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(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Film

The comical mistake that led Bill Murray to play 'Garfield'

@Russellisation

Standing at a distance both from himself and the film industry his career has been shrouded in, Bill Murray is an ironic, coolly detached cultural icon who has come to inspire a whole new generation of like-minded individuals. Without an agent or manager, Murray operates on his own plane of existence, only accepting offers for roles through a personal telephone number and voicemail that he infrequently checks. 

Despite having almost 100 film and TV credits to his name, the inclusion of Bill Murray in the 2004 animated comedy Garfield is certainly quite inexplicable, with the project rather outlandish in comparison to the rest of the actor’s filmography. Comically, however, as Bill Murray discusses on the Sunday Sitdown with Willie Geist podcast, the decision to lend his voice to the titular feline character came almost purely as a mistake. 

Discussing his time working on the animated film, the actor commented: “I did the Garfield movies which were like, one crazier than the next I did two of them, and that’s a long story of madness”. When he went on to explain how he came about the script for the film, however, Murray recalls: “I didn’t really read the script and I was like ‘I’d love to try one of these animated movies, it’ll be kinda fun’. I looked at it and saw Joel Cohen, one of my favourites. The Coen Brothers? These guys make great movies, it wasn’t that Joel Coen, it was a different Joel Cohen. I signed up for the one with the silent spelling, I got that Cohen”.

Hilariously, it seems Bill Murray only really appeared in Garfield due to him misreading the talent behind the film itself, ploughing forward on what the actor remembers as a “really troubled production”. He elaborated on his time making the film during a Q&A on Reddit, in which he stated: “So this was an odd movie because the live footage had been shot, but the cat was still this grey blob on screen. So I start working with this script and I’m supposed to start re-recording and thinking ‘I can do a funnier line than that’ so I would start changing the dialogue that was written for the cat”. 

Continuing, he notes: “But then you realise the cat’s over here in a corner sitting on a counter, and I’m trying to think how I can make it make sense”. 

Such gives context to Bill Murray’s hilarious cameo in 2009s horror comedy, Zombieland, in which Murray takes part in one of cinema’s greatest self-referential cameos. Upon being mistaken for a zombie in the film by Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) asks Murray as he dies, “So do you have any regrets?” to which Bill Murray replies, “Garfield maybe?”.

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