On April 18, Searchlight paused production on Aziz Ansari’s directorial debut “Being Mortal” after a complaint was filed against star Bill Murray over inappropriate behavior. According to Puck reporter Eriq Gardner, Searchlight is no longer making the film.
While there were no details about the allegations, some speculated that Murray’s co-star Keke Palmer was the victim of the alleged inappropriate behavior. But according to Puck, Murray was “particularly friendly with one female production staffer,” whose name was withheld from the story. Gardner wrote:
This much younger woman, Murray felt, had been flirting with him. So at one moment when the two were in close proximity near a bed that was part of the production, Murray started kissing her body and straddling her. It was perhaps an unclear bit of physical comedy, but one that was unannounced. She couldn’t move because he outweighed her, she alleged. Then, he kissed her on the mouth, although when he did so, both Murray and the woman were wearing masks, owing to Covid protocols.
During an interview with CNBC later in April, Bill Murray said his behavior was “so insensitive,” while not going into specifics.
The woman, according to Puck, interpreted Murray’s behavior as sexual. Her complaint on the Searchlight production made its way to Disney brass, with Searchlight allegedly, in an unsigned memo, telling cast and crew that the movie was suspended.
According to the report, Murray is keenly aware that his behavior affected many people, including those who lost their jobs. He worked with the staffer in mediation and came to a settlement, according to Puck, of more than $100,000. However, Searchlight parent Disney did not restart the half-finished production.
As Gardner noted, “While [Searchlight] still enjoys plenty of creative latitude to chase awards, Disney tends not to tolerate this sort of controversy—especially when box office is so challenged for specialty movies, and the ‘win’ here is likely landing a prize-winner on Hulu.”
IndieWire has reached out to representatives for Bill Murray and his accuser and at Searchlight Pictures for comment.
Based on Atul Gawande’s nonfiction book “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” the film started principal photography March 28 and was reportedly halfway through production prior to the allegation against Murray. The film was set for a 2023 release date.
Most recently the movie was shopped on the Cannes market, with Rolling Stone reporting the film could be seeking a new studio home.