Bill Murray

For the best TV interview with Bill Murray I’ve ever seen, be sure to check out tonight’s edition of Elvis Mitchell: Under the Influence, on TCM. As befits a chat on a classic-movie channel, Murray lets loose with loads of shrewd comments about a surprising range of films, from Hoosiers (“I cry and laugh at the same time”) to an impassioned championing of a fairly obscure 1936 screwball comedy, The Moon’s Our Home. Murray says a high point is the pillow fight between its stars, Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullivan, adding, “I love pillow fights with girls. It’s one of my favorite things.”

Murray also tells a very funny story about calling up Clint Eastwood after seeing 1974’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, which costarred Jeff Bridges, and asking Eastwood if he could play his second banana in any of Eastwood’s upcoming projects, because the buddy role seemed like such fun.

This is the second terrific interview in a row for Under the Influence, which premiered last week with a fine conversation between host Mitchell and the late Sydney Pollack. Which is odd, in a way, because Mitchell doesn’t seem to do much to elicit the excellent responses he gets. He sits back in a dapper suit, all smiles and murmurs, lobbing the occasional softball. But these guys hit ’em right out of the park. Which makes me think Mitchell has a gift for putting guests at ease (no small feat, especially for a guy as guarded as Murray usually is). Mitchell’s strategy of keeping the talk focused on movies his guests admire loosens their tongues — they immediately sense that the host isn’t going to ambush them with some gossipy grilling.

Interestingly, whereas Pollack downplayed any friction between himself and star Dustin Hoffman on the set of Tootsie, Murray tells a riotous stories about just how much tension there was on the set — “These guys couldn’t agree on what time the sun came up” — and how he diffused it. As I said, great stuff.