Wes Anderson Doubles Down on Bill Murray, Despite His Absence in ‘Asteroid City’

Wes Anderson Doubles Down on Bill Murray, Despite His Absence in ‘Asteroid City’

After initially landing a role in the project, Bill Murray will miss his first Wes Anderson feature film since the director’s debut film Bottle Rocket when Asteroid City releases later this month. But Anderson assures us that Murray hasn’t lost his seat at the symmetrical table.

Much hay has been made of Murray’s conspicuous and unplanned absence from the upcoming film about aliens and the government in the 1950s. With Tom Hanks making his first appearance in Anderson’s troupe of preferred talents, many people (read: us) have speculated that, following Murray’s departure from the production last July, Hanks was the ringer brought in to save Asteroid City from extinction after its star was forced to drop out due to “testing positive for COVID.” Speculation over Murray’s leave further increased in the following months after a flurry of reputationally damaging stories about the SNL icon broke — primarily, the report that Murray settled a complaint over inappropriate behavior toward a female staffer on another project for $100,000.

Earlier today, Anderson spoke to IndieWire to squash a couple rumors about Murray’s noninvolvement in Asteroid City. The auteur filmmaker and liberal-arts-white-people icon clarified that he has always stood by Murray and did not, nor will he, fire his friend and collaborator from any project. Also, Hanks didn’t take Murray’s role in the film — that was Steve Carell.

“Bill was supposed to be in (Asteroid City). It’s not a great thing to say, ‘Well this person was supposed to play this part.’ Once someone gets a part, you’re supposed to say, ‘Well, this is their part,’” Anderson explained, artfully dancing around hurting Michael Scott’s feelings. “But in this case, because there was some confusion about what happened with Bill. He was supposed to play the motel manager who Steve Carell plays, and Bill got COVID four days before he was supposed to start shooting.”

Murray was apparently in Ireland when he first caught COVID, and Anderson quickly realized that the actors with whom Murray was supposed to be in scenes would be out of production and on to other projects by the time he would clear COVID protocols. Anderson scrambled to replace him and “Steve Carell came in quite suddenly,” earning the role and knocking it out of the park.

Anderson clarified that, on a personal level, his earliest champion and most enduring cast member will never fall out of favor. “My experience with Bill is so extensive. Bill was such a great supporter of me from the very beginning,” Anderson continued. “I don’t want to speak about somebody else’s experience, but he’s really part of my family. You know, he’s my daughter’s godfather. In fact, he actually baptized her. He’s the one who splashed the water.” 

The past year has seen a string of former co-stars and collaborators explaining their horror stories from working with the notoriously grumpy comedy star, but Anderson’s seemingly positive experiences don’t differ all that much from the narrative surrounding Murray’s misbehavior — he may not have been her godfather, but we wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Murray tried to make Geena Davis call him daddy.

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