Bill Murray is an interesting case study – He's enjoyed an incredibly successful film career that's spanned over three decades, and yet like so many comedic film actors of his generation (such as Steve Martin and Dan Akyroyd), he would never be considered to be your traditional "leading man" type. He's not classically good-looking (unless you're into that Edward James Olmos "I could eat soup out of your pockmarks" kind of thing) and more often than not, his onscreen persona is defined by dark sarcasm and misanthropy.
But nonetheless, there is definitely something charismatic about Bill Murray, and he brings something unique to all the roles he plays. I couldn't picture anyone nailing Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters or Phil Connors from Groundhog Day quite the way Murray did – with such snarky bravado and charming dislike for humanity.
What are roles Bill Murray turned down?
That being said, Bill Murray is not right for every role that is out there. He's a very picky actor and has turned down a slew of projects over the years. Here's a list of films that Murray almost starred in, but either passed on or was passed over for....[And if you like this list, check out this guide to The Greatest True Bill Murray Stories.]
No joke! Long before Bill Murray's famous Star Wars lounge act on "Saturday Night Live," George Lucas was originally considering him for the role of Han Solo in 1977's Episode IV: A New Hope. Wow. This would have been a completely different movie! I can kind of see Murray's cockiness working for the role, but no... no, nevermind, I really can't picture this no matter how hard I try. I will say though that the famous Cantina scene where Han shoots Greedo would have been amazing with Murray in the driver's seat... imagine Murray calling his name a la "Ned Ryerson?" from Groundhog Day before blowing him away. There would have been absolutely no question as to who shot first!
Okay, you know what? I've changed my mind... Bill Murray as Han Solo would have been an awesome casting choice.
Who got the part:Harrison Ford (who was a carpenter for Lucas at the time he was discovered). Other actors in consideration for the role were Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, Nick Nolte and yes... Christopher Walken.
During early development of the Warner Bros' 1989 blockbuster, Batman, studio execs were thinking about casting Murray as the title character. Originally, they envisioned the film in a campier tone, similar to that of the 1960's television show starring Adam West. But as the story goes, when Tim Burton signed on to direct the project he decided to use Michael Keaton, an actor he had just previously worked with on Beetlejuice.
Who got the part:
Michael Keaton (and subsequently Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck). Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin were also supposedly in the running.According to an interview he did on MTV.com, Murray claims that he is not bitter about losing the part to Keaton. He says, "I would have been a fine Batman. You know, there have been a number of Batmen. I like them... I thought Mike Keaton did a great job as Batman. It's obviously – it's a great role."
Producers of the 1984 film Splash offered the leading role of Allen Bauer to Murray, who turned it down so that he could make Ghostbusters (thank goodness!). After John Travolta and Michael Keaton passed on the part as well, producers finally turned to Tom Hanks, who accepted.
Personally, I think it's really interesting that Bill Murray was considered for this part, because when you think about it, he and Tom Hanks are pretty much polar opposites in every way. Don't get me wrong, they can both be considered "everymen" in some respects, but whereas Hanks is full of boy-like charm, innocence, and heart warming optimism, Murray has built a career around adolecent-style mischeif and dark, skeptical smart-assery.
I do wonder though, if Murray had accepted the role of Allen Bauer, would he have played it more like the title character from his subsequent nautical-themed film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou? Because if so, damn that would have been a strange movie!
Who got the part:Tom Hanks
Okay, here's one I genuinely think Bill Murray would have been great in. The sarcasm, the pessimism, the dark humor. This is a role in which Murray could have easily excelled. Robert Zemeckis and Steven Speilberg had designated him as the front-runner early on in the casting process and were gung ho about bringing him onboard, but the pair had trouble contacting Murray to make an offer and were ultimately forced to move on. After the fact, Murray found out that the role had been all but his to lose and claimed that he would have taken the part if he had only known about it.
I, for one, would've loved to have seen him play paddy-cake with Jessica Rabbit!
Who got the part:Bob Hoskins