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(Credit: Aaron Poole / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

The philosophy of Bill Murray: The sage of Hollywood

“The more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything: the better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself.” – Bill Murray

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. 

Content with his physical distance from the industry, the actor comments in discussion with The Talk: “It’s not that hard. If you have a good script that’s what gets you involved. People say they can’t find me. Well, if you can write a good script, that’s a lot harder than finding someone. I don’t worry about it; it’s not my problem”. Such a statement makes Murray sound like an industry outcast, though the truth is anything but, as he is consistently heralded for each of his performances and seems to revel in his glory. 

In placing himself at a distance from a film’s story, in addition to his own character, the actor inhabits a totally new ironic persona, in which he plays a caricature examined and comically deconstructed on screen by Bill Murray himself. It’s a method that dates back to the dawn of comedy, with the Marx brothers often breaking the fourth wall whilst exposing themselves as ‘performers’. The story is disregarded as redundant to the comedy at hand. 

His Ghostbusters co-star, Harold Ramis, claimed that it was the Greco-Armenian Sufi mystic G.I. Gurdjieff that Murray based his persona on, with the actor claiming that the thinker, “Used to act really irrationally to his students, almost as if trying to teach them object lessons”. Aiming to free the minds of individuals from illusion, Gurdjieff taught ‘the fourth way of enlightenment’, a truth that sought to reveal the reality of the outside and inner world in order to separate yourself from both. This individual exists independently, switching between the perspective of the world, the self, and the self that is observing your own actions. 

Such creates a unique persona in which we watch Bill Murray on screen, not with his character in mind, but with Bill Murray in mind. His natural reactions to the beats of the story are experienced as the responses of Bill Murray reacting to his character’s impression of events. It creates a strange detachment that places Murray in a position in which he doesn’t seem to be taking the film seriously when in actuality, he is merely projecting his own philosophical character.

With an eclectic array of past endeavours, including a musical, comedy film A Very Murray Christmas, random public appearances in wedding photos and multiple cameos across the history of cinema. Bill Murray is one of cinema’s most unique performers, dedicated to bringing his own brand of cynical humour to the forefront of alternative culture. The consistent joy of his performances is that no matter his character, he is always transparently Bill Murray, the warm, friendly, sarcastic, endearing personality that he has always been.

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