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Actor Bill Murray

Actor Bill Murray Discusses "Rushmore."

Actor Bill Murray. He stars in the new film "Rushmore" which opens nationally this weekend. Murray began his career in Chicago with the improv troupe Second City. He joined Saturday Night Live in its second season. After leaving SNL, he starred in such films as "Meatballs," "Stripes," "Ghostbusters," "Caddy Shack," "What About Bob?" "Groundhog Day." He received an Emmy Award for his writing in SNL and was named 1985 Star of the Year by the National Association of Theater Owners.




Related Topics

Other segments from the episode on February 3, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 3, 1999: Interview with Bill Murray; Review of Renee Fleming's albums "I Want Magic" and "Rusalka."


Date: FEBRUARY 03, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 020301np.217
Head: Bill Murray
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

In his days as a cast member of "Saturday Night Live," Bill Murray perfectly captured self-absorbed, disingenuous show-biz types. Who can go to a lounge without thinking of Murray's impressions of cheesy lounge singers?

His subsequent film acting career evolved from broad comedies like "Ghostbusters" and "Caddyshack," to more complex roles in such films as "Groundhog Day" and "Mad Dog and Glory." Now Murray is getting rave reviews for his performance in the new comedy "Rushmore."

The film is set at a private school called Rushmore. Murray plays Mr. Blume, an alumni who is a self-made steel tycoon and school benefactor. Here's an early scene in which he's addressing the student body.


BILL MURRAY, ACTOR: You guys have it real easy. I never had it like this where I grew up. But I send my kids here, because the fact is you go to one of the best schools in the country -- Rushmore.

Now for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and you're going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: take dead aim on the rich guys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down.

Just remember, they can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget that. Thank you.


GROSS: The one person applauding that speech is the film's central character, Max Fischer. Max loves his school and he's also fallen in love with one of the teachers, and he needs Mr. Blume's financial help to impress her. Things get complicated when Mr. Blume, whose marriage has fallen apart, also falls in love with that teacher.

This strikes me as a role that's kind of different from your other film roles. In part because I think there's a lot of sadness at the root of this character.

BILL MURRAY, ACTOR: Well, his -- his role in the film is to be someone who would like to go back and -- somehow I forgot what he was thinking about when he was 17. He's made a lot of money. He's got a family that he's not happy with. He's not happy with his life.

He's got a Bentley and a nice suit, but he's -- he's not interested in himself. He finds his own life pretty disappointing. And here's a kid who is interested in everything, you know. What he does at his school is he starts new clubs at all times.

You know, he founded the fencing club, the miniature UN, the beekeepers, the calligraphy club. He's a cheerleader. He does everything. He just throws himself into activities hoping to find one that works for him. I think I probably -- I think people have forgotten your question by now, I know I did. But you said he had a lot of sadness.

So there's a lot of sadness in this film in that he's -- when -- sometimes it makes you sadder to see someone that's really happy, really engaged in life when you have detached.

GROSS: Do you think you play this role differently than other roles that you've had?

MURRAY: Well, I think I try to work a little deeper than I usually do because there's more stuff in this, you know. Sometimes the roles you get are -- they're really about performance. They're really about getting from point A to point B in the least amount of time with the most entertainment value.

And the depth isn't going to be much of a factor. In this movie, I try to bring a little bit more of my own personal, you know, vocabulary into it. Not vocabulary, but my own emotional history into it so that it felt the way I felt when I had these same emotions.

GROSS: I don't imagine that you feel a lot of the same kind of regret that this character would. I mean, you found the work that is meaningful for you?

MURRAY: I have found a work that is meaningful for me, but I have regrets about, you know, the idealism that I had when I was 17 and what I have now. And how hungry, you know, it's kind of hard to stay hungry through your life especially when you have success in your job.

It's tough to wake up in the morning with a zeal, you know, sometimes a lot gets done for you and there's not as much of your own knocking down doors, much of your own grinding. All of a sudden there are people willing to open doors for you and push things out of the way for you to make it easy for you.

