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Bill Murray Wes Anderson
The Grand Budapest Hotel

The story behind Bill Murray’s secret phone number

Call Bill, beep Bill, if you wanna reach Bill

We know there isn’t anything Bill Murray can’t do – bartender? Check. Classical musician? You betcha. But what a lot of people don’t know is how the hell to get him to actually do these things. Notoriously enigmatic, and without an agent or manager, the actor is only reachable via a private 1-800 number – and now he’s explained the method behind the (not-so) madness.

In a recent interview with IndieWire, Murray revealed that he created the phone number years ago as a way to escape the never-ending calls from Hollywood agents. Preferring to work with friends anyway – set to star in Sofia Coppola’s upcoming On The Rocks, and Jim Jarmusch’s zombie movie, The Dead Don’t Die – the secret line enables Murray to pick and choose who he responds to.

“I’m not very disciplined anymore,” the actor told IndieWire, “this was a way you could not answer any phone, and whenever you felt like engaging, you could check to see who had bothered to call and what the message was. It just freed up my life a whole lot.”

Although this empowers Murray to keep his privacy, it’s apparently frustrating for filmmakers and publicists who are often kept in the dark about the actor’s availability, with Murray simply appearing on red carpets without confirming his attendance. But this – of course – is the whole point, as Murray expanded: “The people that know me, they get to me. The people that don’t know me just have a little more difficulty.”

Given his legendary status as a pop cultural icon, as well as an actor (and legal member of Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon A Time In Shaolin heist), why should Murray suffer incessant calls? “I’m not trying to work for anyone,” he concluded, “so now I barely maintain that facade anymore. I don’t even know how anybody reaches me.”

Even if filmmakers manage to get their hands on the mysterious phone number, they shouldn’t expect to hear back anytime soon (if ever). And if the latest Black Mirror is anything to go by, we should all be taking a leaf out of Murray’s book anyway – get off our phones, and get “busy living”.