What is it that makes Bill Murray
so undeniably awesome? Could it be his years on "Saturday Night Live
," where he honed the lovable-jerk persona that would go on to define a generation of snarky cut-ups? Or is it his near-flawless filmography, a body of work that encompasses everything from classic comedies ("Ghostbusters
") to melancholy indie gems ("Lost in Translation
Or could it be that, like the many memorable characters he's played onscreen, Bill Murray does everything for the sole purpose of entertaining himself? If the rest of us happen to chuckle, so be it, but Bill couldn't really give a good goddamn.
In honor of the Great One turning 60 on the 21st, we're counting down the top 10 reasons why we love Bill Murray.
10. He Decked Chevy Chase Backstage at "Saturday Night Live"
According to the book "Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live
," Murray and Chase came to blows backstage during the second season of SNL. Chase, who had bailed on the show for Hollywood after one season
, came back to host and acted the big shot around his old castmates. Being the new guy, Murray felt protective of his fellow Not Ready for Prime Time Players and got into it with Chase backstage while Billy Joel
performed. ("Animal House
" director John Landis
recalls Murray dubbing Chase a "medium talent" during the fight.) For his part, Murray claims that John Belushi
egged him on, proving once again that cocaine is a hell of a drug.
9. He Doesn't Have an Agent ...
... a manager, a publicist or any of many other handlers and hangers-on that comprise a celebrity entourage. As Murray recently told GQ
, if you want to contact him, whether you're Steven Spielberg
or an up-and-coming director with zero blockbusters to your name, you have to call his private 800 number and leave a message. If he feels like talking, he'll call you back. If not, you're SOL. Leave it to Bill Murray to be as difficult to reach as your cable company.
8. He Jumped Out of a Plane for War Vets
in 2008, Murray joined the Golden Knights
parachute team for a 13,000-foot dive
to kick off the Chicago Air & Water Show
. But the jump wasn't some mid-life crisis -- he was doing it for veterans as part of a USO benefit. (And possibly to make amends for "Garfield
7. He Owns a Minor League Baseball Team
In addition to being an avid golfer -- he starred in the Comedy Central
show "The Sweet Spot
" with his brothers -- Murray is a huge baseball nut. But his love for the game doesn't stop at rooting for the Cubs. The actor is part owner of, and "team psychologist
" for, the St. Paul Saints minor league team. Bill Murray as the shrink for a ragtag bunch of minor league ballplayers sounds like the plot to a classic, lost '80s comedy.
6. He Was Almost Batman
Over the years, Murray's anti-Hollywood stance has led him to miss out on some high-profile roles. In addition to almost donning the cape and cowl for Tim Burton's "Batman
," Murray passed on roles in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
" (a move he later regretted
), "Monsters Inc.
," and "Little Miss Sunshine
," just to name a few. While we're glad he never got overexposed, the thought of Bill Murray as Batman is too fantastic for words.
5. He (Reportedly) Freaks out Pedestrians
A popular rumor
has it that Murray likes to sneak up behind people on the street, put his hands over their eyes, and say, "Guess who?" When the person turns around and sees that it's Bill Murray, he leans in and whispers, "No one is ever going to believe you." So that's what he said to Scarlett Johansson
at the end of "Lost in Translation
4. He's Been Known to Randomly Show Up at Parties
A couple years back, the New York Post
reported that a recently divorced Murray had been spotted chatting up young ladies at Manhattan bar The Half King
and crashing loft parties in the hipster enclave of Williamsburg, Brooklyn
, with members of the band MGMT
. It's just like "Lost in Translation," only with more douchebags in banana costumes.
3. He Directed an Underrated Early-'90s Comedy
Even hardcore Murray fans might have missed "Quick Change
," the excellent 1990 comedy that the actor co-directed with Howard Franklin. Randy Quaid
, Tony Shalhoub
and Stanley Tucci
all give hilarious performances opposite Murray, who plays a bank robber trying to get out of New York City after orchestrating a brilliant heist. It's the movie that proves that Bill Murray plus sad clown costume
equals comedy gold.
2. He Once Played Hunter S. Thompson
Before Johnny Depp
played the gonzo Rolling Stone journalist Hunter S. Thompson
in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
," Murray put his stamp on the role in the little-seen 1980 drama "Where the Buffalo Roam
." Though the film bombed, critics praised Murray's performance and willingness to take risks. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Murray is earning raves for his dramatic turns in "The Life Aquatic
" and "Broken Flowers
." Once again, Bill was way ahead of the rest of us.
1. He'll Always Be Peter Venkman (and Carl Spackler and Phil Connors and Herman Blume ...)
Even if he never busts ghosts again (or turns up in a mainstream comedy role more substantial than his "Zombieland
" cameo), we'll always have Bill Murray's many classic characters. Many have tried to ape Murray's signature snark (Ryan Reynolds
, anyone?), but no one has come close to topping the master. Because whether he's hunting gophers or driving a golf cart around Stockholm
, Bill Murray does everything his way. We're just lucky to have been invited along for the ride.
Happy birthday, Bill!