And somehow that's -- it's a different ride than the one you started out on. I haven't forgotten it. I still know what it feels like, but it just does prepare you a different way when you walk into work every day.

GROSS: Now, your character smokes in the movie.

MURRAY: Mmm-hmm.

GROSS: I'm wondering if you smoke in real-life or if you ever smoked, and if you did used to smoke if you're worried about restarting the habit by smoking again? That's something I'd worry about as a former smoker if I had to smoke for a role.

MURRAY: Well, I never really smoked. Although I tried a couple behind the bowling alley as a kid, you know -- the backroom of a bowling alley as a kid. But I never really smoked until I had a job in the movies where I had to smoke.

I played Hunter Thompson in a movie called "Where the Buffalo Roam," and I had to smoke in this part. And he smoked a lot. And when you smoke in the movies and you do a take, you light -- you smoke a cigarette and you've got to cut and start over again. And they give you a fresh cigarette that was the length of the one you were smoking when the scene started.

So it's kind of a crazy thing. You end up smoking parts of 120 cigarettes in a day, you know. Eight puffs or five puffs about 120 times. And, you know, it's an addiction. So when it was over, all of a sudden I was smoking. And I was like, wow, this is really rough. I don't quite like this.

So I weaned myself of it. And then a few years later I had another job where I smoked in a movie, and once again I got hooked on cigarettes. In those I was -- it was a period movie so I was smoking these Maise Galluiose (ph), you know.

GROSS: So what did you smoke in "Rushmore?"

MURRAY: In "Rushmore" I smoked Old Golds.

GROSS: Gee, I didn't think they even made those anymore.

MURRAY: Well, you got to look for them. I had a feeling that that would be sort of where he'd be as a 'Nam vet. They had access to all cigarettes in Vietnam. That was one thing they did provide was cigarettes. And if you head an obscure brand it wasn't a problem to go into the PX and get 12 cartons of Old Gold.

GROSS: My guest is Bill Murray, and his new movie is called "Rushmore." I'm a great fan of your movie acting and I want to talk to you about a couple of your earlier films. Let's start with "Groundhog Day," a film in which I think a lot of people noticed how really funny you were as an actor in an adult comedy.

In "Groundhog Day" you played a TV weatherman sent to cover Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and that's the site of the official groundhog. And each subsequent morning you wake up again to relive Groundhog Day. The same day keeps happening over and over and over again. Was this a change in your career from more -- I can't remember what year this was.

MURRAY: Well, I can't either. I'm sorry. I used to know, but I don't know any more. It was in the early '90s or something like that. The late '80s.

GROSS: Did you see this as a change from more kind of kid oriented comedy to more adult oriented comedy?

MURRAY: That was just a much more sophisticated script than most scripts that you ever see. That was an incredibly original idea. This kid, Danny Rubin -- this idea just sprung full-blown from his head. He had never even been to Punxsutawney until I took him there.

He wrote this whole script based on this event, but really what he was talking about was the idea of being stuck in the same day. That if you don't work on the change and improvement of yourself that you are stuck in, you have to start over every single day. It really worked on a lot more levels than most of the scripts that I had done at that point.

GROSS: How much improvisation did you do in this film?

MURRAY: In that one?

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

MURRAY: I mean, I did a fair amount. I mean, I worked on the script too with him. And so, I added things. And you're always adding things, but I did -- I can make lines up. That's not hard, you know. So I don't take credit for writing films unless I really sat down at a typewriter and worked.

But doing the same scenes over and over again -- I mean, you're in the same situation over and over again. You're constantly getting a little bit more inspiration, and you have the benefit of -- it's almost like lots of rehearsal, you know. If you rehearse something many times more and more things come to you.

So I almost -- I had an advantage over the writer in that I got to really just sit in this space, the physical where of it. A lot of things come to you.

GROSS: In the beginning of the movie there are some very funny weatherman patter. Did you watch a lot of TV weather casts in part to prepare for the role?

MURRAY: Well, that was when Weather Channel was first getting big. And I was one of the first people to really devote my entire life to the Weather Channel which is now what I do. And I got a huge kick out of it, and I really insisted that they buy ads on the Weather Channel when the movie came out so I could watch the ads.

