Why Is Bill Murray So Good at Playing Dead?


Over the weekend Bill Murray finally confirmed his involvement in the third installment of Ghostbusters — the film that helped to solidify his post-Caddyshack career back in 1984. He’ll be playing the ghost of Dr. Peter Venkman, per his request. Funny enough, this isn’t the first time that Murray has played dead (or some version of it) on screen. So when did the comedic actor become so morbid?

Groundhog Day (1993) As an immortal and inexplicably caustic weatherman, Murray foreshadows future success playing the bitter, lovable grouch. According to director Harold Ramis (also of Ghostbusters fame), Phil Connors spends 10 years trapped in Punxsutawney, struggling to permanently off himself.

Hamlet (2000) As Ophelia’s pontificating dad, Polonius, in Michael Almereyda’s modern-day adaptation of Hamlet, Murray transfers his “haunting” to Julia Stiles. You remember this one, where Ethan Hawke delivers the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy whilst wandering the aisles of a Blockbuster?

The Darjeeling Limited (2007) As a grey-suited businessman trying to catch his train and missing it, Murray serves as the opening gag in Wes Anderson’s most recent live-action flick. Many viewers also saw him as a spiritual stand-in for the brothers’ “late” father.

Zombieland (2009) As the surprise zombie cameo, Murray leaves his fingerprints everywhere: the amazing wig, the reenactment of Ghostbusters (a la Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone), the glorious hookah. His death itself is even funnier than picturing him walking around, dressed in fake blood, moan-speaking to other dead celebrities.

The Limits of Control (2009) As “the American” Murray has more profanities living in his mouth than he does teeth in Jim Jarmusch’s latest. His turn as the anti-Bohemian capitalist (or anti-Jarmusch) is hilariously spot-on as he eventually eats his own words, served cold by an equally stone-faced Isaach de Bankole.

Murray has been killed, he’s played dead, and now he’ll be a ghost. What’s next? With all of the 3D hubbub, maybe a Charlie Kaufman-style Being Bill Murray experience?