What I admire about you is your ability to evolve. I’ve watched you since Saturday Night Live from the 70s and at 63, you are still funny. Bill, you’ve managed to do it all from stupid comedy like Caddyshack to drama like Hyde Park on Hudson. You are smart enough to know there are many ways to get a laugh. Those comedians who rely on one technique fall away in popularity while you have managed to transcend into new territory. Through the decades, you have consistently made me laugh armed with a frozen expression and a sly remark.
The bottom line is you are entertaining. You don’t offend me or smack me in the face with a joke like Jim Carrey or Robin Williams or Seth Rogan or fifty others. Your smirk says it all. You laugh at us, enjoying your own private joke and the naked crowd before you is clueless. That kind of irony makes you brilliant. Who would have thought Bill Murray was the sharpest tool in the shed when he looks like an idiot?
The secret to your success is Wes Anderson. You traded in your goofy self for characters in dark comedies and satiric situations where your smirk radiates. We all know Wes likes to pose people like portraits with great colors. This fits your deadpan personality perfectly.
The relationship you have with Wes Anderson brought you grace in your fifties. The ensemble casts are quirky and wonderful. You’ve been in all of Anderson’s films: Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Darjeeling Limited(2007, Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Could Wes Anderson do without starring you? Probably, but why would he since you both make each other look stellar.
Other Great Ones
Your ability with dark comedy and your acting garnered respect from everyone in Lost in Translation (2003) written and directed by Sofia Coppola. It’s the stuff that catapulted Sofia’s career and we all hope it is not her one-hit-wonder. Your chemistry with Scarlett Johansson was mesmerizing, and it solidified you as a symbol of the man who went through life more or less doing what he was supposed to and look what all that passivity got him? Loneliness, apathy, and remorse. Bill, it’s been your calling card ever since.
Hunter S. Thompson is as weird as it gets, and you played him perfectly as Gonzo. In 1980, it was an outrageous time; it reminds me of the hedonism in The Wolf on Wall Street. Here was another crazy person from the 80s that was way out of control. Who else but Bill Murray to play the legendary journalist? Johnny Depp did a good job in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but maybe people should start with the 80s version with this wacky comedy.
Harold Ramis and Saturday Night Live
How many Saturday nights as a teen did I watch you play the sleazy nightclub singer? You and the original set were fantastic. Harold Ramis was the leader of your pack and held you all together. The 2014 Oscars featured a segment where you paid tribute to your friend and comedian/writer/director, Harold Ramis who passed away this year. Even though you didn’t see eye to eye during the 1993 classic, Ground Hog Day, you reconciled with this statement to TIME following Ramis’ death:
“Harold Ramis and I together did the National Lampoon Show off Broadway, Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day. He earned his keep on this planet. God bless him.”
The 80s and 90s made you commercially popular and established your career. I think you went from Ramis to Anderson. I think you need a collaborator, a co-conspirator, and your relationship with Ramis had a beginning, a middle, and an end and Anderson took over after your estrangement with Ramis. Who was the producer/director of all those goofy hits that made you famous in the first place? Ivan Reitman.
I thought you did a great job as FDR in the 2012 biopic Hyde Park on Hudson. You and Laura Linney were fine together as Franklin D. Roosevelt and the secretary/caretaker relationship that lasted over 30 years. The film had its holes, but I thought it showcased a side of FDR in a humane way–with a sense of humor–and you got him. I liked it far more than your critics.
You can read the review I wrote about the film here:
You have a hit-and-miss record over the last forty years. I appreciate that you are willing to take risks and try new projects. I think you are great with Wes Anderson and love your dark comedies. Hang in there, Bill, and thanks for making me laugh.
Your Favorite Fan