But I love the Weather Channel. It really is, you know, the drama and the power of these fronts. You get to see something really important happening and it's dealt with in a really -- there's even more talk about it but nothing can be done.

GROSS: Why don't we hear you doing the weather from the beginning of "Groundhog Day."



BILL MURRAY, ACTOR: Somebody asked me today, Phil, if you could be anywhere in the world where would you like to be? And I said to him, probably right here, Alco, Nevada (ph). Our nation's high at 79 today.

Out in California they're going to have some warm weather tomorrow, gang wars and some very overpriced real estate. Up in the Pacific Northwest, as you can see, they're going to have some very very tall trees.

It will be clear across the Rockies and the Great Plains, mostly. But look out, here comes trouble.


Oh, boy. Front coming our way. Look out. What's that going to mean to us here in the Three Rivers area? One of these big blue things, this cold frigid Arctic air, this big mass coming out of the North is going to meet up with all of this moisture coming out of the Gulf. Going to mix together at high altitudes and cause some snow.

Going out on a limb now. Not going to hit us here in Pittsburgh. It's going to push off and hit Altoona. Close call, folks. Let's take a look at the five day.

GROSS: That's Bill Murray in a scene from "Groundhog Day." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Bill Murray, and his new movie is called "Rushmore." I want to talk about another movie that I think is a really terrific film and I regret that I think very few people actually saw it, and it's called "Mad Dog and Glory." And the screenplay was by novelist Richard Price who is probably best known for "Clockers."

And you play a loan shark in this who owns a comedy club and really wants to be a stand up comic. And you even get to do stand up as this mobster in the movie. Did you write the comedy for this?

MURRAY: I don't -- I don't quite remember. I mean, I now I did something in it. I added something to it, but the basic idea was Price's. I mean, this is another example of not doing too much because the writing was so good.

GROSS: Yeah, he's a great writer.

MURRAY: Yeah, he's really good. I mean, his stuff was so lovable I couldn't wait to go to work and try to make these lines work. They were so challenging and so, you know, it was like having a knuckleball, you know, you didn't know how it was going to land, and you just tried to really be -- just try to get out of the way and let the line work. It was a really good job.

GROSS: What did -- what kind of -- I mean, you know a lot about delivery and comedy, but your character doesn't know a lot about it particularly at the beginning of the film when he's really very stiff. Tell me a little bit about playing a comic who doesn't know what they are doing.

MURRAY: Well, I've found that mobsters -- the ones I've met -- are really funny people. You know, that's part of the paradox is that they're often the most charming people. And the terror of what they're like in their criminal side is almost hard to imagine.

But he -- his readings of his lines were -- had a menace to them. It was his club. You could be thrown out if you -- perhaps you could be thrown out if you weren't enjoying yourself, enjoying the act. And it gave him a confidence to say it any old way he wanted.

And he talked almost like he was talking to his -- to his posse, you know, to his own -- what do the hoods call their group? You know, the gang. It was an angry kind of comedian. He was angry. He had a chip on his shoulder, and he truly spoke down to his audience.

And at the same time was delighting in the fact that what he was doing and the way he spoke -- his comedy -- was now getting public notice. He was charmed with himself. He was really enjoying himself.

GROSS: Why don't we hear a scene from early in "Mad Dog and Glory" where you, the mobster, are doing comedy at the club you own with a lot of your boys in the audience.


BILL MURRAY, ACTOR: Cosa. Nostra. Our thing.


Our thing my ass. Cosanostra is Italian for "cheap bastards."


Cosanostra babies. Other babies, they're born. They cry. They go, "wah, wah." Our kids, they cry. They go, "wah."


MURRAY: Yeah, he probably heard some comedian sometimes say, well, you got to work with your life. You got to use your life as your comedy.

GROSS: In this movie, Bill Murray, you got to work opposite Robert DeNiro. And DeNiro plays a cop who is a forensic photographer, and he saves your life in a convenience store hold up. And to thank him you loan him a beautiful young woman played by Uma Thurman. And you basically own this woman because she owes you about $75,000 and she pays it off by doing whatever favor you ask of her.

