Bill Murray is a world-famous Hollywood actor who, in the forty or so years of his career, has brought a lot of enjoyment to his millions of fans. Although perhaps best known for his comic roles in films such as Caddyshack and Ghostbusters, he has tried his hand, very successfully, at more dramatic roles; for most people, ‘Lost in Translation’ and ‘Broken Flowers’ will immediately come to mind. With a few exceptions, he has proved himself as an actor destined for the long-term, and that shows no sign of changing any time yet.
Early years and career
Bill Murray was born in 1950 to Catholic parents and he had eight siblings in all. Although very intelligent, he didn’t always use it to his best advantage, preferring to be the class clown. Along with his brothers, he became a caddy to pay for his school tuition – the family was not a wealthy one – and took advantage of school musicals to play out his desire to be the centre of attention. At one time, he had the idea of becoming a doctor, but that didn’t work out, because he was thrown out of school for possession of marijuana.
Fortunately for Bill, his older brother was already working with a comedy group in Chicago and Bill became involved too. He was successful and eventually moved to New York, again, with his brother, and appeared on the National Lampoon Radio Hour. He was headhunted for his talent and was introduced to performing on television, where he eventually became involved with Saturday Night Live, the springboard for so many successful comedy actors throughout the years.
Bill, the comedy man
His success on Saturday Night Live was to be his golden ticket into the world of film. His first real success was ‘Meatballs’ in 1978 and, although he had a couple of flops afterwards, he soon followed up with ‘Caddyshack’ in 1980. He became known for playing rather rude and sarcastic characters with a deadpan face, which the viewers loved.
It was, however, his role as Dr Peter Venkman in ‘Ghostbusters’ that was to become the film for which most people remember him. The mixture of comedy, good special effects (for the time) and the camaraderie between the main characters ensured that the film was a box office hit of enormous proportions. Bill Murray’s hard work was beginning to pay off. More success was to follow with ‘Scrooged’ in 1989, ‘Groundhog Day’ in 1993. He continued to work steadily throughout the 1990s, but none of the films he was involved in met quite the same level of success as before.
Time for a more serious face
Fairly early on in his career, according to biography.co.uk, Murray attempted to turn his hand to more serious work. He co-wrote and starred in a film called ‘Razor’s Edge’ in 1984, but it bombed and left him bitterly disappointed. Disheartened, he took some time out and returned with more comic roles. However, his urge to be a serious actor didn’t disappear and, with age, he achieved it. In Sofia Coppola’s ‘Lost in Translation,’ he played an actor past his prime, working in Japanese commercials, who meets the young American wife of a photographer. Their relationship is subtle, but touching, despite the age difference and keeps viewers on the edge of their seats wondering what is going to happen next.
‘Broken Flowers,’ a Jim Jarmusch film, he plays a single man who receives a letter claiming that his son, of whom he is unaware, is looking for him. Not knowing who sent the letter, he travels across the country looking for old flames who could potentially be the mother. Murray is virtually deadpan and deadly serious throughout, which fans of his comic work could find bemusing, and the sentiment is more thought-provoking than obvious, but the film is highly acclaimed and has been added to Murray’s list of defining films.
Murray has been married twice. The first time was to Mickey Kelley, between 1981 and 1994, with whom he had two children, sons Homer and Luke. However, Mickey divorced him when she discovered that he was having an affair with Jennifer Butler, his next wife, with whom he had another four sons, Caleb, Jackson, Cooper and Lincoln. Unfortunately, that marriage wasn’t to last either; according to imdb.com, Jennifer filed for divorce in 2008 “on the grounds of drug addiction, physical abuse, adultery and abandonment.”
Bill Murray’s acting career doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. In 2012 at the time of writing, ‘Moonrise Kingdom,’ a film in which he has an important role, has already been released, and he has two other films, ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’ and ‘A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III,’ both of which are due to appear later in the year.