Bill Murray as FDR? Yup, and the critics like it

Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:32pm EDT
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Funnyman Bill Murray long ago mastered the ability to wring laughs by saying absurd things in a matter-of-fact tone, but even he was caught off guard when first approached to play Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the new film "Hyde Park on Hudson."

"I thought 'Oh God, I'm being asked to play Roosevelt?' ... How do you take this monster on?," he said.

His decision to portray the 32nd U.S. president is looking like another shrewd move in a career that, at the age of 61, still may be on the upswing.

Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival this week, "Hyde Park," which will open in U.S. movie theaters on December 7 in the heat of the Oscar race, has earned Murray early awards buzz for his performance.

However, Murray, who admits to being disappointed at not winning the award in 2004 when he was nominated for "Lost in Translation," said he wasn't drawn to the role by the obvious Oscar-bait overtones of playing the polio-stricken president.

"There's an expression in Yiddish, schmuck bait," he deadpanned.

"To me, an Oscar-type role, when I see those kinds of roles, I consider them schmuck bait. They're often sentimental, schmaltz. This one wasn't sentimental at all, because it's a sort of behind-the-curtain look."

Named for the town in upstate New York where the Roosevelts kept their family home, the film takes place over the summer of 1939, as FDR prepares to host Britain's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth for a visit that could set the stage for U.S.-British cooperation once war breaks out in Europe.   Continued...

Actor Bill Murray carries a marshmallow doll he received from a fan as he arrives to the gala presentation for the film 'Hyde Park on Hudson' during the 37th Toronto International Film Festival, September 10, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill