Fun-loving, elusive Bill Murray the grumpy center of 'St. Vincent'

Mon Sep 8, 2014 4:53pm EDT
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Everyone involved in the making of "St. Vincent" wants to talk about Bill Murray, who plays the grumpy and flawed namesake of director Ted Melfi's first film, but the quirky comedian has lived up to a reputation of being incredibly hard to pin down.

The star of "Stripes," and "Groundhog Day," has been omnipresent at this year's Toronto International Film Festival: he took fan questions after a 30th anniversary screening of "Ghostbusters" on Friday, hammed it up at the premiere of his new film later, and was spotted cycling around the city and on a late-night dance floor in random photos by onlookers.

The festival also declared last Friday "Bill Murray Day," and a cadre of loyal fans dressed up as some of his beloved characters in a costume contest.

But Murray also famously does his own thing, so it came as little surprise when he left partway through a grueling schedule of on-camera interviews on Saturday, deciding the fun was to be had elsewhere.

"If you get a glimpse, the party follows him," Naomi Watts, Murray's "St. Vincent" co-star, told Reuters, after returning from a two-hour lunch on Saturday at the home of two of Murray's friends. "He is such a joy to work with and every day on set felt like a party."

Murray has no agent or manager, and uses a 1-800 phone number and messaging service to field calls from producers and directors eager for his involvement in their projects.

Melfi, who also wrote the script for "St. Vincent," said he called the number dozens of times. Luckily for him, Murray finally called back.

"I try not to write with someone in mind because if you don't get them, it's just depressing," he said. "But Bill's the perfect blend of bitter and sweet - and heaven and hell, really. And once I started thinking of him, I couldn't stop thinking of him."   Continued...

Actor Bill Murray talks following a screening of "Ghostbusters" at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, September 5, 2014.  REUTERS/Mark Blinch