Bill Murray on Fantastic Mr Fox

June 15, 2010, 9:46 amwhomagazine

The Lost in Translation Oscar nominee gets animated

Bill Murray on Fantastic Mr. Fox

Lost in Translation star Bill Murray teamed up for the fifth time with filmmaker Wes Anderson to voice Badger in the stop-motion animated version of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Fantastic Mr Fox.

Where did you record your voice work for Badger on Fantastic Mr Fox?

We did recordings first on a farm in Connecticut in all these different barns, belfries and basements, and inside a pipe and all kinds of different things. It was kind of like a radio play. We were all together and we had great meals and great nights as a group. It was really fun. At night, after work, all of us were dragging out all the hoary show business stories. It was like ‘Oh yeah, I can top that one…’ It was great, and typical of the Kid [Murray’s nickname for filmmaker Wes Anderson]. On the way home we stopped at this speciality bacon store that someone told us about – I got like nine different kinds of bacon! Then last summer, Wes said ‘Oh you know I need some lines done, you have to come over to Paris and record.’ Well, that’s too damn bad. I’ve got to go over to Paris and spend a little time over there.

Anderson and Roald Dahl are an intriguing combination.

Yeah, I think they would both be pleased with each other. Wes has appreciated what Dahl wrote and celebrated it. I think Dahl would be delighted, just flabbergasted, that the Kid took his story and did what he did with this fantastic crew. I think he would say, "These guys really get it."

Had you read the book?

Oh a long, long time ago, like at the dawn of time. I’ve not had to read a lot of kids' books over the last decade or so and I’m a little blurry.

Did you have a look at your guy, Badger?

I did. Badger's office is based on an office in the film The Apartment by Billy Wilder. Can you believe that? In The Apartment the guy played by Jack Lemmon works in this kind of grungy place downstairs but his boss’ office upstairs is this magnificent thing – and that’s the Badger’s office (laughs). So all the furniture is from photographs from the movie and many things in the film have that aspect to them - you know, clever references to other things.

You’ve worked with Wes Anderson five times. How would you describe how he works?

He is a guy who uses the things that shock him and touch him in life. Even if it’s a phrase or a sentence that just lands in his ear, it just sticks. He writes it down and then uses it in a movie. I was reading a script once and I said ‘Hey, I actually said this.’ And he was like ‘Yeah, you said that.’ and he can tell you exactly when, where you were and why you said it. He just remembers great lines, great photographs, great movie moments, great dolly shots, great stuff, and he manages to use them to tell his own story.

You’re supposed to be notoriously difficult to get to do movies. Is that true?

I guess so (laughs). It’s always better to say ‘no’ than to say ‘yes.’ But not with the Kid. I remember for Rushmore there were a lot of people trying to get me to see his first film, Bottle Rocket. They all said, ‘You have to see this movie; you have to meet this guy.’ And I got sent so many tapes – I must have the largest collection of Bottle Rocket tapes in existence (laughs). Then they sent me the script and I just said ‘I’ll do it.’ And they were like ‘But don’t you want to meet him?’ And I said ‘No, I don’t need to meet him. I just met him – it’s all right here in the script.’ I just knew that whoever wrote that script knew exactly what he wanted to do.

And you’ve become friends?

Oh yes. I don’t necessarily become friends with everyone I work with. But Wes and I became great friends and that’s rare. You have people you like and people you have great times with but often you never see them again - it’s a very gypsy life like that. But the Kid and I get along really well. I’m always happy to work with him. I love the way that the Kid works. Love it.

The work you’ve done over the last few years has been critically acclaimed. Was there a deliberate attempt to change direction with your career?

I never had a plan for my career; I just did the projects I liked. The fact that I did more dramatic stuff was inevitable, I guess. Now I feel like I’d love to do a funny movie again.

Groundhog Day is now regarded as a classic.
Yeah, (it) was really good – that kid (Danny Rubin, screenwriter), that idea, that script. It was one of the greatest scripts ever. And it didn’t even get nominated for an Academy Award. A movie called Dave won that year, which was a reheat of a movie about a Spanish dictator who died and had an actor replace him. They did the same thing but staged the story in English in America. How can that be the best original screenplay?

Do you still play golf?

Yeah, I’m pretty good. I was a caddy when I was a kid but I can play better now than I could then. My handicap is like seven or eight.

You grew up near Chicago in a big family. Was there a lot of comedy at home?

There was a lot of competition for our dad’s attention. He would be at work all day and you only saw him for a couple of hours every night. At the dinner table you had to throw something out there, so that sort of sharpened your game. You were in this competitive world competing for attention. Because you can be the forgotten middle child of three; you can be the forgotten child of five, and believe me you can certainly be the forgotten middle child of nine (laughs). With that it’s like three or four that were forgotten, completely forgotten! But I’ve got really funny brothers who are in the business. My brother Brian was one of the writers on Caddyshack. My brother Joel is on Mad Men, he’s a really funny guy.

Fantastic Mr Fox is available on Blu-ray and DVD from June 16

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