How Hunter S. Thompson and John Prine helped Bill Murray fight depression
(Credit: Aaron Poole / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

The 10 craziest Bill Murray stories

Movie acting suits me because I only need to be good for ninety seconds at a time.” – Bill Murray

In the recent past, Bill Murray is the undisputed star of our “Hollyweird” column with his hilariously bizarre anecdotal stories. Murray has gatecrashed engagement photos, given impromptu speeches at bachelor parties or, in some cases, randomly applied for jobs in a restaurant at the back of Atlanta Airport. Despite (or maybe because of) all of these incidents, he has maintained his status as one of the biggest stars of Hollywood with a unique on/off-screen persona.

Given the number of urban myths surrounding one of Hollywood’s most-loved figures, filmmaker Tommy Avallone once attempted to collect the sheer amount of tales of Bill Murray’s personal life, creating a whole new documentary film entitled The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man. “One man’s journey to find meaning in Bill Murray’s many unexpected adventures with everyday people, rare and never-before-seen footage of the comedic icon participating in stories previously presumed to be an urban legend,” the synopsis reads and, here, we will do the same.

On his 70th birthday, we felt that we owe it to him to compile a list of ten of his strangest stories. Some of these fit right into the “truth is stranger than fiction” category but all of these are equally funny.

See the full list, below.

The 10 craziest Bill Murray stories:

10. Bill Murray steals French Fries

This one is probably one of the most discussed stories about Murray. In 2010, a tourist in Times Square got some French fries from a nearby McDonald’s. As he walked outside with them, he noticed a stranger’s hand stealing one of his fries.

When he turned to catch the thief red-handed, he realised it’s none other than Bill Murray. He recalled, “Before I could get a word out, he yelled over the crowd, ‘No one will ever believe you.’ He then cross to the other side of 7th avenue and disappeared into the crowd.”

(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

9. Bill Murray once hired a deaf assistant

Murray wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about working in Harold Ramis’ 1993 film Groundhog Day. “Bill had all these obvious resentments toward the production, so it was very hard for a time to communicate with him,” Ramis once explained. “Calls would go unreturned. Production assistants couldn’t find him. So someone said, ‘Bill, you know, things would be easier if you had a personal assistant. Then we wouldn’t have to bother you with all this stuff.’ And he said, ‘Okay.’

“So he hired a personal assistant who was profoundly deaf, did not have oral speech, spoke only American sign language, which Bill did not speak, nor did anyone else in the production. But Bill said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to learn sign language.’ And I think it was so inconvenient that in a couple weeks, he gave that up. That’s anti-communication, you know? Let’s not talk.”

Although Murray and Ramis had worked together on five occasions prior to that, this proved to be the last straw for the filmmaker. He never worked with Murray on another project.

Read the full story, here.

Bill Murray is reprising his 'Groundhog Day' role
(Credit: Columbia Pictures)

8. Bill Murray gives White House press briefing

While visiting Washington in 2016 to receive the Mark Twain Prize from President Obama, Murray attended a press conference moments after it ended and answered questions from the media about the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs were on their way to the World Series that year.

The press indulged in the charade and referred to Murray as “Mr. President.” They paid close attention as he explained why the Cubs deserved to win the World Series over an LA team. “We also have a little bit of autumn in Chicago,” Murray said. “You don’t get that in Los Angeles. Trees just die in Los Angeles. In Illinois, they flourish.”

7. Bill Murray and Hunter S. Thompson invented a new sport

In the summer of 2004, Hunter S. Thompson was working on something revolutionary. At 3 AM, he called up Bill Murray for advice on the idea for a new sport that would later be called “Shotgun Golf”. Detailing his plans as part of an article for ESPN, Thompson explained the premise of his new sport: One golfer, one shooter and a field judge. The aim of the game, obviously, is for the shooter to blow the golfer’s ball out of the game with a 12-gauge shotgun, an idea which seemingly combines clay pigeon shooting and traditional golf.

“I called Bill Murray with an idea that would change both our lives forever,” Thompson wrote in his article. “It was 3:30 on a dark Tuesday morning when I heard the phone ring on his personal line in New Jersey. ‘Good thinking,’ I said to myself as I fired up a thin Cohiba. ‘He’s bound to be wide awake and crackling at this time of day, or at least I can leave a very excited message’.”

Thompson added: “My eerie hunch was right. The crazy bugger picked up on the fourth ring, and I felt my heart racing. ‘Hot damn!’ I thought. ‘This is how empires are built.’ Late? I know not late.”

See the entire transcript of their call here.

(Credit: Wikimedia)

6. Bill Murray crashed a bachelor party

Some bachelor party guests in Charleston, South Carolina, were as surprised as anyone when Murray joined the party and offered some words of wisdom to the future groom. In what is a fantastic toast, Murray was characteristically profound.

“Over Memorial Day weekend, 20 of my buddies from Boston College got together in Charleston for our friend EJ’s bachelor party,” Stephen, a member of the group told Deadspin. “At one point during dinner at a steakhouse, one guy goes to the bathroom downstairs and sees Bill Murray sitting with some people with a fishing vest on. We talked to the waiter to see if we could send him some drinks, to which Bill declined.

“One of my buddies then went down and asked if he’d come up and say a few words for EJ and got a ‘No thanks.’ My buddy comes back up dejected and tells us it’s not going to happen. Two minutes later, Bill fucking Murray walks into the room and gives this speech.”

