Bill Murray has arguably played many of the greatest characters in cinematic history, but there's no better Murray character than himself. A movie could be made about all the weird, wild, and wonderful Bill Murray stories from behind the scenes of Groundhog Day, Meatballs, Rushmore, Caddyshack, and virtually every other one of his pictures.
From pushing a producer into a lake to meditating with a young co-star, these Murray stories might leave you with more questions than answers, but a great character never stops developing.
‘Kingpin’ - Murray As Big Ern Legitimately Bowled Three Strikes In A Row At The EndPhoto: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
The film's directors (the famous Farrelly brothers) thought they'd have to roll tape for a while to capture Big Ern's climactic "turkey" (three strikes in a row). Murray bowled exactly three strikes in a row, shocking the directors - and the audience.
The Farrellys worried that the thousand extras in the crowd would lose interest. Due to Murray's clutch performance, they erupted with genuine rapture.
‘Groundhog Day’ - Longtime Collaborators Murray And Director Harold Ramis Feuded And Didn’t Speak For 21 Years AfterPhoto: Columbia Pictures
Murray and Ramis met as members of Chicago's Second City improv troupe. They took their combined hilarity to the big screen, beginning with Meatballs, culminating with Ghostbusters, and ending with 1993's Groundhog Day as a result of Murray's behavior on set.
Harold Ramis's daughter stated:
Bill was going through a difficult time in his personal life, and he and my dad were not seeing eye to eye on the tone of the film. They had a few arguments on set, including one in which my dad uncharacteristically lost his temper, grabbed Bill by the collar, and shoved him up against a wall. Eventually, Bill just completely shut my dad out…for the next twenty‑plus years.
Writer Danny Rubin described the relationship between Ramis and Murray behind the scenes as "brotherly":
They were like two brothers who weren’t getting along. And they were pretty far apart on what the movie was about—Bill wanted it to be more philosophical, and Harold kept reminding him it was a comedy.
Ramis himself stated:
At times, Bill was just really irrationally mean and unavailable; he was constantly late on set. What I’d want to say to him is just what we tell our children: ‘You don’t have to throw tantrums to get what you want. Just say what you want.’
The two did not speak until 21 years later when Ramis was terminally ill and Murray visited him with a box of donuts and a police escort.
‘Ghostbusters’ - Murray’s Character Was Expanded At The Expense Of Ernie Hudson’sPhoto: Columbia Pictures
Winston Zeddemore, Ernie Hudson's character, was supposed to be one of the founding members of the squad. He was a demolitions expert with a rich backstory that included Air Force work. Hudson was excited about the role and even took half the salary that he could have commanded. Then Bill Murray came aboard, which caused the studio to reduce Hudson's part to benefit the comedy star.
Winston Zeddemore became a late addition Ghostbuster who, ironically, only took the job for a steady paycheck.
‘Rushmore’ - Murray Liked The Script So Much, He Was Willing To Earn Only $9,000, Then Paid $25,000 For A Helicopter Scene The Studio Wouldn’t FundPhoto: Buena Vista Pictures
Today, Rushmore is considered one of the finest films of all time. But in 1997, it was so undervalued that the studio wouldn't pay for a helicopter with which to film a montage scene.
Enter Bill Murray, who was so enamored with the script that he took $9,000 for a leading role and personally paid $25,000 for the helicopter. Director Wes Anderson didn't end up needing the money, but he still has the check, uncashed.