And in this scene from later in "Mad Dog and Glory" you come to pick her up. But DeNiro doesn't want her to go because he's fallen in love with her. Let me play an excerpt of the scene.


BILL MURRAY, ACTOR: Bring it down, Wayne.


MURRAY: You love her. I own her! I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! Didn't I call it right on the nose when I saw you in the office? You're a shmuck, if you don't think she's playing you like a violin right now.

Women. (Expletive) women. You can't live with them. You can't kill 'em. OK, if you want, you can assume the debt.

DENIRO: Assume the debt?

MURRAY: Yeah. Be my friend. For what, I don't exactly know. You're a cop. Maybe something, maybe nothing. You want me to forget about her for the next year. If I call you, you have to pick up the phone. That I can live with.

GROSS: Bill Murray, what was it like to work opposite Robert DeNiro? And I'm thinking, you know, you're such a verbal guy and you're so good at improvising and DeNiro seems much less verbal.

MURRAY: Well, he is less verbal, but he is also -- I mean he's got a lot going on. This guy -- he's not our favorite for nothing. He works very hard at his job. He's a hard working guy, and he's serious about his job. I tend to keep it light and goof around on the set just so I'm relaxed. And that got a little distracting for him at one point.

I remember one day thinking, "oh, God." He was like, "yeah, can we just do this here now?" But we've become friends. You know, I met him over the years before this and I like talking to him. You know, I think he likes my verbal qualities and I like his sort of surprising sense of humor.

Working with him was -- you know, I actually had to fight this guy too. And, you know, you're fighting a guy who is some sort of a method actor you don't know what's going to happen. You know, I'm basically going to go inside on the Raging Bull here. I'm thinking, "God, if he starts throwing combinations at me I'm going down.

And he is in incredible physical shape. He is not an imposing figure to look at, but he is in incredible shape. And he works really really hard. And he appreciated -- you know, and I love to work hard with people. And I like to work off camera with people. And, you know, as great as he is everybody needs another actor to help him do it.

And that was just wonderful to find out that nobody is alone out there, no matter how good you are. And I delighted in really pushing him and getting him -- like if he was supposed to be angry in a scene and I was behind the camera I would infuriated him. I would enrage him.


MURRAY: Well, I mean, he is a man who demands respect. That's one thing, you have to respect him. And if you disrespect him he goes crazy. He will really not like you. But in character you can get away with that, you can disrespect him and it would enrage him.

And he's, you know, very proud of his heritage too, you know. And if you, you know, somehow didn't respect the heritage you would see something happen in his eyes that was just terrifying -- really scary. And I enjoyed getting it from him, and I think he appreciated that I wasn't so -- too afraid to do it.

GROSS: Is this kind of intimidation that you're talking about extracurricular or just stuff in the script?

MURRAY: Well, extracurricular.

GROSS: Like what would you do?

MURRAY: Well, see because I'm off camera his lines -- as long as I don't overlap him -- I don't talk on his lines -- I can say anything to get the response out of him. So if you called him, you know, used an Italian slur of some sort he would just -- he could not control himself.

He grew up -- where he grew up downtown, you know, there was an Italian neighborhood where they had their turf and they were very protective of their own, you know. Anybody from the outside was a potential troublemaker. And those insults were a throw down, you know. And you don't speak that way.

If you spoke that way, you are just asking for real trouble, you know, and had to be responded to. So in character, you know, I could say things to him that would enrage him and infuriate him. And I would build it up -- go beyond the script. I find that that's really -- it's a technique -- it's a thing you can do but I don't think most people do it.

GROSS: Bill Murray. His new movie, "Rushmore," opens nationally this weekend. He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with Bill Murray. He plays a self-made millionaire and a school benefactor in the new movie "Rushmore," which is set at a private school. We talked about "Rushmore" as well as several of his other films.

