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Bill Murray
Bill Murray in "The Life Aquatic"

The dA-Zed guide to Bill Murray

He’s afraid of assassination, allergic to cats, and loves a juicy In-N-Out burger. Get to know the real man behind the flask

Bill Murray is the Princess Diana of movies. He’s a man of the people, a champion who will turn up unannounced to your shindig and do the dishes before he leaves. He’ll photobomb your holiday album and whisper advice in your ear. And that’s just off-screen. His indomitable figure is the one constant in an ever-shifting movie industry. No matter how bad a film might be, if Murray’s in it, it’s watchable. OK, maybe not The Razor’s Edge – but you get my drift. Even though he’s seemingly everywhere, it’s tricky to get to know the real man behind the Murray. A new coffee table book, The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray, attempts to tackle his mammoth career, meting out all the hilarious anecdotes, origin stories and wonderful facts about Hollywood’s lovable rebel rouser. Below is an exclusive excerpt of the book, distilled into a handy 26-letter guide to the man who loves to walk among us.

A IS FOR ASSASSINATION

In a 2014 interview, Murray revealed the reason he does not surround himself with an entourage as other celebrities do: fear of assassination. “The first time I was ever given a bodyguard, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going to be assassinated,’ he told the Detroit Free Press.

B IS FOR BOTTLE ROCKET

Murray was director Wes Anderson’s first choice for the role of small-time crook/landscaper Abe Henry in this idiosyncratic 1996 caper film starring Luke and Owen Wilson. But Murray was traveling the country in a Winnebago at the time the film was being cast and never saw the screenplay. “I had agents then who had never heard of (Anderson),” Murray said, “so that script never got to me, because as far as they were concerned I was a movie star and this was some kid from Texas.” The part eventually went to James Caan instead.

C IS FOR CATS

Murray is allergic to cats. During a 2014 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, he admitted that he once taught himself hypnosis in an effort to surmount his aversion to felines. “I read some place that allergies are psychosomatic and you can actually hypnotize yourself and overcome the allergy,” Murray said. “So I used to do that. I used to go to girls’ houses and they had cats and all of a sudden I’d be looking at them crying and they’d be like, ‘What did I say?’ and I’d go, ‘No, it’s not you!’ So I learned to hypnotize myself and get over it. But then I decided I didn’t really like cats that much, so I stopped. I’m more of a dog guy.”

D IS FOR THE DUTCH MASTERS

Murray’s high school rock band, which specialized in cover versions of the hits of the 1950s and 60s.

E IS FOR ELDINI, JERRY

Unctuous, cocaine-dispensing record company employee played by Murray in a series of Saturday Night Live sketches beginning in 1978. The satin-jacketed sleazebag, an A&R rep for the fictional Polysutra Records, was “one of (Murray’s) favorite characters from the show.” Murray’s Tripper Harrison character briefly impersonates Eldini in the opening minutes of Meatballs.

F IS FOR FORREST GUMP

Murray was one of several A-list actors to turn down the title role in this 1994 best picture winner. Chevy Chase and John Travolta also passed on the part of the dim-witted eyewitness to history. In a 2014 interview with radio host Howard Stern, Murray admitted that he still hasn’t seen Forrest Gump

G IS FOR GAROFALO, JANEANE

The stand-up comic, actress, and 90s icon considers Murray her personal hero. In 1982, she wrote an entire essay about her admiration for him as part of her application packet to Providence College. The two first met on November 12, 1994, during Garofalo’s lone unhappy season on Saturday Night Live. Murray had dropped by to deliver a eulogy for the recently deceased SNL writer Michael O’Donoghue. “I saw him by the craft service table,” Garofalo told the UCLA Daily Bruin. “I was dressed as Dorothy for a horrendously bad Wizard of Oz sketch, and I went and pretended that I had something to do by the coffee machine. I went up and stood extra near him and then conjured up some question to ask someone near him and said, ‘Hello,’ and shook his hand.”

