Man at His Best

We Gave Bill Murray A Ride In From The Airport

And he gave David Granger and Scott Raab some life advice.

BY David Granger & Scott Raab | Jun 2, 2016 | Film & TV

Photography by Nigel Parry

Wednesday, March 9, 11:07AM. JFK airport. David Granger and Scott Raab pick up Bill Murray in Granger's car. They are heading to the East Side of Manhattan, where Murray is staying.

BILL MURRAY: I didn't mean to deny you guys a ride down to Charleston. You can come down as soon as this Big East thing is over. We've got to have priorities here.

SCOTT RAAB: Seeing your boy coach must be a lot of fun. [Murray's son Luke is an assistant coach at Xavier.]

BM: Just watching him in the time-outs is so much fun. He always had a function during the time-outs in his previous coaching. And this year I was like, "Luke, you don't have a job during the time-outs." He said, "I know. I've gotta figure this out."

DAVID GRANGER: So he just tries to get busy somehow?

BM: Everyone has something they do. There's actually a guy in charge of handing the clipboard to the coach, and there's a guy in charge of handing the clipboard to the guy who hands the clipboard to the coach.

SR: If you had the choice between an Xavier run to the national championship and the Cubs finally winning the World Series again—I hate to even ask—but if you had to pick one…

BM: Well, I have several sons, but I only have one ball club.

SR: I hope you get them both.

BM: It's got to happen.

SR: [The Cubs] are positioned much better than they've been for a long time.

BM: Let's not do the picture thing today.

DG: Are you going to have time any other day while you're in town?

BM: I'll make time.

DG: Do you want us to get you in a suit?

BM: What do you got? I saw the picture of George [Clooney] you texted me.

DG: He was wearing his own suit.

BM: George would. He has nice clothes. [To Granger] So how much more time you got with this company?

DG: I'm closing this last issue. That's why I wanted to talk to you. [Murray slow-claps.]

SR: Dave's last show.

BM: Are you going to have a party?

DG: If you're still here on Monday, there's a little cocktail party.

BM: Seems sort of low-key, given the enormity of the moment.

DG: It'll be nice.

BM: I'm sure it will be an experience unlike any other.

DG: I invited the people that I feel indebted to.

BM: Then I don't know why you're inviting me.

Murray: I've retired a couple times. I just say, "I'm retired." It keeps a certain kind of person away from you. 

DG: Shit, I wanted to go right there. [The entrance to the Midtown Tunnel is blocked by orange cones.]

BM: You can still do it.

DG: I can't.

BM: Yes, you can.

DG: The cops will come get me.

BM: Do it right there. I'll give you a buck if they come get you. You'd be arrested. I'd have to take pictures with the cops. Okay, Rabbi, get it done. Get 'er done. There you go.

DG: I've been hassled by tunnel cops too many times.

SR: Tunnel cops, man. They're like carnies.

BM: The guy's a fucking tunnel cop.

SR: Bitter.

BM: Oh, Jesus. You did it.

SR: You did good. Tunnel cop barely looked up.

DG: We just barely slid by.

BM: Richard Belzer used to call everybody Rabbi. I thought, Someone's going to go nuts. But he got away with it every single time…. So there's like a little steakhouse, Albanian, back over that way.

DG: I don't know it.

BM: I think you just walk out at Park Avenue and make a left onto one of those streets there. It's sort of underneath stuff. [About a pedestrian on the sidewalk] That is a style. See, why isn't someone doing that?

DG: Someone is.

BM: The bomber jacket with the fleece and the leather off the hip? I swear to God, if Armani saw that, he'd take a picture of it and he would have it.

DG: Scott, you have the tape recorder on, right?

SR: I always have the tape recorder on.

BM: My friend worked for Armani, and she used to get a lot of her clothes at the Hasidic clothing store. She had a great hat from the Hasidic clothing store. And she said she walked into work one morning and he looked at her and said, "Let me take a picture of that." Four months later, it was selling for USD650, USD700.

DG: He wrote me a nice note.

BM: Giorgio?

DG: Yeah.

SR: That's nice.

DG: I've had a couple nice notes.

SR: The end of an era.

BM: Now are you going to be able to play any more tennis?

DG: The day after I leave, I'm flying to Palm Springs to play in a tennis tournament. I don't know exactly what I'm going to do after that.

BM: I got a little place out there in California that's very lovely, if you want to go.

SR: You could stop at [Mike] Sager's in La Jolla. I stopped by when I was out there for Charlize Theron.

BM: So it really is Charlize "Tha-ron," or is that just lately?

SR: "Teh-ran." Like a hard T: “Teh-ran."

BM: Why doesn't she tell you? They introduce her as "Tha-ron" on [the Oscars]. Why the hell wouldn't she say, "No, it's 'Teh-ran'"? So let's go to Benjamin Steak House on Forty-first.