I want to move on to another movie that I think is really funny and it's a Farrelly brothers movie. But it's one of their lesser known films, it's called "Kingpin." And you play a bowling hustler in it, and I'm wondering how the Farrelly brothers humor compares to yours.

And here's something -- we played a talk that they gave at the Comedy Film Festival in late 1998, and one of the things that they said in this talk was that you did a lot of improvising in the film and that you were just so spontaneously funny that they just let you do it. I don't know what your memories are of that.

MURRAY: Well, that's right. That was a -- I turned down this movie once, and then they came back and said, "well, how about a different part?" Actually, "how about two different parts?" They'd combined two different parts into another part, and said, "would you like to try this?"

And I looked at it. And I wasn't sure the whole -- how the whole thing was going to work, but I was sort of coming out of a funny time in my life and I thought, "well, you know, maybe I should just go out there and make this work." Usually I don't take a job if I don't think the whole thing is going to work. And I wasn't really -- I didn't really know.

But I wanted to work and I knew I could be funny in this part so I took it. And they are fertile fellows, and they're always game to change anything. They have more fun making movies than anybody I've ever worked with. It really is a riot.

They're always -- they were always saying, "OK, how about" -- they would come up to me and say, "oh, oh, here's one. How about if you -- how about if you stuck a banana in your nose?" Their comedy is a little different than mine.

GROSS: Your's is more character oriented and there's is more physical?

MURRAY: Well, I don't know. Theirs is a little more, I'll say, rollicking. You know, but it also has sort of a smatter kind of affect. You know, they will not stop at any -- they will go to any length.

GROSS: Yes, exactly. Right. They won't stop at anything. And were there times when you decided, "no, that's too broad. We ought to stop here."

MURRAY: Well, I didn't see everything that was in the movie. And when I finally did see the movie I was -- I went, "holy cow." I was happy with all my stuff because I did all my stuff, but the stuff I hadn't seen, I was just, "oh, man. Oh, God." It was rough.

The first scene of the movie is so rough, and I'd taken my boys and they were -- I don't know -- I thought it would be OK to take them to this movie. I think they were like 14 and 11 or 13 and 10 or something. And they were shocked, really shocked.

I mean, the first scene of the movie involves, you know, sex with an extremely unflatteringly painted woman. Not a painted woman, but a woman that's made to appear just almost grizzly. And it's like wrenching and terrible.

And I was stunned into total like ice -- goose flesh -- hair standing up on your skin silent through the entire movie. And when I left the movie theater I was thinking, "oh, my God what have I done taking them to this thing?"

And we walked in silence from the movie to the car which was in an underground parking lot. We must have walked 3/8 of a mile and my 10-year-old finally said, "you were good dad." I felt like child services was going to come and take me in. "You took them to that?"

So their tastes goes beyond mine. I wish I could work with them all the time and have final cut. Because I'd say, "OK, we don't have to do this one here, but all this other" -- they have so much funny stuff that they do.

GROSS: I think the character that you played in "Kingpin," the bowling movie, was able to draw really well on a certain type of character that you perfected back in your "Saturday Night Live" era. You know, the really kind of arrogant, self-congratulatory guy who is kind of glad handing everybody and using them.

And when you win a tournament toward the end you say, "finally, I have enough money to buy my way out of anything. Finally I'm above the law." It's just really funny. Did you write those lines, by the way?

MURRAY: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I did get to -- they let me do a lot of stuff in that movie. There's a lot of funny people in it. I was surprised how funny Woody Harrelson was. I never watched "Cheers," that was like prime time TV. I never really got it or anything. And he always seemed like sort of an OK guy -- he always seemed like slow witted or something, but he's very funny.

And he surprised me how good an actor he was. He was very funny. And Randy Quaid I've known a long time. He's a nut. He's very funny. The girl was funny too, Vanessa Angel. She was underutilized, but she was good too.

GROSS: I'm going to ask you to choose a scene that you improvised in part from "Kingpin."

MURRAY: Oh, well, I don't now. There's one line that I improvised in it -- I don't know that this will play on the radio. There was a scene that I improvised one line of, and it's a scene where I'm eating breakfast with Woody.