H IS FOR HORNY DEVIL

Unproduced screenplay commissioned by Murray in the mid-1980s. The script had Murray’s character traveling back in time to review the events of his life in a manner reminiscent of the Frank Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Murray lost interest in the project following the disappointment of The Razor’s Edge and his subsequent sabbatical from Hollywood.

I IS FOR IN-N-OUT BURGER

In a 2014 interview with radio host Howard Stern, Murray revealed that he once ordered his chauffeur to take him through the drive-thru at a Las Vegas In-N-Out Burger and then tipped the driver with In-N-Out Burger coupons. According to published reports, Murray sealed the deal to appear in 2014’s St. Vincent during a visit to a Los Angeles In-N-Out Burger with the film’s director, Ted Melfi.

J IS FOR JERK, THE

Murray filmed a cameo as a gay Jewish interior decorator that was cut from the final version of this 1979 comedy starring Steve Martin as the titular wanker.

K IS FOR KUNG FU HUSTLE

Murray has called this cartoonish 2004 homage to Hong Kong action movies “the supreme achievement of the modern age in terms of comedy.” In a 2010 interview with GQ magazine, he described the experience of watching his 1990 comedy Quick Change on a double bill with Kung Fu Hustle. Quick Change “looked like a home movie” compared to Stephen Chow’s film, Murray contended. “It looked like a fucking high school film. There should have been a day of mourning for American comedy the day that movie came out.”

L IS FOR LIL JOHN

Murray spent the Saturday before his 64th birthday partying down at the home of Marvin “Larry” Reynolds in Jedburg, South Carolina. According to eyewitness reports and a widely circulated YouTube video, Murray ended the evening feverishly boogying to Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny” and DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What.” He also took moose-call lessons from some of the “old country people” in attendance.

M IS FOR MARIJUANA

September 21, 1970, was Bill Murray’s 20th birthday. It was also one of the worst days of his life. After a family birthday celebration in Chicago, Murray was all set to fly back to Denver to resume his premed studies at Regis College. As he was waiting in line to board his flight at O’Hare International Airport, he made the mistake of telling one of his fellow passengers that he was carrying two bombs in his suitcase. A ticket agent overheard Murray’s joke and immediately summoned a couple of US marshals, who proceeded to root through Murray’s luggage. They didn’t find any explosives, but they did discover five two-pound ‘bricks’ of marijuana. That much weed was worth $20,000 at the time, or about six times that much today.

N IS FOR NEW GUY SPEECH

After weeks of being relegated to playing “the second cop, the second FBI guy,” as he put it, Murray approached SNL producer Lorne Michaels with the idea of addressing his struggles on the air. The result was a heartfelt, self-penned plea for support that incorporated elements of Murray’s personal biography. It played well in the studio and earned him a second chance with viewers who still looked at him as Chevy Chase’s ungainly replacement.

O IS FOR OVITZ, MIKE

This legendary Hollywood talent agent represented Murray from the early 1980s until the mid-90s. “He was my monster,” Murray once remarked of the Creative Artists Agency founder. “He was great. He’s a famous character, but he was my character. And when he’s on your side, he’s a weapon. He’s really something.”

P IS FOR PIZZA DOUGH

After he dropped out of college in 1970, Murray worked part-time as a pizza maker in the Evanston, Illinois, branch of a Little Caesars pizza chain. In 2014, during a speech at a charity event, Murray revealed that he was so poor at the time that he often ate raw pizza dough when no one was looking: “It has active yeast inside of it, so when you’re full of the raw dough, the yeast continues to expand until your body begins to explode. But those are the early days, when we went through some stuff, didn’t we all? Huh? So. Anyway.”

Q IS FOR QUICK CHANGE

To date, Quick Change remains Murray’s lone directorial effort. The film follows a trio of bank robbers as they make their escape from Manhattan through Brooklyn and Queens to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

R IS FOR RAZOR’S EDGE, THE

In the early 1980s, Murray became friends with John Byrum, a young director who had grown up about a mile from Murray’s hometown. In March 1982, shortly after Murray’s wife gave birth to their first child, Byrum sent Murray a copy of The Razor’s Edge to keep him occupied during her recovery. After reading the first 50 pages, Murray had an epiphany: he was Maugham’s disillusioned seeker and he wanted to make the character his first great dramatic role.

