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‘Rock the Kasbah’ Star Bill Murray Wows Comic-Con

'Rock the Kasbah' Star Bill Murray Wows Comic-Con

Bill Murray made his first panel appearance in massive Hall H at Comic-Con in San Diego last July to promote Barry Levinson’s October release “Rock the Kasbah” (trailer below), dressed in character as aging rock promoter Richie Lanz. Murray engaged sweetly with the fans in Hall H. One woman covered with buttons invited Murray to sleep with her under the Petco stadium. “How many people is she asking to sleep with her?” he asked later. “Does everyone give her a button when they leave? I want to feel special.”

Long-time collaborator Mitch Glazer co-wrote the movie with Murray, who’s a WGA member but usually doesn’t take credit. “He writes them and I rewrite them,” he said. “You get away with more if you don’t want a writing credit, you really do.” He did take a credit on his reunion with “Lost in Translation” director Sofia Coppola on December release “A Very Murray Christmas,” to Glazer’s “horror.” “You get paid in perpetuity,” cracked Murray. “It’s nice, about $70.”

The duo first met on Saturday Night Live when Murray was “the new kid,” recalled Glazer. Murray says he and musician Paul Shaffer “see beneath the rock of rock ‘n roll. If you’ve been backstage you’ve seen bizarre behavior.” The movie tells the story of an aging but resourceful rock manager –four decades older than the character they created for Murray on SNL. “It hasn’t gone well… Bill jumped in immediately.”

 

In the movie, the manager goes on a music tour in Afghanistan and comes upon a gifted Muslim teenage girl who sings only Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), and enters her to compete on the TV show, “Afghan Star.” She’s inspired by a young Pashtun woman who defied the rules to compete on the show. The film has a classic rock soundtrack (producer Steve Bing called in favors) including Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Steven Stills, Neil Young and Kid Rock. “It’s not out yet,” said Murray. “I’ve seen it. It’s really good. I would not be appearing in public if I didn’t think it was really good.”
With Murray leading the cast, landing director Barry Levinson and a starry ensemble was a breeze, although no one got their price on this. Bruce Willis agreed to play the grumpy rock star even if he had to share a trailer with Murray and work in 116 degree heat. Zooey Deschanel and Kate Hudson also get to exercise their pipes, and Danny McBride and Scott Caan jumped on board. Murray had enjoyed working with Willis on “Moonrise Kingdom.” Willis eventually told Murray he had worked as a slave intern on SNL: “His job was to refill the M& M and peanut bowls in the actors’ dressing rooms. Years later, after a few tequilas, he told him, ‘only you and Gilda were nice to me.'”

Murray had a “blast” playing Lanz: “I have to cheer Van Morrison up, this moody Irishman from the north, on a long ride to play on St. Patricks Day on Irving Place. It’s kind of hilarious, he looks like a hockey goalie, he’s a growler, he plays 45 minutes and no second, there’s a time clock on the stage.”

They filmed in Morocco for Afghanistan. “We were driving around during Ramadan,” Murray said. “There was no traffic. It was a good time. There’s less public drinking in Morocco. The people are really nice, it’s a beautiful place, great beach towns —there’s off-road stuff if you want to do that.”

He described going up to the roof of an old building, looking at the stars and listening to ancient music that folks had been playing for centuries. “I was listening to a two man band, a four string instrument and a drum, playing something I’d never heard in my life, on top of the city overlooking the market, the stars above, to a rhythm thousands of years old. I’m in the actors’ union, a guy from Illinois, I’m able to listen to something that has touched people for many centuries. It’s our responsibility to take what we’re given and transform yourself and pass it on.”

Murray enjoyed engaging with the fans. “I go to work with a knife strapped to my leg, which means people will show up and know their lines,” he responded to a question about his acting method. “Don’t mess with me! Try to be as relaxed as you can be, that makes people feel comfortable. I came from Chicago, Second City Theater, where I was taught not to get tense when working, to think about making the other person look good so he won’t have to worry about himself. Then everyone relaxes.”

He revealed that he attended the last Grateful Dead concert in Chicago, hanging out with Jenny Lewis and Woody Harrelson.  On the Coppola movie he worked with many musicians, including Lewis, Buster Poindexter, Dave Johansson, Rashida Jones, Phoenix and Miley Cyrus. “I can say officially, Miley Cyrus is good!” he said. “I was not particularly convinced, she is really fucking good! She can really sing! I thought she was a knucklehead crazy girl you could go on road trip with who maybe didn’t have ID. She floored everybody, Paul Shaffer and George Clooney. I don’t want to hear anymore badmouthing of Miley Cyrus. She’s a pro.”

To the question of going after the role of Han Solo in a prequel, he said: “It’s a high moment for me. I am working out now in hopes of getting new things, a lot of swimming and pilates. I work hard at it.”

“What’s your favorite role?” asked a girl wearing a “Ghostbusters” shirt.

“Well, once upon time I did save the city of New York. When I had the coolest damn car to drive around Manhattan.”

At the end Murray sent his love back to Hall H, admitting he didn’t know if he would fit in at Comic-Con: “I have a taser with me. I didn’t know what to expect. I honestly didn’t know what my place was before I came. I’d seen TV coverage of what’s happening, but I must say it feels wonderful to be in this room. I have a lot of dress-up outfits at home I would surprise you with. I feel comfortable in this room. I don’t know if it’s passion, but I like when people get excited about something. There are a lot of people who don’t get excited about much at all.”

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