Seems like everyone has some kind of Bill Murray story these days. The guy is everywhere. Why don’t people like The Man Who Knew Too Little by the way? Not his best film but the “The guy is everywhere” line reminded me of that film. I dig it. Some hilarious moments. Haha. Anyway, my Bill Murray stories are pretty stinking unique, and there’s a lot of them. Most importantly, they all culminate to a pretty awesome singular experience that has brought some real meaning to my life. Stick around for the ride.
Approaching my late twenties I became very interested in writing, particularly in screenplay writing. I did have previous writing experience, however it was limited to terribly boring research papers and song lyrics. I wrote my first song shortly after picking up the guitar around the age of ten. The lyrics were deep, motivational, intense, and were entirely based upon my passion at the time: Pez dispensers.
By the time I decided to start becoming an almoster with movie writing I had written at least a hundred songs, which would be saying something if anyone other than Flarfigus Johnson had heard them (that’s my lamp with bad manners from my childhood if you missed that post). I still have like 900 CD’s left from the 1300 copies I had made of my 2010 debut album. Make me a sandwich and I’ll send you one.
My first attempt at writing a full length screenplay was somewhat ambitious. The way I got the idea for the story requires explanation. But, to my surprise, for a first shot at crafting a big story, many of the ideas flowed with ease and I had a blast writing. It was exciting. The plot completely revolves around Bill Murray. I have always been a huge fan, but that statement seems so status quo since, really who isn’t a Bill Murray fan? Guaranteed if you have even a marginal sense of humor or a taste for artsy films, then you like something Bill Murray has dominated.
I started piecing my screenplay idea together around the same time as my epic BSN.org fail. I was talking with some friends about an idea to try and generate some interest in Breaking Social Norms / BSN.org. We started thinking about famous people and who the weirdest and most likely to break social norms would be. Bill quickly rose to the top of the list. Out of nowhere I was falling into a Bill Murray abyss and there was no turning back. In Hollywood the man is the king of walking to his own beat and doing whatever the chank he wants.
Bill Murray Stories
He hasn’t had an agent for years, which that one thing alone makes him fairly unique in his profession. There are entire websites, documentaries, and tattoos dedicated to crazy Bill Murray stories. Bill crashing parties, putting his hands over people’s eyes and saying crazy crap, driving a golf cart across Europe, hiring a deaf mute as his assistant when the production studio for Groundhog Day wanted more communication with him, and telling Lucy Lu that she can’t act – are just a few of the classic stories. Everyone wants Bill in their movies, and very few achieve that goal. Aside from being extremely selective in the projects he pursues, he is just flat out hard to reach. Even his family has it rough tracking him down at times.
The story of the hell that Sofia Coppola went through to secure Bill for Lost in Translation is a testament to how rough it can be for filmmakers to approach the guy. If you have not heard that story, there are a few videos/interviews bouncing around the internet worth watching. At one point she called Al Pacino and asked him if he knew how to reach Bill. If Sofia had a hard time, then what chance does anyone have? If the world of filmmakers were a kingdom, Sofia is royalty: a princess with a rich genealogy of royal film blood.
Woop, my eyes are twinkling again – here comes another amazingly “bright” idea. Knee deep in Bill Murray trivia I start formulating an out of the box idea for a movie. The story of two aspiring movie makers that come into some money and become obsessed with having Bill Murray in a movie they would write. As my story developed it quickly became a celebration of Bill’s career and life. Many clips and references from his films would be used, or subtly mentioned/shown for the careful viewer. It took me about 9 months to finish a 92 page script, which is just about right for a comedy. It has a few twists and turns, and for my first effort I was proud of what I created.
Get it Tested, Get it to Bill
Now I needed validation that it didn’t completely blow. So I had as many people read it as I could, and even before finishing I already started on an insane journey of trying to get the script into Bills hands. The story became super meta, and a weird self fulfilling prophecy as the entire premise is writers trying to get Bill into their movie. “Hey Bill do you want to be in a movie about people trying to get you into a movie?”
I am so bloody stupid. I can’t even begin to tell you how much time I have spent trying to hunt Bill down and share the idea with him. I had a pressing feeling like this project was finally it. The creative Gods had seen my previous creative fails, and now deemed me worthy of a project bestowal that would give me a shot at doing something I would love. I was so optimistic about the idea, thinking it was a unique story – not something I had ever really seen before. It was not only different, but could be a marketable and successful movie if it was ever made.
Looking back on the countless strategies I attempted to share the idea with Bill – I am pretty sure I could now be one of the best bounty hunters in the world if I wanted to pursue that career. Seriously, anyone is easier to track down than Bill Murray. Seriously. Triple dog love nut paste, seriously. To illustrate this point I will copy some text from my script, (drum roll please since I haven’t told you the name of the movie yet – guaranteed to blow your mind) Getting Bill Murray.
I don’t want to give up the entire plot as I still have this tiny glimmer of hope that I will get to make this movie someday. The part I want to share takes place as the two main characters are talking about the idea of Bill being in their movie. Jonas, is the believer – he has faith that he can and will work with Bill if he only writes a great story. Clark is more the realist. He has done extensive research and knows how likely it would be to even get a script in Bill’s hands, let alone have him agree to participate. To set the stage, almost think Mission Impossible, but the mission is Bill Freaking Murray. Grab some corn, adjust yourself, and picture this scene on the big screen.
Getting Bill Murray – A Snippet of the Screenplay
Clark hands Jonas a paper, and sits down.
