September 06, 2014 - 4:34 PM
TORONTO - Bill Murray was equal parts funny and philosophical on Friday, when he materialized after a Toronto screening of "Ghostbusters" and proceeded to answer his devoted fans' questions for nearly an hour.
On what was termed "Bill Murray Day," fans lined up at daybreak for tickets to Toronto International Film Festival screenings of three of Murray's classic comedies — "Stripes," "Groundhog Day" and 1984's "Ghostbusters," which was to be followed by a Q-and-A with director Ivan Reitman and filmmaker Mitch Glazer.
But organizers confirmed just before "Ghostbusters" screened that Murray would also join the chat, confirming a rumour that had originally seemed mostly based on blind hope and Murray's penchant for whimsically impromptu public appearances.
After the film, Murray took the stage to the tune of Prince's "Raspberry Beret" — even singing a couple bars — dressed in a blue-and-white Western shirt, bright red pants and desert boots, along with a warm-looking hat with ear flaps buttoned up.
What followed was a broad-ranging chat that featured sage life advice alongside shotgun-quick quips. After it was over, Murray signed autographs and snapped photos with fans until a handler finally persuaded him to exit.
And among those pressing queries: How was Bill Murray Day for Bill Murray himself?
"I sort of stayed in my room," said Murray. "I stayed in my room for a long time today but people kept coming up saying things like: 'It's real humid out there.' I think maybe seven different people go like: 'Well, it's real humid and it's going to get even more humid.'
"That's what my day's been like. It's mostly been a weather report."
Well, the — yes, steamy — conditions outside didn't dissuade Murray's zealous devotees from lining the blazing sidewalk early on a weekday for a chance to see his old movies, and many did so dressed to the nines.
Some of the ambitious outfits on offer referenced Murray's performances in "Broken Flowers" (a black-and-red sweatsuit and a withered bouquet), "Space Jam" (a Tune Squad tank top) and "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" (a red knit cap and a striped shirt with epaulettes). At stake were free passes to the premiere of Murray's latest film, "St. Vincent," premiering Friday as part of the Toronto International Film Festival.
One Murray enthusiast dressed her baby up as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the malevolent sugar-sponge stared down at the climax of "Ghostbusters" — and of course Murray noticed.
"That is one good-looking baby," said the 63-year-old, who later called on the infant for a question. "Yes, the young man in white with stripes and big muscles?"
Since "Ghostbusters" had just screened (ahead of its Sept. 16 anniversary re-release), many of the early questions focused on that landmark comedy.
Murray went out of his way to lavish praise on co-stars Rick Moranis (a Toronto native) and Annie Potts, while also segueing into a story about how co-star and co-writer Dan Aykroyd leveraged the studio to produce Murray's drama "The Razor's Edge" in exchange for the bankable "Ghostbusters."
"That's a young man from Ottawa who did that," Murray admired.
The "Saturday Night Live" alumnus came aboard the horror-comedy hybrid to inhabit a role originally intended for John Belushi. When Belushi died, Murray explained, "you gotta look around to find someone and I was in the neighbourhood and I knew (Aykroyd)."
After Murray agreed to star in the film, he said, "they had a caterer 45 minutes later. People were excited."
The likes of Reitman, Murray, Aykroyd, Belushi and longtime collaborator Harold Ramis — who died earlier this year — had bopped about the same orbit for years, since collaborating on the "National Lampoon Radio Hour" 40 years ago.
When some combination of those players worked together — as they did on 1979's "Meatballs," 1980's "Caddyshack," 1981's "Stripes," 1984's "Ghostbusters" and several other projects — they would rework scripts constantly on the fly, sometimes to the chagrin of more traditionally minded crew members.
"We were just leaping over the script every day," Murray reminisced about "Ghostbusters."
And the first time he saw raw footage from the unfinished film, now a cultural giant?
"I knew that I was going to be rich and famous," Murray said wryly. "And be able to wear red clothes and not give a damn."
