Bill Murray in St. Vincent

Bill Murray is the Richard Feynman of acting: His talent for his craft is matched only by his talent for generating zany anecdotes about himself. St. Vincent director Ted Melfi—who successfully recruited Murray for the upcoming film’s title role—is the latest wide-eyed doe to be processed through Murray’s endlessly amusing anecdote-generation machine. Melfi shared the details of his experience in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Like many director-meets-Murray stories, this one begins with a call to Murray’s nigh-mythical 800 number, the only means by which he allows the outside world to contact him. After repeated calls to the number—which is just a voice mail box—and a long wait, Melfi was granted admission into the elaborate alternate-reality game that is working with Bill Murray. As his first challenge, Melfi had to pass a gauntlet of requests (passed along by Murray’s lawyer) to mail the St. Vincent script and other paperwork to seemingly random post-office boxes around the country. After succeeding at this, Melfi finally got a phone call from Murray. It came out of nowhere, because Bill Murray always comes out of nowhere:

“Listen,” Mr. Murray said. “I read your script, and I think it’s great—and who are you? I don’t Google people, so tell me about yourself.” It was going the way dreams go until Mr. Murray suggested they meet right away—in Cannes. Mr. Melfi was working on a project in Los Angeles. Mr. Murray said maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

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In other words, “I’d love to be in your film, but you don’t happen to be in France at this instant, so maybe not.” The conversation sent Melfi into an extended despair, but as with all truly blessed artists, the whims of Murray would soon turn in his favor. Melfi was finally able to get an in-person meeting with the actor, an encounter that began at LAX and proceeded into the cartoonishly laid-back world of Bill Murray, Hollywood Mover And Shaker:

They boarded a chauffeured Town Car, then picked up four grilled-cheese sandwiches at In-N-Out Burger. “And we drove for three hours through the Pechanga Indian reservation—go to San Diego and take a left.” Mr. Murray’s house was down a private road at the back of a golf course. “I had to use the bathroom and he goes, ‘Don’t forget to jiggle the handle.’”

After Melfi conquered the temperamental commode—the de-facto boss fight of this quest—Murray agreed to star in the film. The full WSJ article details a bunch of other Murray quirks, but it is not a complete catalog of the actor’s loopy antics—nothing ever could be, as he produces such antics faster than the entertainment press can document them.

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