“Why don’t you take off your coats, because I’m going to go on for a little while,” actor Bill Murray said as he took the stage at the BFI London Film Festival to help introduce the European premiere of Roger Michell’s “Hyde Park on Hudson.” The film — while set in Hyde Park, New York — is a UK production that was largely filmed there as well.
“I really like working over here,” Murray said. “The people that work in the film business here work really hard. I would like to — not exactly kidnap or take against their will — but I wish we had some of them over where I live in the United States. And this group right here would be on the first cargo container going over, I promise you that.”
“Hyde Park” stars Murray as U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and takes place in June 1939, when King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) made a visit to his country estate in Hyde Park, New York. At the time, no British monarch had ever visited the U.S. before, and Roosevelt’s big plan was to boost American support for the UK on the eve of World War II. In addition to West and Colman, the cast includes British actress (and Murray’s “Rushmore” co-star) Olivia Williams as FDR’s wife and Laura Linney as his distant cousin (and mistress).
The film’s screening was the London Film Festlval’s Centerpiece Gala, hosted by the city’s mayoral office. Infamous London mayor Boris Johnson was supposed to introduce Murray and director Michell (marking his fourth appearance at the film festival), but a family illness stopped him at the last minute. Murray’s antics on stage before the screening made it easy to forget anyone else was supposed to be there.
“I’m sorry, I do not speak your language,” Murray said when he came on stage, using hand movements to jokingly explain what he was trying to say. “Just try to feel my emotions. I have come back to your country, the place where we shot this film, to attend this magical festival and see this outstanding dress that Clare [Stewart, London’s festival director] is wearing over there.”
Murray went on to throw as many compliments as possible out at the audience and festival and city itself, leading in to what was perhaps an acknowlegement of the film’s rather tepid response when it debuted Stateside at the Telluride Film Festival.
“What a nice room this is,” Murray yelled at the crowd. “The festival’s really cool. The town’s exciting. And I want to thank you on behalf of the United States and the world for putting on a really good show with the Olympics and Paralympics. Really. I got goosebumps. You really gave us a thrill, good on you. Let’s hope this film is just as good. It better be, huh, Roger?”
The London Film Festival continues through Sunday, Oct. 21.