12 February 2010

Icons of our time - Bill Murray.

William James Murray born in 1950 in Illinois an American Irish Catholic upbringing with his siblings a sister and three fellow acting brothers, most notably Brian Doyle-Murray who's more familiar roles would be two of the National Lampoon's Vacation movies, Caddyshack and JFK also starring along side brother Bill in Scrooged, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters II and Groundhog Day, a household name for sure, I like Bill Murray and have done since I was a kid and I first saw Peter Venkman toasting ghosts. Murray, a keen golfer playing in many celeb based tournaments, coincidentally worked as a caddy as a youngster to fund his education during a tough childhood. Everyone is familiar with the earlier zany Bill Murray from Saturday Night Live, Stripes, Caddyshack and Ghostbusters all box office hits and all of the comedic genre. He was also the first ever guest on The David Letterman Show in 1982. Murray stays detached from the whole Hollywood thing, swerving agents and managers and chooses roles largely on his own, fielding scripts and offers to his own personal telephone number.A keen environmentalist Murray supported the Green Party during the 2000 Presidential campaign. Murray has business partnerships with his brothers in the Caddy Shack restaurant chain located near St Augustine. He is also the part-owner of three minor league baseball outfits.
After his film debut summer camp comedy Meatballs in 1979 Murray played famed iconic American gonzo journalist Dr Hunter S Thompson in 1980's Where The Buffalo Roam.
Murray's transition to dramatic acting in the poorly received The Razor's Edge in 1984.
Murray's latter career is what I think makes him great, his deadpan demeanour, dry and sarcastic wit, and perfect comic timing with overall laid back style has given him the iconic status many would not begrudge, he is cool as fuck and that's that. Murray has got better with age, with his receding hairline and craggy face he seems like an anti Hollywood hero, one of the chaps.
The fact there's been some defining and very differing film roles in recent years in varying guises just adds to that fact.

His collaborations with Director Wes Anderson is where the cool factor really comes out to play, Anderson's slick style an unique vision brings it out spectacularly in film roles such as the highly acclaimed Rushmore (1998) as Herman Blume a bored, middle aged steel tycoon with a penchant for whiskey, cigarettes and excitement, he goes head to head with his new found friend, a student with an addiction to extra curricular activities Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) to gain the affections of Primary teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams).

In The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Murray plays neurologist Raleigh St Clair a parody of famous physician Oliver Sacks. Married to Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) who is many years younger, who hides her smoking and her past from him, he rightly suspects she is having an affair.
He conducts various tests on Dudley Heinsbergen looking for a rare paranoid condition he calls the Heinsbergen syndrome.

But it's in his leading role as Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) as an eccentric oceanographer and aquatic documentarian - clearly based on famed French oceanographer Jacques Yves Cousteau, it's a role Murray was born to play. With the crazy outfits the Belafonte vessel and all it's detailed rooms and cabins, and a great ensemble cast. The Life Aquatic is a large production for Wes Anderson, filmed on location and with a superb use of Henry Sellick's stop motion animation for it's natural history scenes, this is a film with Wes Anderson's fingerprints all over it. And Murray's trademark style makes Zissou the screen icon he is.
Zissou sets out to track down the Jaguar Shark which killed his good friend Esteban. A movie tinged with nods, winks and inspirations to old movies, old scenes and literature before it, there was even gossip Murray would be nominated for an Oscar around it's release.

The Zissou crew all wear their designated sky blue uniforms for both land and in sea, topped off with signature red hats. Zissou even has his own pair of Adidas trainers devoted to him.

Broken Flowers (2005) Directed by Jim Jarmusch it's as the reluctant former Don Juan, the aptly named Don Johnston, a man happy to lounge about in semi retirement who's current girlfriend has just walked out on him. Out of the blue, he is then given a mysterious letter informing he has an unknown nineteen year old son out looking for him. At first he's happy to do nothing about it, until his neighbour steps in and insists it's the right thing to do. Johnston then sets out in a quest to track down each one of four ex's who could have sent him the letter. Suited with sunglasses, but also decked out in a Fred Perry tracksuit that anyone else would look like an overgrown child in, he pulls it off. With his receding grey locks and plastered brow he looks a little like a New Jersey debt collector. Yet he still looks pretty cool rocking the laurel logo of my town, Stockport's, most famous son. A great role and one Murray plays superbly. Look out for Murray's real life look-a-likey son Homer at the end of the film.

Lost in Translation (2003) saw another defining role for Murray, playing an ageing movie star isolated in Tokyo where he is filming a commercial for Suntory whiskey. He meets fellow American Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in his hotel and begins to bond with the equally isolated young lady, trying to come to terms with the difficulties between Japanese and American culture and indeed their own different generations, a kind of buddy movie of sorts where the two leads fail to have an affair.

In the erotic thriller Wild Things (1997) most known for it's fruity three way sex scene between Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell and a delectable Denise Richards in all her topless glory, Murray pops up as seedy laywer Ken Bowden who has the last laugh, arguably the best thing in this double crossing sex crime film, apart from Denise Richards' champagne covered titties.

Wild Things 1997

as Hunter S Thompson in Where the Buffalo Roam 1980.
I could go on and on about cooler Murray roles, but another brilliant smaller role has to be as Ernie McCracken in Kingpin (1996) the slapstick bowling themed comedy from the Farrelly brothers. McCracken is a pro bowler, hustler and all round ladies man.
Ed Wood (1994) saw Murray play the openly gay Bunny Breckinridge a real life American actor/drag queen in Tim Burton's comedy drama biopic and his first R rated film.
Mad Dog and Glory (1993) saw Murray playing kind of against type and opposite Robert De Niro as wise guy Frank Milo who has a hobby as a stand up comedian and who crosses paths with Crime Scene Investigator Wayne Dobie (played by De Niro) after saving his life during a botched hold up in a convenience store. During filming Bill Murray accidentally broke Robert De Niro's nose.

Above: a hit with the ladies, and some artistic impressions.
Recently Murray made an excellent cameo as himself in the comedy horror Zombieland (2009)
At the end of the day Murray's mint and it's hard to disagree with that. Like a fine wine he's getting better with age, the best roles, the roles of his career have come in later years, there's been the odd stinker we won't even mention, but I'll look forward to whatever he does next which may even include Ghostbusters III.
Selected Filmography:
Ghost Busters (1984)
Tootsie (1982)
Stripes (1981)
Caddyshack (1980)

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