Murray indeed seemed determined to undercut most moments that verged on self-congratulatory, even when the praise was being generously applied to co-stars.
When Reitman termed "Ghostbusters" co-star Sigourney Weaver a "beautiful, elegant, intelligent woman," Murray deadpanned: "Difficult, is what you meant to say." And when Reitman announced that he felt the conversation should shift to the recently departed Ramis, Murray cracked: "Harold's not here."
Murray did eventually detail Ramis's massive contributions to his career, but he only reluctantly provided a burst of promotion for "St. Vincent," his starry new comedy that casts the Oscar nominee as a crusty curmudgeon who strikes up an unlikely relationship with his 12-year-old neighbour.
Or, as Reitman put it to Murray, "it seems that you have a relationship with a young man." Murray, without missing a beat, responded: "Doesn't sound right when he says it."
"I suppose since it's a film festival I should continue to plug other films that I'm in," sighed Murray of the buzzed-about movie, which also stars Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy and Chris O'Dowd.
"This one's called 'St. Vincent.' It's directed by Ted Melfi — who's nobody. It's his first film. He wrote it and directed it and he's done a wonderful job with it."
Murray seemed happier to indulge free-form storytelling, again and again warning the audience that they might get bored and claiming that he had "all night" to talk (even though his film's red-carpet premiere was rapidly approaching).
He regaled the crowd with a funny story about being nominated for a Genie Award for "Meatballs" against "Fish Hawk" star Will Sampson (an "incredibly cool guy") and "The Changeling" headliner George C. Scott, who ultimately won the award.
"That was the first time I walked out in anger when I didn't win," Murray claimed.
Some of his most amusing exchanges occurred when he spontaneously sparred with the audience. One questioner attested that he didn't need a microphone, claiming: "I have a diaphragm, I can project." When he started speaking, Murray formed a sly smile and interrupted: "Louder, please."
One fan said she had travelled all the way from Vancouver, so Murray interjected and asked: "Is anyone driving back to Vancouver after?" At another point, Murray was awarded a painting from an artist fan who attested to the transformational impact of his 2003 drama "Lost in Translation."
"It's getting embarrassing, folks," Murray sputtered, staring at the piece. "Holy cow. That's pretty good.
"No one goes home empty-handed from a Q-and-A anymore."
He discussed his favourite films (Francois Truffaut's "Small Change" and Roberto Benigni's "Johnny Stecchino") and detailed how he actually spent Bill Murray Day: watching Kristen Wiig's "Welcome to Me," which he complimented as one of the "strangest movies I've seen"; and eating at Reitman's new restaurant, Montecito, which is adorned with pictures of the star.
"I built the damn restaurant," Murray joked. "And we paid! We (should have been) stealing silverware."
Entertaining though it was, the talk at a few points veered toward more serious subject matter: Murray's personal philosophy.
The question came from Glazer, who wondered about Murray's proclivity for somewhat bizarre public stunts — including but not limited to surprise appearances at strangers' bachelor parties, karaoke singalongs and university keggers. Just this past weekend he was reportedly ripping tickets for the St. Paul Saints, a Minnesota minor-league baseball franchise.
And Glazer added to the pile, telling a recent anecdote about Murray riding a cab in Oakland, Calif. When the actor learned that his cab driver played the saxophone but rarely found time to practise, Murray apparently took the wheel while his cabbie trilled the horn.
"I think the only reason I've had the career life that I've had is that someone told me some secrets early on about living," Murray explained. "You can do the very best you can when you're very, very relaxed, no matter what it is or what your job is, the more relaxed you are the better you are.
"That's sort of why I got into acting. I realized the more fun I had, the better I did it. And I thought, that's a job I could be proud of.
"It's changed my life learning that," he added. "And it's made me better at what I do."
Oh, and the cab driver?
"Not only did he play all the way to Sausalito — which is a long way — we stopped and got barbecue."
The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sept. 14.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014