That’s The Fact, Jack

by Tom Swift

In September, Bill Murray will turn 70. I suggested to a movie theater owner with whom I have a relationship that he should hold a Bill Murray Film Festival in honor of this occasion. This was some months ago — back when movie theaters were, you know, open. The idea didn’t go anywhere but I still think the event could have been big. And, who knows, maybe even Bill would have shown up, as he is known to frequent the area where the theater is located. (I also don’t run businesses — and there are very good reasons for this.) Given the man’s range in 45-plus years of films, there could be something for everyone — comedy (Caddyshack is my personal favorite), drama (Lost in Translation would have to be in the mix), sci-fi (Ghostbusters), and even kids (I can’t vouch for Garfield). Perhaps in this time of indoor-only activity, one could put on his or her own personal Murray Film Fest. That thought occurred this morning, after I encountered a Rolling Stone profile of Murray by Gavin Edwards (October 28, 2014). There are many Murray movies I have not seen or seen in years and the profile makes you want to spend more time in Murray’s company than you likely are.

“Being Bill Murray” is the simple, right title for the piece for it shows what Murray is — a quintessentially authentic human being. The kind of guy who trades places with a cabbie who is supposed to drive him long-distance so the cabbie can play his saxophone (his real passion) for Murray and later the people the two of them encounter at a overnight roadside barbecue. The kind of guy who doesn’t have an agent or publicist. The kind of guy who shows up late. Just because.

“Someone told me some secrets early on about living,” Edwards quotes Murray telling a crowd of Canadian film fans. “You can do the very best you can when you’re very, very relaxed.” Is Bill Murray who he is because he is more relaxed than most? Or is he more relaxed than most because he is Bill Murray?

I am not much of a celebrity gawker. There is just so much you don’t know about public people. (Including the cost — and there is always a cost.) Especially actors. They are, of course, good at acting. No doubt, the total lack of financial concern makes a difference in a person’s manner of being in the world. The difference between Bill Murray and most of the rest of us is great.

Yet it’s people on the extremes that show us new ways to be. Murray admits in the piece that he is the kind of guy who might interrupt your engagement photos if he happens by the moment you are taking them — he is a master at what Edwards calls “surreal celebrity encounters” — not because of the laugh he’ll give you as he scratches his belly with his shirt pulled over his head but because of the way in which such moments wake him up. He said he will go two days or more sometimes going through the motions, not feeling alive. Telling a kid he’ll give him money if he will ride his bicycle unimpeded into a swimming pool brings Murray back to what he refers to as his “home.” You can’t have fun if you’re not relaxed.

“The private me just gets lost and wanders, and is more easily bushwhacked and taken down for dreaming nonsensical stuff,” he says in the piece. “The public me can get a bit more emotional because people are pushing my buttons. But when I’m at my best? The working part of me. I get a lot more done. By really getting into your work, the nonessential stuff drops away.”

The work is the thing. Yeah.

The best work is done when you are relaxed.

Do something wacky.

Ergo, there you go.