“I’m a Nut, but Not Just a Nut.” – The Life of Bill Murray

Whether you know him from Groundhog’s Day, What About Bob, or Ghostbusters, audiences have adored Bill Murray for decades. The comical actor has been in several hit films, and he approaches each role with ease. However, he always keeps audiences guessing because he doesn’t stick to one type of character.

Bill Murray / Bill Murray / Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Sofia Coppola / Bill Murray.
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Unlike most celebrities, Murray isn’t the most glamorous star that struts down every red carpet or dines at the most expensive restaurants in LA. He’s a down-to-earth guy who enjoys photobombing, wedding crashing, and stealing people’s French fries. Keep reading to see how Murray became one of the most loveable stars in Hollywood.

Making It Big on SNL

In the early ’70s, Bill Murray got an invitation from his brother Brian to join The Second City in Chicago, an improv comedy troupe. The group helped him kick off his comedy career and led him to New York City in 1974. After being recruited by Jim Belushi to be on the Off-Broadway version of The National Lampoon Radio Hour, Murray was asked to join the cast of Saturday Night Live.

Bill Murray performs on SNL.
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He became known for his hit sketches, including the Lounge Singer, where he says, “cheeseburger, cheeseburger.” From there, Murray started to make a name for himself in Hollywood, being cast in Meatballs and Caddyshack, Stripes, and Tootsie. Murray was also the first guest on Late Night with David Letterman.

He’s a Hard Worker

Many people have called Murray lazy, comparing him to other actors who film one movie after the other. But there have been gaps between his movies because he took time off to study philosophy at Sorbonne University before jumping back into work to film Little Shop of Horrors.

Bill Murray attends an SNL celebration.
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However, he only stepped away because he was frustrated about the failure of The Razor’s Edge. Once Murray returned to Hollywood, he starred in one film after another. Critics praised his work in Groundhog’s Day (1993), saying he “had never been funnier as a comedian or more in control as an actor than he was there.”

A Joke Got Him Arrested

Before Murray realized he wanted to become an actor, he started a pre-med degree at Regis University in Colorado. However, he wasn’t there for long as he dropped out and returned to his parents’ home in Illinois. While he tried to figure out what to do with his life, he ran into trouble at 20 years old.

A dated portrait of Bill Murray.
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Murray has always been funny, but his jokes got him into legal trouble while flying out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. He had about ten pounds of weed in his bag, which he intended to sell. But he didn’t make it far after joking with another passenger that he had a bomb in his luggage. It wasn’t his best joke, and it got him arrested when TSA discovered the drugs.

Doing Things Differently

When Murray got into the acting business, he didn’t want to be like every other actor in Hollywood. He has always tried to pave his own path, so he didn’t have an agent to book his roles or a publicist to speak on his behalf.

A picture of Bill Murray.
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Instead, Murray had an 800 number for people to call if they wanted to offer him a role. He would only return people’s calls if he was interested in the project. Otherwise, he didn’t waste time with projects that didn’t excite him.

Caddyshack Took Six Days

Murray was instantly interested in the role for Caddyshack because he related to the character in many ways. He was a young golf fan who worked as a caddy, and he oversaw a hot dog stand at the Indian Hill Country Club when he was a teen, which inspired the film’s location.

Cindy Morgan and Bill Murray nestled behind a tree in a scene from the film.
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Initially, his role wasn’t significant, but the producers thought he was hilarious and extended his part. Murray ended up filming for six days, improvising most of his lines, including the Dalai Lama speech.

He Accidentally Agreed to Play Garfield

Joel Cohen wrote the hilarious feline film Garfield and offered Murray the main role. However, Murray only agreed to do the movie because he thought it was made by one of the Coen brothers. It was an innocent mistake, but he couldn’t back out. Unfortunately, he only made $50,000 for the film.

Bill Murray attends an event.
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Murray remembered reading the script thinking Cohen and Coen were the same names. He said, “And I thought, ‘Christ! Well, I love those Coens. They’re funny.” He’s learned to always read and research names thoroughly before agreeing to a movie role, but Garfield turned out hilarious anyway.

He Didn’t Sign a Contract

When Sofia Coppola called Murray to offer him a role in Lost in Translation, he was thrilled. He had previously worked with director Wes Anderson in Rushmore, so he didn’t think twice about the movie and agreed to take a role without signing a contract.

Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, and Sofia Coppola during the film premiere.
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Murray wasn’t in it for the money because he only took home $9,000 after handing over $25,000 to the director to film the last helicopter scene in the film. The production company didn’t want to pay for it, so Murray stepped in to save the day. 

Strong Views About Hollywood

The award-winning actor has a lot to say about the norms in Hollywood. Murray shared, “People think because they employ you, they’re allowed to treat you like a dictator, or whatever the worse word for a dictator is.” Murray and most actors want to be treated with respect on movie sets.

Timothee Chalamet, Wes Anderson, Tilda Swinton, and Bill Murray attend an event.
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He has been transparent about his life in the spotlight and doesn’t pretend to be one of those celebrities with the best life. He always tries to be real with people and stays away from acting fake.

He’s Still an Icon

Murray, who is now 71 years old, is still thought of as an icon in Hollywood. He has stayed the same regardless of his fame, even though people around him have shifted. Although people have said that Murray is hard to work with, he has a legendary reputation.

Bill Murray attends an event.
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Murray spent most of his career playing comedic roles, but he has taken on dramatic parts recently. Despite this shift, his kooky style, personality, and comedic appeal have won over millions of fans. In 2016, Murray was honored at the Kennedy Center with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Whatever negative things people might think, Murray is an icon on and off the screen.