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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bill Murray says he tried mightily to save Garfield

Illustration for article titled Bill Murray says he tried mightily to save Garfield

In an appearance to promote the upcoming film The Monuments Men, Bill Murray showed up at Reddit yesterday for an Ask Me Anything session, and the reclusive star spoke at length on topics ranging from his film career to the genius of Gregor Mendel. Although Murray was sometimes cagey—he playfully claimed ignorance when a Reddit user asks about the urban legend that he once stole a french fry off someone’s plate and said “No one will believe you”—these moments were the exception, as he was clearly enthusiastic about the exchange.


Murray revealed new details about the two Garfield movies in which he provided the voice of the orange, lasagna-loving marketing construct. Those films have always been a puzzling part of Murray’s late-career filmography, given that he’s notoriously choosy about the roles he’ll play. Murray once again explained this oddity by repeating his previous claim that he only did the film because he mistook the “Joel Cohen” listed on the script’s cover page for the Joel Coen of Coen Brothers fame. (This still doesn’t explain Garfield 2, but it’s a cute story, anyway.) Then he recounted the torturous Garfield dialogue-looping sessions that launched his personal quest to save the film:

So this was an odd movie because the live footage had been shot, but the cat was still this gray blob onscreen. So I start working with this script and I’m supposed to start re-recording and thinking “I can do a funnier line than that” so I would start changing the dialogue that was written for the cat. Which kind of works, it sort of generally works, but then you realize the cat’s over here in a corner sitting on a counter, and I’m trying to think how I can make it make sense. So the other characters are already speaking these lines, and so I’m going “did he really say THAT?” and you’re kind of in this endgame of “how do I chess piece myself out of this one?”

So I worked like that with this gray blob and these lines that were already written, trying to unpaint myself out of a corner. I think I worked 6 or 7 hours for one reel? No, 8 hours. And that was for 10 minutes. And we managed to change and affect a great deal.

The next day I came into work and the producer gave me a set of golf clubs, and I thought “that was kind of extreme, especially since I can’t go play.” And the second reel was even HARDER because the complications of the first ten minutes were triangulated. It was really hard to write my way out of that one. And there were all these people on the other side of the recording studio, and at the end of the reel I was SOAKED In perspiration. I had drunk as much coffee as any columbian ever drank, and I said “you better just show me the rest of the movie.” And they showed me the rest of the movie, and there was just this long, 2 minute silence.

And I probably cursed a little, and I said “I can fix this, but I can’t fix this today. Or this week. Who wrote this stuff?”

And it appeared that one of the people behind the screen was the misspelled Joel Cohen. And I said “how could you have THAT scene take place before this scene? This can’t possibly happen? Who edited this thing?”

And another person behind the glass was the editor of the film.

His recollections of making Fantastic Mr. Fox are rather less miserable:

It was great fun, because it just dragged on and on and on. And it was this fun bunch of people. First we went to our friend’s farm, and we all stayed at her place for a handful of days while we recorded during the day and then at night we would have these magnificent meals and we would all tell stories. We had a LOT of great food, a lot of great wine and great stories. It went on until people started literally falling from their chairs and being taken away. And then we had to go to another place and do it again, we went to George [Clooney]’s place, but then something happen and the whole party broke up, and George said “you don’t have to go, do ya” and I didn’t, so we just kicked around Northern Italy for a while. It was a real fiesta. And then Wes was working in England, so I had to fly to England for like 3 days to re-record, but the re-recording only took about 70 minutes, so that was fun. And then I had to go to Paris, once again, another disaster having to go to Paris to re-record for 20 minutes. It was a terrible, terrible experience.

In the full thread, Murray expounds on a bunch of other subject, including his favorite Saturday Night Live cast—“the previous cast [before the current cast], that was the best group since the original group”—and his experience with the deaf and mute personal assistant he hired while working on Groundhog Day—“it was harder than either of us expected to make it work.”