold Ramis, Joe Flaherty, Brian Doyle Murray, and we were all +1, probably. It was biggest party ever in NYC at the time. You couldn't get into this party. It was an inner circle thing. It was at an enclosed subway stop. It was a roar, it was a scream! If you made an airport movie with everyone on the plane is a celebrity, it was like that times 10.
We were doing a show in the restaurant cabaret. The guys catering were the same guys who gave us left over french fries. We went into the back door to the subway with everyone. Everyone saying hi, hello. And we felt like we didn't belong at all. It was so fantastic!
I have compassion when people say dumb stuff to me. I said to Andy Warhol, "I love the soup can!" and he looked at me like "You don't belong here."
What a time that was.
Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin?
I'm a Buster Keaton guy, he's really physical. Chaplin is really beautiful and he's really wonderful. But the stuff that Buster did, it's ungodly how dangerous it was. The physical stuff he could do? Charlie could do the romantic, scamp thing. But Buster, his heart just flamed out through his eyes. He was something. In physical. To say that Charlie Chaplin isn't physical is also absurd. That's god. The dinner roll dance? But Buster should get the same attention. People try to do stuff now, when I lived in Paris and went to cinemateque, my first afternoon there I watched a movie called, Romance of Happy Valley's the print was lost for 65 years. It was found in Russia. I thought it was the best movie I'd seen in my life. I'm sitting in Paris and went this is unbelievable and its killing everyone in the room. After spending a few months there, I wonder how people make garbage today if they've seen something so beautiful. But most people don't get a chance to see it. On Turner Classics Movies, they show silent films, sometimes. But those guys were both great.
If you were a superhero what would be your power?
In your family, who's the funny one?
Well, my brother Brian, you can see smoke coming out of his head. He will ruminate on some thing and all of the sudden, and just throws it out there and it splatters the room. It's like, wow! I dont know how it works in his brain. You can see him thinking, and then it comes.
My brother Joel is funny, my brother John is funny. They're all pretty funny. My sister Peggy is funny. But Brian, he has a real gift.
What's the best thing about being Bill Murray?
What's the worst thing about being Bill Murray?
The worst thing about it, they're one in the same. You wish you could walk down the street and look at things, and watch things uninterrupted. The shock of being recognized brings you out of this place where you're just trying to take it in. Its an obligation and you're reminded you have to show up. It's a coin with two sides.
As much as I don't like the one side, the other side is what might save me.
What was Rodney Dangerfield like to work with on Caddyshack?
There are not many people alive who could party with Rodney. He would have left you all for dead. He really went hard, he was fun. He was funny. The thing that's notable about the movie, there's several great comedians in the movie. Crazy different styles. Ted Knight is different from Chevy, who is different from Rodney, who is different than my brother.
Henry Wilcoxon, he was like the original Antony in Antony and Cleopatra. He came here, a savage hunk and then in our movie. He's playing a bishop! In my free time on the movie, I spent it with him. That's who I wanted to talk to, that's who had an irony and experience beyond us.
He was super cool.
Hey Bill.... i need to know what your secret to life is? I know you're gonna have an awesome answer!
If I tell you, its not a secret right? Think of what you said. Then I'm not the person who can keep a secret.
You almost tricked me, its not going to happen.
Unless I have a couple of drinks.
If you HAD to choose one reality TV show to be on which would you choose and why?
Flavor Of Love. The idea that he had some of the most — would I consider maybe not the most desirable women in the world. They were really nutty. I mean really crazy.
I'd think The Amazing Race. It was like a show I watched in Paris, similar to that. One episode I saw, they had to fight their way to the top of a hotel in Singapore, and answer impossible questions. I used to watch it just to see people completely fall apart. They would try to answer, and it would kill them. But The Amazing Race looks like a lot of fun. You get to go to a bunch of places. It calls on all your skills. I tell people, "If you want to get married, travel around the world first, cause then you get to know people better."
Its a test of wills to travel. I think The Amazing Race would be fun.