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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Incoming! Bill Murray unloads on some of his least favorite comics... and 'Garfield'

July 21, 2010 |  4:35 pm

Bill_murray You may remember that a couple of months ago everyone was in a tizzy over a couple of young Hollywood actors who had the nerve, yes, the nerve to complain about the overbearing filmmakers they'd worked with--Megan Fox actually compared Michael Bay to Hitler--and the crummy movies they'd starred in. Shia LaBeouf got the worst of it for having the temerity to gently chide Steven Spielberg and his screenwriters for making the less-than-thrilling "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Actually, all LaBeuof said was "when you drop the ball, you drop the ball," which seems far less harsh than what millions of fans were saying when they left the theater.

I have no problem with stars voicing their regrets, since at least for me it's really not so bad to let your fans know that you know the difference between a swan and a turkey, even if it was Lord Spielberg who was directing the turkey. I suspect that what bugged people was that Fox and LaBeouf haven't paid enough dues to be so forthright, since no one has ever taken Michael Caine or Peter O'Toole to the woodshed for acknowledging all the stinkers they've taken a paycheck for over the years.

If anyone knows how to really talk trash, it's clearly Bill Murray, who has a grand old time talking to GQ's Dan Fierman about how on earth he ended up doing the voice of the comic strip cat in the oh-so-awful "Garfield: The Movie." As a way of clearing his throat, Murray took a few swipes at his comic peers, mischievously explaining how he'd resisted being wooed by Judd Apatow ("The only Apatow movie I ever saw was 'Celtic Pride.' ... It's just brutal! Totally brutal"), why's he's still unimpressed by Larry David ("I never saw 'Seinfeld' until the final episode and that's the only one I saw. And it was terrible. I'm watching, thinking, 'This isn't funny at all. It's terrible.' ") and even dissing his old "Ghostbusters' costar Harold Ramis ("I never went to see 'Year One,' but people who did, including other Ghostbusters, said it was one of the worst things they had ever seen in their lives").


After getting that off his chest, Murray fessed up about "Garfield," which, to help you understand Murray's sly humor better, was co-written by Joel Cohen, who also wrote "Cheaper by the Dozen." Here's a slightly condensed version of his account:

GQ: Okay. Well, how about Garfield? Can you explain that to me? Did you just do it for the dough?

Murray: No! I didn't make that for the dough! Well, not completely. I thought it would be kind of fun, because doing a voice is challenging, and I'd never done that. Plus, I looked at the script, and it said, "So-and-so and Joel Coen." And I thought: Christ, well, I love those Coens! They're funny. So I sorta read a few pages of it and thought, Yeah, I'd like to do that. I had these agents at the time, and I said, "What do they give you to do one of these things?" And they said, "Oh, they give you $50,000." So I said, "Okay, well, I don't even leave the [expletive] driveway for that kind of money."

GQ: And it's not like you're helping out an indie director by playing Garfield.

Murray: Exactly. He's in 3,000 newspapers every day; he's not hurtin'. Then this studio guy calls me up out of nowhere, and I had a nice conversation with him. And my agents called on Monday and said, "Well, they came back with another offer, and it was nowhere near $50,000." And I said, "That's more befitting of the work I expect to do!" So they went off and shot the movie, and I forgot all about it. Finally, I went out to L.A. to record my lines. And usually when you're looping a movie, if it takes two days, that's a lot. I don't know if I should even tell this story, because it's kind of mean. [beat] What the hell? It's interesting. So I worked all day and kept going, "That's the line? Well, I can't say that." And you sit there and go, What can I say that will make this funny? And make it make sense? And I worked. I was exhausted, soaked with sweat, and the lines got worse and worse. And I said, "Okay, you better show me the whole rest of the movie, so we can see what we're dealing with." So I sat down and watched the whole thing, and I kept saying, "Who did this? What the [heck] was Coen thinking?" And then they explained it to me: It wasn't written by that Joel Coen.

GQ: And the pieces fall into place.

Murray: At least they had [Jennifer Love Hewitt] in good-looking clothes. Best thing about the movie. But that's all ugly. That's inappropriate. That's just… [laughs] That's why, when they say, "Any regrets?" at the end of Zombieland, I say, "Well, maybe Garfield."


Photo: Bill Murray in a scene from the upcoming film "Get Low." Credit: Sam Emerson / Sony Pictures Classics