In 2010, I wrote a story about Bill Murray that examined his unique status with the current crop of moviemakers and his unusual method of managing his career — no publicist, no agent, just a 1-800 number. In the course of reporting the story, I interviewed several filmmakers and costars who had memorable tales to tell, from his star-making days at Saturday Night Live to hit films like Zombieland and low-budget indies like Get Low. By far, my favorite anecdote was one from Harold Ramis, who collaborated with Murray on six successful films, the last of which was 1993’s Groundhog Day. During that production, Murray’s first marriage was dissolving and the star was, by many accounts, occasionally cranky. “I learned to step back,” said Ramis. “You don’t step in front of a train. You just let it go by.”
Below, in Ramis’ own words, is how Murray responded to filmmakers’ requests to better the lines of communication during the making of Groundhog Day:
“Bill had all these obvious resentments toward the production, so it was very hard for a time to communicate with him. Calls would go unreturned. Production assistants couldn’t find him. So someone said, ‘Bill, you know, things would be easier if you had a personal assistant. Then we wouldn’t have to bother you with all this stuff.’ And he said, ‘Okay.’ So he hired a personal assistant who was profoundly deaf, did not have oral speech, spoke only American sign language, which Bill did not speak, nor did anyone else in the production. But Bill said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to learn sign language.’ And I think it was so inconvenient that in a couple weeks, he gave that up. That’s anti-communication, you know? Let’s not talk.”
Has Groundhog Day become the Bill Murray film for you, the movie that best captures both his irascible wackiness and his deft comic charm? (You can watch it for free at Crackle.com.) Isn’t it time Murray and Ramis reunited for a comedy, deaf-mute assistant or not?