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(Credit: Paramount)

Film

Why Bill Murray found 'Scrooged' harder than 'Ghostbusters'

For all you grinches, bah humbug’s and Christmas Scrooges, the idea of sitting down to watch a festive film is likely your idea of pure hell. Whether it’s the soppy sentimentality, stark lack of threat or the abundance of child characters, forcing a festive cynic to sit down and watch the likes of Home Alone, Elf or The Santa Clause is no easy feat. 

Thankfully, a whole range of anti-Christmas films exist to whet a grinch’s negative mindset, with Scrooged starring Bill Murray, one of the finest films of such a sentiment. Helmed by the director of Superman, Lethal Weapon and Ladyhawke, the late Richard Donner, Scrooged is a modern spin on Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, with Murray naturally slipping into the role of Christmas’ biggest cynic, Ebenezer Scrooge. 

As one of the most fascinating adaptations of Dickens’ iconic novel, Murray’s Scrooge is a selfish television executive putting on a dark, dreary production for the people of America on Christmas day. The perfect actor to play the influential literary character, Murray is joined by co-stars, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, John Glover, Bobcat Goldthwait, Robert Mitchum and Lee Majors in the ensemble cast. 

Becoming Ebenezer Scrooge was no easy feat for Bill Murray, however, with the actor noting that he found the production of Scrooged harder than any of his other previous films to date. Initially apprehensive to take the part, Murray didn’t believe he was strong enough to carry the film as its main lead, having become used to being part of an ensemble cast in the likes of Stripes with John Candy and Harold Ramis, as well as Ghostbusters with Dan Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver. 

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Working outside his comfort zone, Bill Murray told Starlog at the time, “Scrooged was harder [than Ghostbusters] because I was by myself, really. Even though there are a number of people in the movie, they only had cameos”. Adding, that appearing in the film felt “like flunking grade school again and again,” Murray went on to describe Scrooged as a “miserable gig,” stating, “I was trapped on a dusty, smelly and smokey set in Hollywood for three-and-a-half months, having a lousy time by myself”. 

Regardless of how Bill Murray felt on the set of the film, his performance as Scrooge is one of the very best iterations of the character that cinema has ever seen, delivering a hilarious impression of the troubled businessman. Thrilled with Murray’s performance, Richard Donner told Starlog, “You don’t direct Billy, you pull him back,” with the filmmaker even going so far as to say, “Billy really became an actor to me during Scrooged. I had always thought of him as an entertainer. Now, having worked with him, I could see him playing a heavy. He’s a good enough actor”. 

Donner was indeed correct, with Scrooged being the first of many major leading roles for Bill Murray who would later star in Broken Flowers for Jim Jarmusch and Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola.