When you're having a stressful day and frustrated by the more extreme and hostile elements of social media, it's important to remember Bill Murray exists.
Bill Murray exists.
Say his name out loud right now. Murray. Let that soothing, low, om-like "Mrrr" bleed into the "Ree." He is all the good things about social media—the unlikely but compelling stories, the strange obsessions, the sometimes clever but always clicky headlines—without the negative, and without personally interacting with social media. He is the wise, aging sprite we all want to hang out with now, and we all want to be someday. And he is a man of his word most of all, so if you ask him for an autograph and he says he'll throw you into a swimming pool in exchange, you damn well better believe he is going to do just that. "That's the kind of guy I am."
Throw that story onto the ever-expanding pile of classic Bill Murray stories. Murray sat down with Vanity Fair for a long cover piece about his career, his return to comedy, his upcoming Christmas special, the oddness of fame, the beauty of George Clooney, and more. Murray has a famously high tolerance for allowing the public a glimpse of the real Murray (see: his Reddit AMAs, which were filled with revealing tidbits about himself), but this piece is unusually intimate, probably because it was written by Murray's best friend, producer Mitch Glazer.
Among other things, Murray explained the impetus for his return to comedy, which apparently was inspired by a conversation with film critic Elvis Mitchell nearly a decade ago:
Mitchell was concerned that Murray had done a string of somber roles and that it was affecting his life, actually hurting his life.
Murray turns down the SteelDrivers on the radio. “Well, it was very generous of him to say, ‘Look, your life is very melancholy right now and you’re doing melancholy movies. So what do you think’s gonna happen? It’s just gonna get worse.’ Which is what was happening. For years I’d been thinking, ‘Gosh, I’d really like to be funny again.’ You know? ‘I’d really like to go and be funny again.’ Because it’s like writing. If you can write, you need to write. And if you can be funny, you need to be funny.”
Here he is on fame and separating his inner voice from his persona:
“You know, being famous is obviously not a Devil’s deal. I love the opportunity to work. It’s the thing I do best. I’m a much better person when I’m working. I’m at my absolute best, because it’s the ultimate terror. It’s the ultimate terror that I will not arrive, the ultimate terror that I am not. You know? That I am not. But I don’t feel that needy for the celebrity part of it. You have your inside voice, and you have your outside voice, like little kids. Well, my outside voice is the ‘Bill Murray’ that people know. And my inside voice is—is me. And sometimes that voice is heard. I can speak it aloud, when I’m really at my best. You can hear my inside voice.”
Glazer asks him at one point how he remains "intact" amidst the fawning Bill Murray industry that has reached new heights in the age of the Internet:
“Well, hell, I’ve been doing this awhile, and I am intact. If you’re still intact, if you’re still viable, it means you’ve been growing somehow. That all of the impressions of life have landed and stuck somewhere. You’ve been able to digest them and transform them into something, you know, that you can work with and live with and carry with you. The stars have shone on me.” But, I ask, can’t your inner self, your true self, be shaken, diminished, compromised, or even stolen from you?
Murray shakes his head. “It can’t be diminished, because it’s supreme. It really is supreme. It can’t be diminished. The only thing is if you don’t listen to it enough, you don’t hear it enough. That voice can’t be diminished. It can only be under-utilized—and mine is under-utilized. Everyone’s is under-utilized. I mean, God, I’m just so shallow, most of my day. You know? Most of my week, most of my month and year and life. But there is this desire, this wish to do better. Not in a competitive sense, but to just arrive, to show up. It’s when you kind of quiet down, slow things down—everything sort of turns back inside and sort of re-settles. Then, maybe, you can hear something.”
There's plenty more where that came from—including lots of behind-the-scenes glimpses at the forthcoming Netflix Christmas special directed by Sofia Coppola—so read the whole piece. Also make sure to check out the video below of Murray goofing around with two models for the photo shoot. As photographer Bruce Weber put it, "When Bill left to go home, everyone on the crew wanted to take a selfie with him. Bill wanted to leave with the red-headed fencer, his blonde dancing partner, and all of my dogs."