Murray, Bill 2

Hot comic does a ‘Quick Change' into comfy director role


From the July 11, 1990, Deseret News

"Mr. Hicks. Paging Chris Hicks."

It's not a particularly loud voice, or perhaps it's just hard to hear over all the ambient sound in the lobby of the University Park Hotel. But it penetrates my consciousness and I look up on the fourth floor balcony behind me.

There's Bill Murray, unmistakable in a casual shirt-and-jeans outfit, with his trademark disheveled hair and that wise-guy tone of voice . . . a tone that may have become just a tad world-weary in recent years.

Most movie stars hide themselves in their rooms when meeting journalists in hotels, but here's Murray, cupping his hands around his mouth, feigning a loudspeaker as he beckons from the balcony.

He could be daring people in the lobby to recognize him, but he doesn't seem overly aware of his status as one of the biggest box-office comedy draws in movies today - arguably behind only Eddie Murphy.

Murray seems like a regular guy. If it's an act, he's got it down perfectly. But you tend to think it's real.

He was in town last month as one of the owners of the Salt Lake Trappers, but he consented to a series of interviews to promote his latest film, "Quick Change," which opens Friday in theaters nationally.


                            Bill Murray is a bank robber dressed as a clown in 'Quick Change'

The first portion of the film has Murray in clown makeup and costume as he robs a Manhattan bank. Then it becomes something of a chase picture as Murray and his cohorts - Geena Davis and Randy Quaid - elude New York police and head for the airport to catch a plane.

But it's not a chase film in the conventional sense. Rather, it's a character comedy, loaded with goofy people this unlikely trio encounters on the way, especially in the final third. And that's what Murray intended, an old-fashioned screwball approach with loads of supporting characters who have specific comic traits.

To achieve this goal, Murray not only stars in "Quick Change" but co-produced and co-directed.

"Preston Sturges is one of the guys I really like," Murray said, referring to the great writer-director of such classics as "Sullivan's Travels," "The Lady Eve" and "The Palm Beach Story."

"He had a core group of great actors. They were fantastic guys.

"What Howard (Franklin, the screenwriter and co-director) and I did was spend a lot of time trying to find actors for our movie who were different and really strong. And that's one reason New York was so good for us, because there are really great actors in New York and the actors are definitely different."

One example is Bob Elliott, of the Bob & Ray comedy team, as a bank guard. "He's really funny and a really great guy. Howard's a huge Bob & Ray fan and I'd worked with him on a special. I wasn't sure he'd be able to come in and do it, but he came in - he only has like 30 words in the whole movie, and every one of them is funny. He would say five words and Howard would just fall apart."

Murray said that although the film is faithful to Franklin's screenplay, occasionally actors would thrown in a line of dialogue or make a suggestion. "When you have these good improvisational actors, they help you. They'll just throw a line in that gets you out of a scene or into a scene. That's the difference between having the really great actors and having the sort of soap opera, where's-my-mark, where's-my-trailer kind of actor.

"Right at the point where Randy Quaid starts screaming, `We need a cab, one lousy cab.' Usually in a movie you go, `Well there's about 20 minutes left, and there'll be a couple of explosions or a bomb or . . . . And at that point, in comes this whole parade, this whole cast of characters - the cab driver, the bus driver, the Korean guy at the market, even the stewardess is funny. All these guys come in and so you have all these surprises coming in. If we've got the audience at that point, if they're laughing and enjoying it, then we've got 'em."

As for directing a film for the first time, Murray said he had no problem working with Franklin as a co-director. "We were like John and Yoko, one mind.

"We couldn't get the (director) we wanted to do it (Jonathan Demme, "Married to the Mob," "Melvin and Howard").

"He couldn't do it and I said to Howard, `Why don't you and I do this?' He'd been intending to direct anyway, and I'd sort of been planning on it too. So I said, `Why don't we do this? Between the two of us we know as much as one director.'

Murray said the collaboration was most satisfactory, and he has been bitten by the directing bug. "Well, I have been seriously infected. It's like malaria, and once you've got it you've got it for life. But it's also got a lot of bad things to it, it takes a lot out of you. It's really exhausing. I don't recommend it for the faint of heart.

"I'll do it again in a couple of years, but it's not something I want to do every time. It takes two years. If you're an actor in a movie you can work anywhere from two weeks to 12 or 13 weeks. If you're a director you work for two years."


As for his co-stars, Murray said the only one he was sure about from the script's inception was Randy Quaid. In his own wise-guy joking manner, Murray said, "I'd bug him about it and he'd whine. He kept saying, `I don't want to do that part, it's too weird and it's too dumb.' He wanted a lot of money, he was terrible. In the time since, he's done like seven movies. And he's playing this goofy guy every time. I'm saying, `Thanks Randy, beat me up.' But now he's happy he did it."

Murray said he is nervous about the heavy competition in theaters right now, especially since his film is a gentle comedy, quite different from the current box-office blockbusters. "I'm truly terrified, actually. There is a lot of competition and that's why we're coming out last. They're all so slam-bang.

"Then we open on Friday the 13th, so there's that good-luck aspect.

"But the more I look at it, the more I think people are just going to be exhausted from going to these other movies. (In `Quick Change') nobody gets killed, decapitated, electrocuted, fried, boiled - you know.

"I think, I hope, it's going to be successful."