And this guy -- I play -- this guy just hits on anybody. He's like a -- is it a peccary? Is that the animal that's in the zoo -- it's kind of a small time pig. It's one of the few animals they have in the Central Park Zoo, is a peccary.

They have a thought and then they want to mate. Then they have a thought and then they want to mate. It's pretty much -- that's their pattern. But this guy was like that where his impulses with basically unfed and now a woman please -- so I did this -- I just sort of made up this line. It's a horrible offensive line, but it's my standard of offensiveness to show as opposed to theirs.

GROSS: OK, let's hear the scene.

MURRAY: This will offend my people out there. People on my wavelength.

GROSS: This is Bill Murray in "Kingpin."


BILL MURRAY, ACTOR: Young bowler like yourself. The tour can be very difficult. Very expensive.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Sangria and (unintelligible)

MURRAY: Keep 'em coming, sweets. I got a long drive. Do me a favor will you? Would you mind washing off that perfume before you come back to our table? A little bad luck. Have you had her today? All of your dreams can go up in smoke. That's why even we veteran bowlers, we work our way tournament to tournament. You need a supplemental income.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Supplemental income?

MURRAY: Supplemental.


MURRAY: Yeah, it's extra. That's what it means. You interested?


MURRAY: Interested. Would you be interested in some extra income?


MURRAY: Want to make more money? OK. Why don't you go eat that outside then come on back in. Hi.


MURRAY: Not you. Hi.


GROSS: That's a scene from "Kingpin," which was made by the Farrelly brothers who also made "Something About Mary" and "Dumb and Dumber." And just in case our listeners couldn't make out the final words of that scene, can you tell us what you were saying to the women at the next table?

MURRAY: I said, "No, not you. You."

GROSS: Right.

MURRAY: It's just the guy who is hitting on women at the next table. And one woman responds. He goes, "No, not you. I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to the lady next to you."

And it just came into my head at that moment. And it was so horrible -- such a horrible thing to say that there was a moment of complete disbelief and then everyone laughed really hard because it was, you know, the guy should be taken out and shot.

But it was just the kind of thing that I would think would be the most offensive thing you could do. I was trying to paint a picture of a guy who was really really a bad guy. And so that any second that Woody's character stayed with this guy was an investment in bad time.

GROSS: I guess I've always wondered how you, so intuitively, seem to understand a certain type of really crude ego driven personality.

MURRAY: Well, that's a loaded question, Terry. But how do I understand it? I don't know, I think show business can enrich that.

GROSS: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

MURRAY: And you can see people manifesting in a bizarre way that -- you know, other people don't try to get away -- wouldn't try to get away with. But people get lost in a vanity space and just start going. You know, people that just take themselves too seriously, it's ripe for re-creation. It made it a lot more fun to have it in the bowling world. It made it just seem a little bit more ludicrous.

And that his affectations -- bowling in Elvis-like outfits and groupies -- bowling groupies. You know, just a guy who was on a sleaze rollercoaster. He never touched anything pure if he could help it.

GROSS: My guest is Bill Murray. His new movie is called "Rushmore." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Bill Murray. His new movie is called "Rushmore." I want to get back to "Rushmore." "Rushmore" is set at an expensive private academy and your character is a wealthy benefactor of the schools. What kind of school did you go to? Did you relate to this academy kind of experience?

MURRAY: Yeah, I did. I went to an academy. I went to a Jesuit academy in Chicago. And most everybody had money. And I was one of the ones that did not have money. I worked in summer -- I caddied in the summer and made enough money to pay my tuition and then my money was gone. That was pretty much the money I made.

So I would go through the school year without -- without sufficient funds. I didn't have a car and I didn't have a wardrobe to speak of. I used to take a lot of abuse for wearing golf shirts to school. "Golf shirt. Murray, golf shirt." You know, there were guys who were kidding me for wearing golf shirts. I had inherited a collection of ill-fitting golf shirts from my older brothers, and that's what I wore to school.