SR: Sounds perfect.

[At the restaurant]

DG: Are you slender? What have you been doin'?

BM: Bulimia.

DG: Really?

BM: No, I've been working hard for a while. [The waiter appears and hands out a wine list.] Are you runnin' up numbers your last week? What's the story?

DG: Well, I'd say it's unlikely that they're gonna reject any expense accounts.

SR: That's good to hear.

BM: Should we think large format?

DG: Whatever you like… So what's the regimen?

BM: [In Charleston] there's this trainer girl who opened her own gym down there. She walked up to me in a wine bar and said, "I'm a trainer. Have you ever thought of, like, working out?" So we're friends now. [To waiter] Good to see you, man.

WAITER: Welcome back.

BM: Hey, do you remember which bottle of wine I got last time? I looked for quite a while, and I think it was a red from South America.

WAITER: Catena Alta?

BM: Catena Alta. That wasn't so hard. I just needed your help. [To Granger and Raab] So I was on a layover in Atlanta, and I had a glass of wine at 8:15 in the morning. And I say to the guy from the sky lounge, "Are there other people in here drinking at eight o'clock in the morning?" He said, "There are people that come here that actually buy a plane ticket to go to the airport because they can enter the lounge at any hour and drink, because it's a private club." And if you gotta have a drink…

DG: I was in that very lounge flying to Knoxville, Tennessee, and it was eight o'clock in the morning and there were so many people drinking.

BM: Was it a Sunday?

DG: It was Thanksgiving morning.

SR: I'm rereading Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, and he talks about being able to drink in these private clubs that are airport lounges.

BM: That's his best book.

DG: This Republican convention could be interesting. I mean, if nobody has the delegates.

BM: It's historic.

DG: The thing that's crazy about Trump is he is fomenting violence. In addition to Secret Service, he's got his bouncers basically roughing people up.

BM: Trump was at the Adele concert. Were you at the Adele concert?

DG: No.

BM: She's really funny. She sings these songs and people are just bathing themselves in tears. They're just crying and weeping over the way she sings the songs. And then she goes [impersonating Adele], "So glad that you're still here. I mean, I had the shits last night, and it was like all over my sheets, all over me panties and me jammies." It's like, "What?" This is the way she talks in between songs. People are just gobsmacked by it, because you don't see it coming. And then she goes [impersonating Adele], "Oh, here's a song. I hope I don't fuck this up 'cause of my drinking." And then she goes back to singing, and you're completely spellbound.

SR: You're a fan.

BM: I became a fan when I was driving my sons to school. I had Adele on, and I look in the rearview mirror and all three of my sons are in the back singing. And I'm thinking, What the hell touched these guys? So I started singing it myself after I dropped them off. [Singing] "You're gonna wish you / Never had met me / Tears are gonna fall / Rolling in the deep…." Anyway, there Trump is at the Adele concert, rolling in the deep with the guys muscling him down the hall. And I go, "Hey, how ya doin'?" He says, "When this is all over, we're gonna get together and we're gonna play some golf." "When this is all over.”

DG: You should play with him for money, 'cause the guy can't putt at all.

BM: Oh, really?

DG: He's got this weird hitch in his putting stroke. He takes the club back, it lifts up, and he tops every putt. But everybody he plays with is like, "Oh, that's good, Donald. That's good, Donald." That's why he has a two handicap.

SR: So in the magazine we're gonna call this an "exit interview."

DG: Scott's done 50 of these interviews.

SR: I think we should talk about unemployment. [To Murray] You've always had positive things to say about that subject, it seems.

DG: I know you've been willingly unemployed, but have you ever been forcibly unemployed?

BM: I was let go at the Treasure Island grocery store in Wilmette, Illinois. I must have been 19. One of the managers said, "What did you say to that lady?" I said, "I have no idea—what did I say?" He said, "I'm not even gonna say it." I know I didn't say anything intentionally strange, but I could've said something like "Well, the sausage is, you know, special today" or something like that.

SR: She misinterpreted an innocent comment about sausage quality.

BM: So I was let go, and that was too bad, because they liked me there. I was originally hired to cook chestnuts. They decided they'd like to have roasting chestnuts outside to make people feel good on the way in. People just like seeing 'em. No one wants roasted chestnuts. I still don't know how to roast a chestnut.

Murray: Anyone can be silly in an elevator, you know? But can you be silly on an elevator seven times from seven different camera angles?

SR: You never got fired from a film?

BM: I don't think I ever got fired.

DG: Ever had a dry period? A fallow period?

BM: I've retired a couple times. I just say, "I'm retired." It keeps a certain kind of person away from you—the kind of person that you really don't want around. The people who are really interested in you will find you eventually.

SR: That's always been your theory: that people will find you.