“If you have someone that you think is The One, take that person and travel around the world,” Murray said. “Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And when you land at JFK, and you’re still in love with that person… get married.”

If the idea of Bill Murray fine dining while rocking a fishing vest wasn’t enough, his impromptu speech will just about tip you over the edge. Offering advice to just about everyone except the groom, Murray began: “You know how funerals are not for the dead, they’re for the living? Bachelor parties are not for the groom, they’re for the uncommitted,” in his wonderfully unscripted speech to the group of guys.

Given the fact that the groom had already found he’s significant other, Murray turned to address the rest of the group to offer some words of advice on how to find that special somebody: “If you have someone that you think is The One, don’t just sort of think in your ordinary mind, ‘Okay, let’s pick a date. Let’s plan this and make a party and get married.’ Take that person and travel around the world,” he explained.

“Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you come back to JFK, when you land in JFK, and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.”

See the clip, below.

5. Bill Murray read poetry to a group of tradesmen

When the 2009 construction of Poets House was underway, Murray took to the ‘stage’ to deliver three readings of some of his favourite poetry, all delivered in his typical smirking, murmuring style. He started with Billy Collins’ Another Reason I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House.

The actor then followed up with Lorine Niedecker’s short-form poem, Poets Work, after having a small snigger at his attempt to pronounce her name. Murray finished with a heartfelt reading of Emily Dickinson to a welcoming and engaged audience. The entire clip is available below:

4. Bill Murray sings karaoke with Clint Eastwood

Murray had already proved his singing abilities with his sexy rendition of the Star Wars theme on Saturday Night Live, “Star Waaaars! Nothing but Star Waaaars!”. To remind everyone about his prowess as a singer, he showed up at the AT&T Pro-Am golf tournament at Pebble Beach in 2012 with a plan in mind.

With Hollywood A-listers gathered at a private party of the event and enjoying the live entertainment of offer, Murray decided it was time to ramp up this shindig and, in a scene befitting of Lost In Translation, walked up to the microphone to deliver his own rendition of Looking Glass’ 1972 hit ‘Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)’ armed with Eastwood himself.

Kicking things off, Murray flies into a “do do do” as the crowd cheers on. Eastwood, clearly more than a little awkward at not knowing the lyrics, is prompted by Murray to get involved: “What a band!” states while delivering some melodies.

There’s no stopping Bill though as he urges the crowd to get involved while belting out the chorus: “Brandy, you’re a fine girl, what a good wife you would be.”

Eastwood, offering a slower, softer approach to Murray’s all-in approach, closes: “I don’t know the lyrics but I’d better be moving on.”

Enjoy the footage, below.

3. Bill Murray became the world’s greatest barman

While appearing at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Murray tried his hand at bartending and ended up becoming the best. Propping up the end of the bar, Murray sparked a relaxed conversation with local bartender Trevor Rathbone when the actor asked: “I’m going to see GZA. Wanna come?” but the venue started to fill up and Rathbone was forced to stay behind.

Four hours later, he returned to the club called Shangri-La along with Wu-Tang Clan duo RZA and GZA. “All of a sudden, Bill Murray’s standing next to me behind my bar,” fellow bartender Jesse Cates recalled. “I found myself bartending with a Ghostbuster. It was pretty flipping sweet.”

The thing is, this is Bill Murray and things don’t normally stay calm for long. While most people in the bar wanted to be served by the actor, Murray had his own unique style… that style? Give everybody tequila. No matter what the order, Murray would listen intently before dismissing their request and pouring them a glass of the hard stuff.

2. Bill Murray applied for a job at an Asian restaurant

The actor actually filled out an application for a position at a restaurant at the Atlanta Airport. “I did fill out an application at P.F. Chang’s at the Atlanta Airport because I think it’s one of the best places,” Murray explained. Clarifying this isn’t an acting gig, Murray explained his application was “just to work there”.

He added: “It looks like they are having the best time working at P.F. Chang’s.”

While his application wasn’t immediately picked up by the recruitment team of P.F. Chang’s, the social media side of the business were certainly quick enough to jump at the chance of working with Murray and took to social media to confirm the role: “Bill, you’re hired! When can you start?” they said.

The lesser-known Bill Murray films you might have missed

1. Bill Murray crashed a random couple’s wedding photoshoot

Ashley Donald and Erik Rogers were taking engagement pictures for their future together when they found Bill Murray right alongside them. The actor is notorious for indulging in such encounters and whispering “No one will ever believe you,” before casually strolling away.

However, there’s damning evidence for this one. Photographer Raheel Gauba, of Fia Forever Photography, posted the picture to Facebook after explaining how Murray became a distracting figure at the other side of the street. “We were walking around downtown Charleston, taking in the romance of the city and enjoying the scenery,” Gauba told the Huffington Post. “I found this staircase and asked the couple to go get comfortable. Now when I do these shoots, sometimes I get tourists whistling or making funny faces or simply congratulating the couple. When I set up Ashley and Erik, I saw this look of surprise on their faces as they looked over my shoulder.”

Gauba continued: “I asked them to look at the camera, but they just looked stunned and with his eyes, Erik motioned that I better look behind me. As I turned around to potentially ask the person distracting them to give us a moment, I see Bill Murray with his shirt up, belly out and patting it — his attempt to make the couple laugh. I joined the couple in the shock and surprise of the moment. At that point, I invited him to join the couple for a quick shot and he did. So genuine and nice of him to make the couple’s day.”

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