31 Oct 2016

Bill Murray and random silliness

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 3:09 pm on 31 October 2016

While Bill Murray is famous for his roles in films like Ghostbusters, Caddyshack and Lost in Translation, he has another source of fame - his embrace of random silliness.

He has crashed a 20-something dinner party, arranged the drinks and chatted about the virtues of sweet potato casserole, turned up at a bachelor party and given a toast, bought a popcorn machine and walked around an office doling it out, dared a kid to ride his bike into a swimming pool for $5 and photobombed numerous wedding photos.

Journalist Gavin Edwards’ new book The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party Crashing reveals some of the stunts Murray has pulled over the past 40 years.

Rolling Stone journalist Edwards says for Murray it’s all about joy, spontaneity and a way of living.

“I really wanted to write about somebody who felt like a giant cultural figure and it came down to Bill Murray and Prince!”

He says Murray’s spontaneous approach to life is performed without a safety net.

“He gets away with it in places where he’s got no cultural currency.

“There’s something about his willingness to throw himself into a situation and embrace the moment with somebody else, they don’t know him, they see it as a real human thing.”

Murray had a lot of fun in Japan filming Lost in Translation, Edwards says.

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Gavin Edwards Photo: Supplied

“He brought along this phrase book called Making out in Japanese and he would go to sushi bars and use the phrases but they were things like ‘do you have a curfew?’ ‘Should I be carrying protection?’ 

“These big burly sushi chefs would look at the crazy American saying these things and then they would burst out laughing.”

Tao means finding a way through life and Edwards believes that is just what Murray has embraced, using these moments to wake others and himself up.

“He’s not just doing this to be wacky, it expresses his philosophy ‘this is how we should live’ and he’s telling people not with words but with his actions - there is a better way to live than you’re doing.”

Murray is famous for being hard to track down - he only ever buys one way tickets - and that makes life hard for movie makers who want him in a film.  

“He has no agent, no manager, no publicist he has an 0800 number. You get a voice mail box ‘please leave a message at the tone’ if you’ve got a script and think maybe Bill would be perfect for it you can leave him a message.”

Edwards says if he listens to the message, and likes the idea, he’ll get in touch and ask for a script – although he’s missed out on some great films this way – Little Miss Sunshine for example – the control this gives over his life is more important to Murray.

So what makes him return a call? Being polite on the phone is a good start, says Edwards.

Murray is famous for his mercurial and sometimes difficult personality, but his kindness and love sharing magical moments with others makes him unique, Edwards says. And a cabbie in California would doubtless agree.

One of Murray’s famous moments came when he was in the back of a cab in Oakland, California late at night with a long drive ahead.

“It’s hour long cab ride and Murray’s talking with the cabbie, it emerges the cab driver is a frustrated musician, he wants to play sax but he has no time to practice because he’s driving this car 12 hours a day."

Murray sees a solution, the cabbie has his horn in the boot so Murray offers to drive while he practises.

“It turns out the guy can really play, and its after midnight he finds a place open at 3am that’s serving BBQ and he gets ribs - it was a great moment for both of them.”

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