GROSS: Did you have a complex because you didn't have the money that the other students did or you didn't have the clothes that they did?

MURRAY: I haven't heard "complex" in a while.

GROSS: Me neither. I couldn't believe I used the word. I haven't either.

MURRAY: I haven't heard "complex" -- I had issues.

GROSS: Issues, that's right.

MURRAY: But I had complex issues here. I guess I had a complex. That's why I tip so heavy nowadays. I think I feel for people -- when I see somebody working in a golf shirt, you know, my hands vibrate -- yeah, I guess I had a complex.

Gee, it sounds worse than it was. But I remember it and I remember growing up without it. And, you know, I came from a big family and there wasn't spare dough. And, you know, I think about -- a couple of weeks ago I got very upset with my boys -- my older boys -- because I said, "God, you're spoiled rich kids. I'm a failure. I'm a total failure."

And they got very sad. "That's who you are dad. That's who you were. Blah blah blah." But they're actually really sweet guys, and I was just giving them some tough love. But to grow up without money and now have money is just kind of, you know, it's a funny thing. I now loan money to the kids I knew in high school who have blown the money their parents left them, you know. It's a kind of fun thing, you know.

But to have a complex about it, well, I knew I wanted to pay my own way. It felt very good to be able to provide my mother with things later in life. It's -- I remember the first year I made more money in reruns than my dad ever made in a year. And I didn't even work. It was just reruns.

GROSS: Right.

MURRAY: And I thought, it's a funny world, funny life. So, I grew up that way. The same way this kid grows up in "Rushmore," and I could see -- you know, I remember when they said, "well, you'll be playing a tycoon." I thought, "a tycoon? I'm going to play a tycoon?" The more I thought about it, I thought, "well, hell, I am a tycoon." I am a self-made tycoon of some sort. And I got a blue collar chip on my shoulder. That part of it was not hard.

GROSS: I know you have to go, so I'll just ask you one more question. Are you ever able to kind of sneak in to lounges and watch lounge singer types?

MURRAY: Well, they usually catch me after a little while. And sometimes they get extremely nervous. Even the musicians -- more especially the musicians backing up because their like, "oh, God." Because the guy performing may not get it. He may not be able -- they're often -- well, I shouldn't say "get it," but they're often in their own little world so they don't even...

GROSS: you actually think they're good.

MURRAY: Yeah. And they're out of focus to the audience anyway. They don't really see. So it's fun to see the musicians behind them and they'll spot me and go, "oh, God." And they'll be embarrassed because they're backing up a guy that is the guy that I did on "Saturday Night Live."

GROSS: Yeah. yeah.

MURRAY: And they'll be like winking going, "yeah, it's as bad as you say and we got to do this every night." It's funny.

GROSS: Did you ever want to sing for real?

MURRAY: Well, I never thought about -- sometimes I think, "God, I could have done this rock thing. This is no big deal." You know, I've been watching VH-1 "Behind The Music," and all you got to do is fight through that drug addiction and a serious car crash and then it's the rebound where you make the real money.

But I thought about singing -- I actually would like to be in a musical sometime -- a Broadway musical. I think that would be fun. I mean, some of them are horrid, but I always thought that that was something I could do. I always thought that there was a place for a sort of an Americana kind of a musical that I could do.

When I first came to New York I sublet an apartment and the girl left me the entire history of the Broadway musical in record form. And I listened to them one by one.


MURRAY: And it was really an amazing education to hear every single one of them. And there are not that many that are good. Even ones that were and hits. There's not that many that were really great, and I thought you could do this. And you could sing it more naturally than they sing that crazy Broadway style that they have.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

MURRAY: You know, I mean, you could do the crazy Broadway style for laughs, you know. And if you did it for a Broadway crowd you could do some real singing and then you could ruin some stuff the way that they do, and you'd have some real entertainment possibility.

GROSS: Well, I'd like to hear that. I hope you get to do that.

MURRAY: I hope so too.

GROSS: Well, Bill Murray, it's really been a pleasure. I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

MURRAY: Well, thank you, Terry. I enjoyed talking to you too.

