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Bill Murray ('Lost in Translation') Bill Murray ('Lost in Translation')
'Lost & Found'

Wisecracking comedian, respected producer and director, Emmy-winning writer, brilliant character actor, and leading man who can easily carry a movie, Bill Murray is a Hollywood fixture who appears to have it all. But what about the dark side?!

Ah, yes. We find reports that the young Murray was kicked out of both Boy Scouts and Little League in his native Illinois; that he left pre-med studies at Colorado’s Regis College after a drug possession charge; that there was a period of odd jobs amongst concrete blocks and pizza dough, and much, much more!

He is, though, talented and otherwise charmed and charming. Murray found his calling in comedy performance, joining his older brother in Chicago’s Second City theatre. The National Lampoon Radio Show in New York, and an off-Broadway spinoff, brought the then 27-year-old comedy veteran to the ultimate improv troupe – to television’s Saturday Night Live – for three years (1977-80). Murray was awarded an Emmy, for writing, in his first season with the show.

An obscure film debut – voice, in the cartoon parody 'Jungle Burger' (1979) – was followed by a series of madcap, “slob comedy” hits that includes 'Meatballs' (1979), 'Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video' (1979), 'Caddyshack' (1980), and 'Stripes' (1982). Murray’s acting took a more polished turn in 'Tootsie' (1982) and he was both the lead and a co-screenwriter of dramatic 'The Razor’s Edge' in 1984.

With 'Ghostbusters' (1984), the actor achieved blockbuster film fame, action-figure immortality, and the NATO Star of the Year award. Murray then followed that honor with such films as 'Little Shop of Horrors' (1986), the highly-acclaimed 'Scrooged' (1988), 'She’s Having A Baby' (1988), the questionable 'Ghostbusters 2' (1989), and amongst other the huge hit 'Groundog Day' in 1993.

Since then Murray has gone on to star in 'Ed Wood' (1994), the unfortunate 'Larger Than Life' (1996), 'Space Jam' (1996), 'Kingpin' (1996), 'The Man Who Knew Too Little' (1997), 'Wild Things' (1998), and amongst others 1998’s brilliant 'Rushmore'; which netted the thespian Best Supporting Actor wins from three Film Critics’ societies - a Golden Globe nomination, Independent Spirit and American Comedy awards and a Golden Satellite.

The word sardonic could have been coined for Bill Murray. In Sofia Coppola's 'Lost In Translation', however, the star gives what is arguably his most vulnerable and emotionally naked performance to date, as a washed up actor adrift in Tokyo. Come Oscar time, Murray could be in the running for a nomination, but before all that I sat down with him to chat about 'turning Japanese.'

Had you been to Tokyo before? "I had been to Japan once before but not to Tokyo. It has something like 20 million people and I have never seen anything quite like it. It's an enormous amount of space but it explodes upwards and they have many areas of town where they have huge, skyscraper villages. These buildings just assault the sky. They are aggressive."

Is there anything of Sofia in your character? "Probably the separation and the loneliness. She's the one that spent time in that hotel. The lobby, where you check in, is on the 50th floor! You get out of the elevator, you haven't even gotten a room yet, and you're 500 feet in the air. You feel like you're in the clouds. The city looks enormous and you can't even read the menu, you know? You feel very isolated."

Some male viewers have been surprised by the nature of your relationship with Scarlett Johansson's character in the film. Did you believe in it the first time you read the screenplay? "Yes, because I've been in this situation a lot of times. You're always in this moment where you have to decide, 'Well, what am I going to do right now?' This choice is the hard choice. But this choice feels great when you make it. And it feels great in the movie, too."

Watching your performance I felt this was the most naked we've seen you on film. Do you agree? "Maybe, yeah. I believe all the feelings in this. If these were all true or false questions, then all the answers in this story are true."

Sofia is very quiet. Is she like that as a director, too? "Well she doesn't get real loud and big. She's not a screamer. Occasionally she can look mildly disappointed, and tired. On our movie the jetlag was so extreme. Unfortunately for us, when we were about to get over the jet lag, we switched from shooting days to shooting nights, so that was a screw up. She looked tired sometimes and you had to smack her around a little bit just to wake her up. She's a good sport. A real trooper."

Interviewed by Stephen Applebaum

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