It’s Bill Murray’s 62nd birthday today, so in celebration of one of the coolest actors around, here are a few things you might not know about Mr. Murray.
Image Via Georges Biard [Wikipedia]
He Has a Talented Family
While Bill might be the most famous of the Murrays, he’s far from the only actor in the group. In fact, not only do three of his brothers act, but one of his sisters is a nun who did a full U.S. tour of a one-woman show about St. Catherine of Siena. All in all, Bill’s parents, a mail room clerk and a lumber salesman, saw five of their nine children become actors. Bill’s brother Brian is even the one who got him involved in the famous improv troupe The Second City.
His Early Career Interests Were All Over the Place
In high school, Bill was the lead singer of a rock band. When he went to college, he wanted to be a doctor and studied premed before he dropped out –his school eventually awarded him an honorary Doctorate in 2007. Shortly after college, he was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport for trying to bring 9 pounds of pot onto an airplane, which he was accused of intending to sell.
He Was On the Original SNL
No, Bill Murray wasn’t on the first season of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, but in 1975, he was cast on ABC’s variety show also called Saturday Night Live, which was hosted by Howard Cosell. That was the same year SNL started and after the ABC program was cancelled one season in, Murray was hired to work on the much more successful NBC sketch show. He continued to work on the show for three seasons from 1977 until 1980.
His Early Movie Career Was Incredibly Impressive
Bill’s first starring role was in Meatballs, then he starred as Hunter S. Thompson in Where the Buffalo Roam, and then he was in Caddyshack, Stripes and Tootsie. He did so well that he was even invited to be the first guest on NBC’s Late Night With David Letterman and when David started to host the Late Show on CBS, he invited Bill to be his first guest there as well.
Interestingly, one of his most popular roles, that of Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters, was one that he only participated in as part of a deal to get Columbia Pictures to provide financing for his film adaptation of the novel The Razor’s Edge. Of course, given that you’ve probably never heard of his version of The Razor’s Edge, you probably already know how well that one did.
While every actor is bound to make a few flops, Bill was highly invested in the movie and he took its failure pretty hard. In fact, he took the next four years off of acting, with the only exception being a small cameo in Little Shop of Horrors. During that time he studied philosophy and history.
He’s Good At Comebacks
Image Via gdcgraphics [Wikipedia]
After that short four year break, Bill returned to star in four more classics, Scrooged, Ghostbusters II, What About Bob? And Groundhog Day. Unfortunately, after that he had another slump, though he at least didn’t quit acting temporarily like he did after his first failure. Instead, he continued trying new roles out until he received great acclaim for his role in Rushmore. Inspired, he decided to start taking more dramatic roles, leading him to star in films such as Hamlet, The Royal Tenenbaums and Lost in Translation –which he says was his favorite role to date. As any Murray fan will tell you though, most of his dramatic roles are great because they still have such touching funny scenes, which is where his comedic background really helps. In fact, that’s probably why he won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award and an Independent Spirit Award for his work in Lost in Translation.
After filming two more popular dramatic films, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Broken Flowers, he took another break from acting, this time just to give himself time to relax. While he played a few cameos during the next few years, he didn’t play a lead role again until Moonrise Kingdom.
He Could Have Been in a Lot More Great Films
One of the things that makes Mr. Murray so darn cool is the fact that he’s so detached from Hollywood. In fact, he doesn’t even have an agent or a manager and only gets offers for scripts from people who leave phone messages on a special telephone line that he rarely checks. Unfortunately, that also means he sometimes misses out on great roles that he really wanted to be involved with. For example, he could have done the voice of Sulley in Monsters, Inc., played Frank Ginsburg in Little Miss Sunshine and Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The one he regrets the most though was missing out on the opportunity to play Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabit.
He Really Does Love Golf
Image Via Steve Jurvetson [Wikipedia]
Caddyshack was actually a perfect fit movie for Bill, as he is an avid golfer. He even had ample experience with his role, as he worked as a golf caddy throughout high school –sure he wasn’t the groundskeeper, but I’m willing to bet that he got to know the groundskeeper of his local course.
These days Bill plays in many celebrity tournaments, is featured playing golf in a number of movies, including Zombieland, and he even wrote a book called Cinderella Story: My Life in Golf about his love for the game. He also starred in a Comedy Central series with his brothers called “The Sweet Spot” that was all about them playing golf. He and his brothers also own a restaurant near St. Augustine that is appropriately named Caddy Shack.
Golf isn’t the only game he’s passionate about though. Bill is a part-owner of a number of minor league baseball team, including the St. Paul Saints, the Charleston RiverDogs, Hudson Valley Renegades, and the Brockton Rox.
Musicians Really Love Him
Bill Murray is one of the only actors who multiple bands have written songs about. In fact, Wikipedia lists eleven songs inspired by Bill and chances are that there are more that were never added. While most of the bands are small indie or punk groups, popular group Gorillaz released a single and video called “Bill Murray” in 2007.
So remember, no matter how you feel about his stance on Ghostbusters III, Bill’s still responsible for a lot of great things that we can all appreciate. So enjoy a very Happy Birthday Mr. Murray!