BM: If someone really wants you, they find you.

DG: It's hard to find you.

BM: It's okay.

DG: I wasn't sure that you were getting off that plane today, you know?

SR: David's a worrier.

DG: You're the worrier.

BM: People say to me, "Don't worry, I'll do it." I'll say, "I'm not a worrier." I started saying it a few years ago, and it makes me feel good. I've sort of hypnotised myself to not really worry so much. Do I sound worried?

SR: You do not.

DG: You don't.

BM: I think it's a good health tip to say "I'm not a worrier."

DG: Are you gonna eat anything? I'm starving.

BM: You wanna go in on the steak for three?

SR: Yeah.

DG: Oh, that'd be awesome.

BM: Creamless spinach? Have you ever seen that on a menu before?

DG: I'm having a hard time understanding what that means.

SR: Creamed spinach?

BM: Creamless.

DG: Creamless?

BM: Creamless.

[Murray orders a steak for three—rare, because it comes on a steel plate and he figures it will keep cooking—and some hashbrowns.]

DG: When I was talking to George, I said, "When you think of Bill Murray, is there a particular moment that you think of?" You ever have any moment with George that crystallises him?

BM: Well— [Pauses]

DG: That's a far-off look.

BM: No, I'm trying to be—

SR: Circumspect?

BM: Exactly. Discreet wasn't the right word—circumspect is what I was looking for. He asked me to work on Monuments Men, and it was really life-changing for me. At the time, I was in a very difficult situation where I was sharing the custody of my children. Two weeks on and two weeks off. And he allowed me to work two weeks on and two weeks off. They flew me back home and back to Germany every two weeks.

DG: Wow.

BM: That's who that guy is. He really thinks about other people. He really came up slow. And he was a driver for his aunt Rosemary, who was one of the biggest stars in the world, and also possibly one of the most difficult people to be with in the world. And yet he was her driver. So you probably can't do anything right when you're the nephew of that person. It was like my caddying experience, where you kind of go, "Well, this is definitely how I don't want to treat people. This is not what I wanna do." I go and visit George at his house and you do nothing but laugh. It's just laughs all day long. It's really good for your soul—you just laugh so much.

SR: Are you gonna write a memoir?

BM: I wrote a book once.

SR: Cinderella Story. I've read it.

DG: You've already written your memoir. What else is there to say?

BM: I recall reading one of those books that David Niven wrote at a time when people were writing those tell-alls. And I thought, Holy cow. This guy didn't stab anybody. Never. He just told great stories about all these people.

SR: [To Granger] Are you thinking of writing at some point?

DG: I don't think I'm a writer.

BM: You write something every month.

DG: Writing's really hard. Whenever I've written, the best part is being done.

BM: I think if you just start telling stories….

DG: That's exactly what [Esquire writer at large] Cal Fussman said to me: Tell a story a day. I just reread a story that I wrote about Andre Agassi in 1996 for GQ magazine. It was really funny.

BM: So what you're saying is you had it and you lost it.

SR: He's just got a hitch. He'll work it out…. I remember interviewing you for Broken Flowers. I said, "Oh, this must be hard," and you said, "I work the same hard on all of them.”

DG: That's a great line.

SR: You show up, put in some time, and you do your best work.

BM: I read something Hunter Thompson wrote in 1958 from an apartment on Perry Street. He said, "Figure out what your talent is, what your desire is, and figure out a goal that's right in the centre of that." The desire thing is huge.

DG: How does it feel being the only thing that people agree on in the United States of America, you know?

BM: Imagine looking at it from the inside out.

SR: When I visited you in Charleston, a stranger came up and knocked on your door. He was looking for you. And you stayed in the back and I told the guy, "Yeah, you got the wrong house."

DG: You're on bumper stickers. There's nobody else that that's happening to.

BM: What am I supposed to make of that? And it doesn't necessarily change the way the jobs go or anything. Like, I made that last movie and I'm thinking to myself, Well, maybe all these people who've bought bumper stickers and T-shirts will show up. Not really. It doesn't cross over. Rock the Kasbah. I worked as hard as I could—I loved it. But that was the worst movie I've ever had, ever.

DG: In terms of?

BM: In terms of everything.

SR: It proves the absurdity of something.

DG: But you represent something to people.

SR: Beyond the work.

DG: I think part of it is that your passage through life seems so graceful. And I think people respond to that grace. Most people think life is hard. You make it look easy.

SR: After I interviewed Bob Odenkirk, he sent me a clip of you and Charlie Rose where you were talking about being "present." It just made me think, Hey, there's a guy being himself and enjoying it in the moment.

BM: We had a really extraordinary discussion. He was asking real questions and I was giving real answers. And I was asking him real questions in return. And it went someplace that wasn't expected. It just kept going. He said, "I had no idea who you were."