GROSS: Bill Murray. His new film is the comedy "Rushmore." It opens nationally this weekend.

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Bill Murray
High: Actor Bill Murray. He stars in the new film "Rushmore" which opens nationally this weekend. Murray began his career in Chicago with the improv troupe Second City. He joined "Saturday Night Live" in its second season. After leaving "SNL," he starred in such films as "Meatballs," "Stripes," "Ghostbusters," "Caddyshack," "What About Bob?" and "Groundhog Day." He received an Emmy Award for his writing in "SNL," and was named 1985 Star of the Year by the National Association of Theater Owners.
Spec: Entertainment; Movie Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Bill Murray

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Bill Murray

Date: FEBRUARY 03, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 020302NP.217
Head: Lloyd Schwartz
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Soprano Renee Fleming is an American singer on the rise. Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz says she not only has one of the most beautiful voices in opera today, but she's got good looks and can even act. Fleming has two new recordings. Here's Lloyd's review.

LLOYD SCHWARTZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC CRITIC: The first time I saw Renee Fleming, eight years ago, I liked her but I wasn't exactly bowled over. She played the adulteress countess Alma Viva (ph) in John Coriano's (ph) "The Ghosts of Versailles." His sequel to Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" and the first new opera commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in 25 years.

Last December, James Levine, the Met's music conductor, conducted her in a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance of Hayden's oratorio "The Creation." And I was bowled over. She had one of the roundest, creamiest voices I've heard in years.

The kind of voice you hear on old recordings from the golden age of the great Viennese stars of the '30s and '40s. Her technique is dazzling. Her trills and rullads (ph) were both breathtaking and effortless. And she sang with endearing earnestness and charm.

Mainly though, she's been associated with American opera. You may have seen her as Blanche Dubois on the telecast of Andre Previn's operatic version of Tennessee Williams' "Streetcar Named Desire." I thought the music was awful, and frankly couldn't bear to watch more than a few minutes.

Her latest album, "I Want Magic" conducted by Levine is a wonderful cross section of arias from American operas. And gets its trashy title from her "Streetcar" aria, the worst piece on the album. Though Fleming's southern accent is pretty good.

But let's stick to the good stuff. I loved hearing Fleming do Cathy Earnshaw's haunting aria from movie composer Bernard Herrmann's sadly neglected opera of "Wuthering Heights." Maybe now someone will revive the whole opera for Fleming.


SCHWARTZ: Fleming says she thought of this album as a tribute to the great sopranos of American opera: Eleanor Stieber (ph), Phyllis Curtain, Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price and even Barbara Cook who became a legend for singing Leonard Bernstein's "Glitter and be Gay" in the original cast of "Candide."

I've never heard anyone sing this aria with more slyness and honesty than Cook. And Fleming doesn't quite measure up either, though she's fun. But in more romantic arias she holds her own with the memorable creators of these roles. Fleming pours out the melody in the two well known arias from Carlisle Floyd's "Susanna."

She's convincingly grand in the title role of Samuel Barber's "Vanessa," and she's marvelous in Baby Doe's letter aria in Douglas Moore's "The Ballad of Baby Doe." As the miner's daughter she confesses to her mother that she's in love with the already married silver mine magnate and Colorado senator, Horace Taber, whose marriage she will scandously end.


SCHWARTZ: On another new album, a complete recording of Dvorak's lovely opera "Rusalka," Fleming sings the title role of the water nymph who falls in love with a human being. The highlight is Fleming singing in Czech the heavenly aria "To the Silver Moon."


SCHWARTZ: None of these arias call for the kind of show stopping display Fleming is also capable of. There's no doubt though that we have an important new artist. And nothing she does will be without interest.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the "Boston Phoenix." He reviewed two new recordings by American soprano Renee Fleming.

I'm Terry Gross.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Lloyd Schwartz
High: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews two new albums by opera star Renee Fleming. "I Want Magic," on London Records and a new recording of Dvorak's "Rusalka" also on London.
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Renee Fleming; Lloyd Schwartz

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Lloyd Schwartz
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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