It’s been 13 years since Sofia Coppola first tracked down Bill Murray and begged him to star in Lost in Translation, which ended up being a huge hit for the both of them. This time Coppola directed the elusive actor for A Very Murray Christmas, his holiday variety special now streaming on Netflix. EW caught up with Coppola to find out what it was like to direct her old friend again, why they decided to do a Christmas special, and whether or not we’ll ever find out what Murray whispered to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost in Translation.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s been over a decade since you and Murray have worked together — what was it like getting together again?
SOFIA COPPOLA: It was great. It’s always very fun to see him, but it had been a while. It’s funny, because I never wanted to do a movie with him again. I thought it was too much pressure. But I felt like this was it’s own thing — not really a TV show, not really a movie. But I love working with him. It was kind of a crazy group of people we assembled because of him. It’s always inspiring to see what he comes up with.
How did you guys decide to do a Christmas special?
I love hearing Bill sing. I remember him as a kid, singing on SNL, so any excuse to watch him sing. But I was talking to Mitch [Glazer, writer and EP] about seeing Bill at Café Carlyle, and they were talking about wanting to do something and somehow it turned into a holiday special. We talked about those old specials that they don’t really do anymore, the tradition of them. I was just excited Bill was up for it!
How did you land all of the fun celeb cameos, like Chris Rock and George Clooney?
It was because of him. We were putting it all together, and I was talking about Chris Rock — Bill knows I love him — and so he just called him up and said “Hey, I’m doing this show!” and Chris said, “I’ll be there.” They all love Bill, so they were all up for it.
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Any last-minute adds?
Miley came very last-minute. She was a great sport, very gung-ho. And George Clooney is a buddy of Bill’s and was in town doing a movie, so he came by. Everyone was in the holiday spirit. We shot over four or five says at The Carlyle, and it was actually snowing while we were filming. It was kind of thrown together, and had a hectic fun energy to it.
So the big snowstorm was real?
It was! We shot in February or whenever that big snowstorm was. It was just a coincidence though — the idea came before that.
Important question: Are you ever going to open up about what Bill said to Scarlett at the end of Lost in Translation?
[Laughs] I was always surprised that became such a thing. It was just meant to be impressionistic, never a mystery. There were some different versions [I’d written] but we thought it was stronger to have it just be between them. It was sort of impromptu on the day we were shooting.
Would you guys ever do a follow up or sequel to that movie?
Bill talked about doing a musical at one point. I don’t think there was ever talk of a sequel though.
So do you have him on speed-dial now? Are you best friends?
I don’t want to brag, but … I went through such lengths to track him down for Lost in Translation, so it’s very fun to have him as a friend now. But he’s still elusive. He keeps his mysteries. But I know he’s there when I need him.