SR: There can't be a great plan involved here.

BM: There's absolutely no plan.

SR: When you first retired, were you anxious?

BM: No.

DG: So what do you do in the morning when you don't have a job to go to?

BM: I scrub my teeth every day. I don't necessarily go to sleep every day. I don't necessarily change my clothes every day. I don't necessarily exercise. I don't necessarily eat or drink coffee. I've really lived it on the fly. But I'm not sure that that's the way to go. I'm more of a person when I'm working on a movie than at any other time. Because I actually have to really be there. I really gotta show up. Not just physically in a building, although that's certainly a big part of it. And I know that to do the best work, I've gotta be as collected as I can be. Anyone can be silly in an elevator, you know? But can you be silly on an elevator seven times from seven different camera angles? [To Granger] So are you having conversations with people about your next step?

DG: Yeah.

BM: What a terrible idea that is.

DG: Really? Don't talk?

BM: I mean, don't just sit there on mute but say, "I'm taking some time." You have the freedom to take the time to let all those ordinary patterns break down. Forget all the ways you did things. Get into the ten-ayem-beer mode and let your own self appear. If you're answering the call of someone else—someone other than yourself—you might be missing the opportunity of a lifetime.

DG: That's solid.

SR: It's really good advice.

Murray: I've been cutting my own hair lately—an economy move. I cut my hair, and then stay home for a day or so. 

BM: If you want, I'll make a small wager with you. What do you got on you?

DG: I've got about USD500 on me.

SR: Whoa.

BM: Me too.

SR: Why is that?

BM: Because it's workable.

SR: What is the bet?

BM: I'll bet you your idea is better than anyone else's idea.

DG: That's going to be nebulous when it comes to paying off.

BM: In order for it to work, you have to take a little bit of time. You need a time without meetings, without clouding.

SR: He already won the bet, by the way.

DG: So the bet's who can make it through the summer?

BM: We both have to take no work from anyone for a period of three months, not even talk to anyone until the end of the summer. And then at the end of the summer, if neither of us has an idea that's good enough to do—our own self-generated one—then we'll take the first piece-of-shit job that comes. And the guy who takes the first piece-of-shit job has to pay the other guy the 500 bucks.

SR: That's a great bet.

BM: That's a great bet, and I get the summer off again.

DG: You guys want any coffee?

WAITER: Should I bring some port?

SR: It's up to the grown-ups.

DG: You want port?

BM: I'll only have one if you guys have one.

DG: We can try it.

BM: We'd better try it in that case…. If you want to go to my place in California, it's a great writing refuge if you've got to get away. Not that you need a refuge.

DG: Avocado country.

BM: There's oranges, too. And tangelos. And fresh chicken eggs.

SR: You've got chickens?

BM: Lots and lots of chickens. We just keep getting more and more chickens. I know a man out there who keeps chickens, and he's got too many roosters, and the roosters are wearing out the hens. So he does this thing called a rooster drop, where you basically put a few roosters in the back of the car and then you drop them. He's been dropping them in the park right next to the mayor's office.

DG: Should we keep this off the record?

BM: No, the mayor knows…Anyway, I may need to do a rooster drop. There's a rooster drop a-coming, because there's a level of noise that the neighbours can't take when there's six roosters. [To Granger and Raab] So what else do we need?

SR: A photograph.

DG: Friday morning?

BM: Friday morning.

DG: Where would you like it to be done?

BM: What'd you do with George?

DG: We shot at his house.

BM: What's the look of the picture?

DG: We shot George making funny faces mostly. And we had Eddie Van Halen bring over his five-pound Pomeranian.

BM: George is funny.

DG: So Friday—what would be a good time, theoretically?

BM: I feel like you don't want it to be too early.

DG: Late morning?

BM: At eleven o'clock. I'll pull myself together. I'll get a haircut. I've been cutting my own hair lately—an economy move. I cut my hair, and then I stay home for a day or so.

SR: Let it fill out a little bit?

BM: Always.

[On the sidewalk, outside the restaurant]

FANS: Hey, Bill Murray, we're sorry to be annoying fans, but can we get a picture with you?

[Murray poses for a picture.]

DG: All right, so I'll see you on Friday.

BM: We'll figure it out.

ANOTHER FAN: It's very nice to meet you. I love your work.

BM: Nice to meet you, too. [To Granger and Raab] It sounded like she said, "I love you, brother."

DG: That would be interesting.

BM: I hear it a lot, so it wouldn't be a surprise.

SR: I love a couple of your brothers.

DG: All right, so I'll see you on Friday.

BM: We'll figure it out.

DG: I'll text you the right location and time and all that. All right?

BM: I'm all right.

DG: So I'll see you on Friday.

BM: Don't worry.

From: Esquire US.