In a recent column for Vulture, writer Jesse David Fox argued that Bill Murray, famous for using an exclusive 800 number to field movie pitches, should hire an agent. Four days after the story ran, Fox’s “exhibit A” has just been announced.
Murray has agreed to star in a film version of the former Starz series, “Magic City.” Lasting only two seasons and disappearing without many complaints, the Miami mobster saga was aiming to be the Starz version of “The Sopranos” but couldn’t reach those lofty goals. The show’s first season pulled in a lowly 53 percent on RottenTomatoes.com, with the “consensus” being it looked great but lacked strong writing. In total, “Magic City” only ran 16 episodes and left little to no cultural dent on the landscape of TV during its golden age.
So why is it being revived?
For one thing, its creator is Mitch Glazer. A Hollywood veteran, Glazer has made friends with some key players, including Murray, who he first met on “Saturday Night Live” in the mid ’70s. The two worked together on “Scrooged,” which Glazer wrote, and remained close for the decades to come.
Though the darkly funny adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale is arguably a holiday classic, the Glazer/Murray combo hasn’t worked so well of late. Their last feature was the little known but widely-panned “Passion Play,” a 2010 film that also marked Glazer’s directorial debut. Starring Mickey Rourke (who Glazer has known since high school), Megan Fox, and Murray, the film focused on a trumpet player (Rourke) who meets and falls for an actual angel (Fox) who’s being controlled by a ruthless gangster (Murray).
The surreal romantic drama couldn’t settle on a tone and featured little more than some memorably odd performances all around. Despite its solid threesome of stars, it didn’t make a dent at the box office either, and was even rumored to be heading straight-to-DVD before it eventually landed in two theaters in 2011 and grossed a frighteningly-low $3,669.
So what should we expect from “Magic City” the movie? It’s obviously hard to tell at this stage, but one thing’s for certain: the failure of Glazer’s first film and the middling results of his first TV show have not deterred the writer from creating material without an easy hook. His next feature — which he wrote, Barry Levinson directed, and Bruce Willis co-stars in — is titled “Rock the Kasbah” and stars Murray as a broke rock ‘n’ roll manager guiding his last remaining client through a USO tour in Afghanistan. There he meets the winner of a singing competition held in the war-torn country, and hope springs eternal for the down-on-his-luck music man.
While “Rock the Kasbah” certainly doesn’t sound like an easy sell, “Magic City” won’t be either. Bringing back the original cast in Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Olga Kurylenko, and Danny Huston, the Starz property is hard from a hot-button item even with its two new A-listers.
More importantly, Murray’s career choices of late have been more than questionable unless he’s being directed by Wes Anderson. From awards-bait-never-taken “Hyde Park on the Hudson” to Charlie Sheen’s “The Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” to George Clooney’s disappointing “The Monuments Men” to his latest shot at Oscar in “St. Vincent,” Murray’s movie choices have left audiences wanting more from a man we know is capable of giving it to us.
The question becomes if “Magic City” will be closer to “Passion Play” or “Moonrise Kingdom.” if it’s the former, maybe Murray needs an agent after all.