Originally scheduled to come out before Ghostbusters, the film was held back until the following autumn, allowing the negative buzz to build. “I don’t know what my fans are going to think,” Murray told an interviewer in anticipation of the release. “It’s definitely not what they’re used to from me.” He was right to be worried. The Razor’s Edge opened in October 1984 to harshly negative reviews. The New York Times called it “slow, overlong, and ridiculously overproduced.”

S IS FOR ST. ANDREW’S HOUSE PARTY

During a 2006 visit to St. Andrews, Scotland, for a celebrity golf tournament, Murray accompanied 22-year-old Norwegian social anthropology student Lykke Stavnef – whom he had just met in a local pub – to a house party full of Scandinavian college students. “Nobody could believe it when I arrived at the party with Bill Murray,” Stavnef said afterward. “He was just like the character in Lost in Translation.” Stavnef’s Georgian townhouse was reportedly “overflowing” with chesty blonde coeds. Clad in a checkered shirt and brown vest, Murray drank vodka from a coffee cup and marveled at how drunk everyone was. “He seemed to be in his element, cracking lots of jokes,” observed fellow partygoer Tom Wright. When the party was over, Murray personally washed all the dirty dishes in the students’ sink. “The pasta was probably quite hard to get off the dishes because they had been sitting around,” said one of the students.

T IS FOR THOMPSON, HUNTER S.

Murray befriended the Fear and Loathing author in the late 1970s, when Thompson’s sometime girlfriend, Laila Nabulsi, worked as a producer for Saturday Night Live. In the summer of 1979, the two men became inseparable as Murray prepared to play Thompson in Where the Buffalo Roam. After filming wrapped, Murray went through an extended personality crisis during which he adopted Thompson’s voice and mannerisms.

U IS FOR UNINTENDED ASSAULT

In 2007, at a celebrity golf tournament in Utah, Murray decided to forgo the traditional cry of “Fore!” and instead throw a Coke bottle into the crowd. It ended up being his most unfortunate drive of the day. He hit a spectator in the face, shattering the man’s nose and causing him to bleed profusely. A mortified Murray ended up apologizing to the injured golf fan and autographing the offending soft drink container for posterity. 

V IS FOR VAN DER POST, LAURENS

This South African storyteller, self-styled Jungian mystic, and confidant of the British royal family wrote Murray’s two favorite novels. A Story Like the Wind and A Far Off Place tell the tale of a pair of European children who make a perilous journey across the Kalahari Desert with the help of an African bushman and his wife.

W IS FOR WIRED IN

Unaired TV documentary series about the tech trends of the 1980s for which Murray contributed a bizarre antitechnology monologue. In the presumably improvised rant-to-camera, Murray rails against digital watches (“People have hands. Watches should have hands”), decries the advent of worker robots, denounces “talking dashboards” in cars, and extols the virtues of Kenny Baker, the “fine actor” who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars movies.

X IS FOR XTREME JOYRIDE

In August 2007, Murray was pulled over by Swedish police for driving a golf cart through the streets of Stockholm while under the influence of alcohol. The actor was in town attending the Scandinavian Masters golf tournament when he commandeered the cart, which was parked outside his hotel, and drove it to the Café Opera nightclub about a mile away.

Y IS FOR YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, THE

During a 2014 interview for Grantland, Murray revealed that this politically-charged 1982 melodrama, set amid the tumult of 1960s Indonesia, was the one film he wishes he had gotten the chance to make. Murray was never offered a role in the film because, he said, he was not considered a serious actor at the time. Mel Gibson ended up playing the romantic lead opposite Murray’s future Ghostbusters costar Sigourney Weaver.

Z IS FOR ZIMMERLI OF SWITZERLAND

This Swiss luxury underwear purveyor “makes the best undershirts,” according to Murray.

The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray is published by Quirk Books and is available now