I scowered the internet for information on Bill Murray: A god of Comedy, unpredictable, reclusive and ubiquitous, a disregard for expectation that has characterized his career, one of the funniest humans alive, Bill Murray has become the urban equivalent of Bigfoot — a mythical figure who generates sightings anywhere people are too drunk to totally trust their memory, a man beholden to no one – not the studios, not the audience, not even an agent – Getting in touch with Bill Murray remains one of life’s greatest mysteries, the plus/minus on that return call can be anywhere from 24 hours to six months, that’s just how it is – said Exec Producer David Letterman. Unexpected, elusive, he’s a murricane, one of the best actors alive, he can do it all.
Clark looks up from the paper.
It goes on and on. Not even really well connected and famous people can track him down, and that’s exactly how he wants it. So, basically you’ve decided to go after the Mount Everest of actors.
I’m a huge Bill Murray fan – but I didn’t just “choose” him off a list of famous people. It was a dre…
I know, your dream. I just want to be realistic. Even if we could some how track BM down..
And by some miracle get him to read our script that we haven’t written yet, I don’t think the 740 grand we have left would even be enough salary for him. I mean the man doesn’t even work with agents Jonas. He has a 1800 number that is virtually impossible to get, which he checks at his own leisure. He only works when he really feels like it. I mean where would we even start? I just don’t know.
Dude, (beat) remember that one time when you were a bloody freaking idiot? I do – It was like ten seconds ago.
Clark stares at Jonas unamused.
We can get more money if we can write a good story. Everything is dependent on our talent as writers. I am telling you, I am determined that this is what I am supposed to do with my life. I sound like a fruitcake, but I don’t care. I know that it will all work out. So shut up and help me move this –
Jonas starts picking up a big whiteboard and pushing it up against the wall. Clark helps and notices that it is filled with all kinds of Bill Murray information. All the movies he has been in, who directed them, and notes on each.
I see you did some research too ah?
Yeah I didn’t sleep. I’m gonna make this happen. You with me?
Course man, you know I’m in.
Clark begins to pull up a video.
The question is, do we have the talent you’re talking about to pull it off. There is ambition, and then there is ambition with talent. He said it himself –
Clark shows Jonas the David Letterman interview with Bill Murray, highlighting various clips:
The guy who wrote the script knows exactly what he wants to do, and that’s very rare. I mean there are people with ambition and there are people with ambition and talent. He’s one of those.
Well there you go. Congratulations on that relationship that’s nice.
Is that good marketing?
You know what, I don’t know. To me good marketing is a good movie.
Yeah that’s right.
Standing ovation for that one.
So there you go, you now have a small taste of GBM (Getting Bill Murray), an acronym I have used a lot over the past couple years. I have had the pleasure of meeting some extremely rude and wonderfully nice people because of this crazy idea. One of the nicest people I have met (who I was able to track down because, again I am pretty much a bounty hunter now) is Dean Zanuck. He is really a member of the royal family of film as well, and unless someone can prove me otherwise – he is a prince of a human being.
Dean’s grandpa, Darryl Francis Zanuck was an American film producer and studio executive; he earlier contributed stories for films starting in the silent era. He played a major part in the Hollywood studio system as one of its longest survivors. Darryl’s son Richard followed in his footsteps, becoming one of the most influential producers – ever. If you’re interested in film stories I highly recommend reading over the dynamic between Darryl and Richard. Crazy crap of getting kicked in and out of major Hollywood studios, in and out of families, repairing the emotional and financial damages, and winning oscars. So yeah – this is Dean’s heritage.
I reached out to him initially trying to learn how he was able to secure Bill for the role in Get Low. What a phenomenal film. (I commit your face now to go and watch it if you haven’t seen it.) This is the same old Wes you now know far too much about – an unconnected chank in the film industry and an almoster of almost everything. Dean not only was accommodating to talk over about his experience of making Get Low and working with Bill, but eventually he read my script too. I was deeply honored to have someone I respect so much be kind enough to give me the time of day. Dean wails. This was his response to reading Getting Bill Murray:
I had a look at Getting Bill Murray….pretty wild idea. Some real fun and clever moments in there. Ultimately, though it’s not a film that I would personally get involved with. My tastes are very particular and I tend to gravitate more towards more dramatic/thematic content. On a separate note, I’m trying to get Bill to engage on another property of mine and God only knows if I’ll ever hear back from him! Keep believing!
All my best,
I’ll take it. Maybe he was just being nice, but he didn’t say it sucked! Even if I never get to make this movie with Bill – Dean read it, and I really appreciate it.
Getting Bill Murray in Real Life
I spent about 6 months straight trying to get people to read GBM and trying to follow up with Bill and see if he would ever consider the project. Without Bill, it will just be yet another thing I get to add to my fail list. Here is the big kicker though – I have met Bill and talked with him about GBM. It is a hilarious and epically sad letdown story. Ready…Go.
I was about ten pages away from the half point of writing Getting Bill Murray. Just like the idiots in the story, I had already started trying to track Bill down to talk to him about the project. I was a Bill Murray expert and I knew it was going to be a very long road to see if this movie was a reality so why not start early? Bill was about to tell me why.
By this point, I had already tried to track Bill down in a hundred different ways. Part of me hated doing all this work of trying to reach Bill. I felt as if I was bordering on being some creepy stalker or something, but I wasn’t a stalker. I don’t want Bill’s autograph. I don’t need to be his friend. I don’t need to have him over to my house for a special dinner, (there is a guy on youtube who has an entire show dedicated to trying to get Bill over for dinner) I don’t want anything aside from one chance.
The opportunity to tell him about a crazy idea I have to celebrate his career in an out of the box way. I really respect his career, and I think this idea could be a fun addition. Plus I had read in an interview that a friend of his had recommended he start working on some comedies again because maybe all the sad stories were affecting his already complicated life. Maybe GBM could be just that.
In the middle of all this something crazy happened. Bill came to me, kind of. He came to Utah.
Check out PART 2 HERE!
VIDEO version of this episode HERE
PODCAST version of this episode HERE