There is a lot to love about Bill Murray. Not only has he spent a large part of the last ten years walking around bars, weddings, graduations and other seismic cultural events as bewildered and welcoming as a drunk uncle, encouraging photo opportunities and happenstance happiness to ensue wherever he goes, but he’s also a dab hand at poetry, a wonderful musician and a seriously gifted actor. To put it lightly, Bill Murray is as close as we have to a modern-day renaissance man.
Murray has acted as a cultural ballast in recent years, providing brevity and joy in the face of abundant sadness and despair. He’s given us memes galore, provided moments of pure sanctity and kept us all hopefully engaged with the prospect that the world isn’t all bad. However, life has a habit of reminding you, from time to time, that not everything is sweetness and light — sometimes, there is a black hole that gathers up your resentment. For Murray, looking back at his impressive career, there is only one film that has truly caused him enough anguish to make him regret taking on the role.
Let’s be clear, Murray’s filmography isn’t squeaky clean by any means. For every classic Ghostbusters or Groundhog Day there is a Charlie’s Angels or The Dead Don’t Die. His career is as varied and widespread as his iconic role in Lost in Translation; Bill Murray is as likely to appear on your TV sets in Japan selling prune-flavoured whiskey as he is starring alongside Scarlett Johansson, or pouring you a shot at your local dive bar.
But while some of the aforementioned films may be at the lower end of Murray’s spectrum, they still aren’t the roles which he regrets taking on; that unwelcomed accolade was reserved for his star turn as a lasagna-loving cat named Garfield. To be clear, the two films in which Murray voiced the lazy, ginger cat did not bob at the box office. In fact, 2004’s Garfield: The Movie and 2006’s Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties were, comparatively, financially successful. However, in a perhaps tongue-in-cheek interview, Murray clearly recoiled at the thought of taking the bag and running.
The reasons for his distaste for the role were varied but largely hung on the fact that Murray wasn’t able to flex his comedic muscles the way he had hoped. Murray, famed for his starry moments on Saturday Night Live is a naturally funny actor who has a habit of providing whipsmart ad-libs and improv. Sadly, on the two Garfield movies, the rest of the cast had already recorded their lines, ensuring there was very little wiggle room for him to shine. “So I worked like that with this grey blob and these lines that were already written,” Murray wrote as part of a Reddit AMA. “Trying to unpaint myself out of a corner. I think I worked six or seven hours for one reel? No, eight hours. And that was for ten minutes.”
There also appears to have been a case of mistaken identity wrapped up in the issues too. While Murray thought the comic book adaptation was being helmed by one-half of the Coen brothers, Joel (Fargo, The Big Lebowski etc.), it was actually directed by Joel Cohen whose credits include Cheaper by the Dozen and Monster Mash: The Movie. “I love the Coen brothers movies,” Murray mused, “I think that Joel Coen is a wonderful comedic mind. So I didn’t really bother to finish the script, I thought ‘he’s great, I’ll do it.'”
While this doesn’t necessarily equate as to why Murray took on the sequel for the movie, a production which never saw the bright lights of the theatre and headed straight to DVD, it does provide a little light relief for what is one of Murray’s worst moments on film. In truth, if there’s one thing you can always rely on Bill Murray for, it’s that.