How Hunter S. Thompson and John Prine helped Bill Murray fight depression
(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Bill Murray explains why has no agent, manager or contactable phone number

Bill Murray, the man, the myth, the legend.

If you’re looking to create a Hollywood cinematic character with edgy, quirky and comedic qualities in the cast that plays with the realms of normal society constraints with a heartwarming, sincere edge, look no further than Murray himself.

Jim Jarmusch, Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson have all reaped the benefit of that philosophy, casting Murray in a series of films that have now become synonymous with the actor’s legacy. The truth is, as Murray has grown older, he’d rather commit himself to a project which would result in him working with close friends rather than gambling on the unknown.

Getting in contact with Murray has, in recent years, grown into somewhat of a Hollywood urban myth. In 2014, director Ted Melfi said he left messages on Murray’s answerphone months before he ever received a reply. It was, in fact, Melfi who started the rumour that Murray had implemented a toll-free 0800 or 1‑800 number with computerised pre-recorded messages for people to navigate through.

Without an agent or manager to deal with, the never-ending list of callers attempting to pitch an idea to the actor began snowballing out of control: “I had a house phone, and it would just ring and ring,” Murray said in a past interview with IndieWire. “Finally, I’d pick up the phone and I’d say, ‘Who in the fuck is calling me and letting my phone ring like that?’ The agent would say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I’m calling for so-and-so.’ I’d say, ‘Look, you can’t do this. This is my house. If I don’t answer the phone, don’t do that because you’re making me not like you.’”

Despite the frustrating annoyance, the ever-understanding actor could sympathise with the callers: “Their job is, ‘Get me Bill Murray on the phone.’ They have nothing else to do,” he said before confirming the rumours about his toll-free communication: “I just unplugged the phone and then I got this 800 number, which is very handy,” he said.

“I’m not very disciplined anymore. 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.”

He concluded: “It’s not like at 11 o’clock it’s time to check the messages,” he said. “Sometimes I go days or weeks. Sorry I’m busy living.” 

(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

With a return to Ghostbusters on the way, the 69-year-old actor has remained as prolific as he was in his youth—if not more so now. A blockbuster revisiting of the aforementioned cult classic is just one of a number of major projects Murray is working on and, when the film industry begins to rebuild after the current pandemic, the actor will see his work premiere in the new Wes Anderson film The French Dispatch as well as head back on set with Sofia Coppola on her planned project On the Rocks.

While 2019 saw Murray again work with Jarmusch on The Dead Don’t Die, the director Jarmusch has been vocal in his support of the actor’s unusual approach to business admin. Backing up Murray in the same Indiewire conversation, Jarmusch confirmed the actor’s unusual method of professional communication: “I got the number from Bill a long time ago,” he said before adding somewhat confusingly, “but I have a few of his numbers.”

Jarmusch continued: “What I love is that Bill protects himself.

“I don’t know that many people of that kind of high profile who can. Bill protects what he feels is his directive in his life — what is his job and how he wants to live. So he structures it in a way where he doesn’t have an entourage or a hedge of people around him. It’s very direct, but he can kind of close it off.”

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