The Best Quotes From Bill Murray’s Hour-Long Charlie Rose Interview


Bill Murray, the king of curtness and demigod of deadpan, sat for an hour-long interview on Charlie Rose on Tuesday night. Just as Murray broke out of his social shell, Rose seemed to have literally broken out of the subterranean interrogation chamber in which his show usually takes place. Typically, the celebrity is intimidated by the dark claustrophobia of Rose’s dungeon into telling all, but here, in a room that appeared to be bathed in daylight, the liberated Charlie Rose and lighthearted Murray were comfortable enough with each other to seem like old friends, no holds barred on dad jokes. In the interview, we learned about Murray’s newfangled thirst for a comedic role, the joys of acting in a Clooney movie (even if reviews indicate there aren’t many in watching one), and the intricacies of whispering in Scarlett Johansson’s ear. Here are a few highlights.

In which Bill Murray reveals this wicked way of seducing directors with pasta and salad: “George told me the story of the [Monuments Men] a year before, while eatin’ pasta and salad, and I thought, ‘Oh, God, this sounds so good.’ But then, I thought, ‘I wish George would have asked me to be in that movie, it sounds so good,’ and then, nine months later, he said, ‘Are you busy?’ And I said, ‘I’m busy, but I’m not that busy!”

In which Murray, rebel that he is, sexily uses “balderdash” in its nonexistent verb form while describing the atmosphere on Clooney’s sets: “George comes to work in a great mood every day. It’s the lightest set I’ve ever been on, really. I usually feel like I’m the one that keeps things light, I’m always trying to calm people down and loosen them up, but George was just hilarious all the time. You put all these people in one place — we have all these tall tales and stories and lies to tell — you’d shoot a scene and then you’d stop and you’d just balderdash for 25 minutes and just laugh, and really you’d laugh until you hurt. It was really fun, it was like the old West.”

In which Murray embarrasses Matt Damon: “[Clooney]’s famous for playing a lot of pranks, and he had one good one on Matt Damon, was going to renew his vows with his wife and he was working out all the time so he’d look like he did when he first got married or something, and George told the seamstresses on the film to take in his pants a quarter of an inch every two weeks. So he’d go away and he’d come back and he’d put the pants on, and all of us knew, but we were all dead-faced and deadpan, looking at him, and you’d see the look on his face [Murray twists his face into a puzzled expression].”

In which Bill Murray observes Berlin social patterns: “The nightlife is the night-and-day life! They really go hard. The Germans we were working with were like, [does exaggerated German accent] ‘Yes, we’re going to dance night’ and it lasts 41 hours. They go out and it lasts for a day-and-a-half.”

Responding to Rose’s concern about Clooney acting in, directing, and co-writing The Monuments Men: “That could be a hazard, you could think that that would be a problem, and with another actor, you’re right, that might be. But what George does in this movie is selfless. He’s doing the brunt work, he’s telling the facts. Those aren’t huge emotional moments that he’s got; it’s selfless service stuff. We have all the merry-go-round stuff, we have all the great stuff, and he’s doing the service work.”

Charlie Rose becomes Bill Murray’s worried mother, observing, “Your life isn’t a carefully thought out, well-planned life.” Murray’s reply: “What a nice way of saying that. I’ve never heard anyone be so compassionate towards me. I live a little bit on the seat of my pants, I try to be alert and available. I try to be available for life to happen to me. We’re in this life, and if you’re not available, the sort of ordinary time goes past and you didn’t live it. But if you’re available, life gets huge. You’re really living it.”

In which Bill Murray becomes a self-help guru: “Yes to life!”

On naturalism: “It’s fun to watch someone like John Goodman, and yet it takes work. People say ‘he’s not acting, he’s being himself.’ Well it’s hard to be yourself, it’s the hardest job there is.”

On the reason’s he’s not currently removing your kidney stones: “I wanted to be a doctor once upon a time, but it turns out you’ve got to study, and that wasn’t going to happen. I had no idea what I was going to do. I had trouble holding jobs because they want you to be on time. That wasn’t going to work. Working in the theater, you didn’t have to get to work until 9 o’clock at night.”

On the key to being funny: “It seems like at Second City we didn’t call ourselves comedians, we were ‘actors.’ Being funny, you’ve got to be able to play straight, which sounds like a paradox, but it’s not. So, if you can play straight to play funny, playing straight isn’t a big thing at all. I started making comedies because I came out of SNL and those were the things I’d get asked to do. Now I get all kinds of straight parts, and people say, ‘Oh, you’ve made a change in your life,’ and I go ‘no, this is what I get asked to do.’ Lately, people ask me to do straight things, or straight things that have a little bit of humor to them.”

In which Murray, reprising his role as self-help-guru, subtly proselytizes the teachings of The Secret: “Sometimes I feel like I want to do something really funny. I feel like I’m going to do something funny, soon. And usually when I think that way, it comes. Like, I had a wish that I could do a movie that was sort of romantic. And then Sofia Coppola asked me to do this Lost in Translation, which was about love, and even though I wasn’t in love with Scarlett Johansson, she was in love and struggling and I was in love and struggling.”

Describing what he would have said if he’d gotten the Oscar for Best Actor for Lost in Translation: “I was going to say, when I heard I was nominated with — and I’d name the other [nominees] — I thought I had a pretty good chance. And I just thought no one had ever given that speech.”

Discussing his discomfort with Wes Anderson’s hyper-hipster dress code: “Wes’s movies keep getting better, but wait until you see this next one, this Grand Budapest Hotel, this is like a Time Square billboard dropped on your head. It’s amazing. He’s just great fun. We’ve become great friends and I really love him. He has his own fashion sense, that’s for sure, and he tries to dress everyone in the movies like himself, which is really cruel… Your pants cuffs never reach your shoes.”

Sharing an anecdote about a surprisingly sweet drunk-dial: “You gotta wish big. I’d like to see what I could do. I got a drunken phone call from a friend of my sister, and she called me in the middle of the night, and I was like, ‘oh boy,’ — you ever get someone calling you when they’re not their best? And she was really lovely and really charming, and she said, ‘you have no idea how much you can do, Bill. You can do so much.’ And I’d never had anyone talk like that. And it’s funny — it was a drunken phone call in the middle of the night, and I listened to her for 40 minutes or so, while I was falling asleep, but it was like it came from the other side. It was a voice that was intoxicated, like those visionaries speaking to you in the night and coming into your dreams, and I hope to remember that — that encouragement.”

In which Murray reveals the last, unspoken line of Lost in Translation: “I told the truth once and they didn’t believe me, so I just said ‘to hell with it, I’m not telling anyone.’ I whispered in her ear, but the moment happened, and I was wired — they had microphones — and Sofia and Ava Cabrera the script supervisor had this moment where they just looked at her and said, ‘He doesn’t have to say anything. You don’t have to hear anything.’ And I had the same feeling from 60 yards away. I went, ‘It doesn’t matter what the hell I say in her ear. This will be a wonderful mystery.'”