Instead of a crown, Bill Murray wore a hunting cap, but the actor and comedian received a royal welcome at a question and answer session Friday as part of the Toronto Film Festival’s “Bill Murray Day” celebration.
Fans flocked into the TIFF Bell Lightbox, spilling out into the aisles, to watch as the actor riffed, reminisced and philosophized alongside “Ghostbusters” director Ivan Reitman and “Scrooged” screenwriter Mitch Glazer, ostensibly the evening’s moderator, but with Murray there’s no riding herd.
They came wearing proton packs, ghostbusters outfits and t-shirts bearing Murray catchphrases from films such as “Groundhog Day” and “Caddyshack.” There was even a baby outfitted in a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man costume — “That’s a good looking baby,” Murray deadpanned.
He entered, at his insistence, singing along to Prince’s “Raspberry Beret.”
There were gifts too. One audience member gave Murray a drawing he said he’d cooked up while waiting in line. Another woman handed him a red rose. Murray generously accepted the tributes, although he did ask if anyone had any cash awards.
“No one goes home empty handed from a Q&A,” Murray said.
But the actor made it clear he wasn’t letting the adoration get to his head when asked how it felt to have a day named after him.
“I get to park anywhere,” he said, before telling the crowd that he mostly spent the day in his room hearing about the temperature.
“People kept coming up and saying things like, ‘It’s real humid out there. And it’s going to get more humid,'” said Murray. “That’s what my day’s been like. It’s mostly been a weather report.”
So intense was the love for Murray on this his day, that the crowd, which came to watch greatest hits such as “Ghostbusters,” “Groundhog Day” and “Stripes” on the big screen, laughed along with him even when he mistakenly referred to a generously proportioned female questioner as a full figured gentleman.
“You’re just bringing more to the party, as far as I’m concerned,” Murray said. She did not, it must be said, seem offended.
Bill Murray Day will close with the world premiere of the actor’s new comedy “St. Vincent,” but many in the crowd were more interested in hearing about past triumphs. To that end, there were dollops about Murray’s most famous roles. “Stripes” originally had been intended to be a Cheech & Chong stoners in uniform comedy. And Murray said he had tried to deploy a Wisconsin accent as the Badger in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” before director Wes Anderson nixed it.
“Ghostbusters” fans were also well sated. Murray and Reitman revealed that Dan Akyroyd’s original script had been set in space with multiple sets of paranormal hunters, before the director decided the film should be re-configured around “the idea of guys going into business set in New York today.”
Murray said throughout filming he was so confident that “Ghostbusters” was going to be a success that he took to showing up late for work.
“I knew that I was going to be rich and famous and be able to wear red clothes and not give a damn,” said Murray, who was sporting red slacks.
There were somber moments too, as Reitman and Murray paused to remember collaborators who had died, such as Harold Ramis.
“There was an elegance to the way he dealt with people,” said Murray, remembering how he was able to bring comedians with disparate styles such as Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield together seamlessly in “Caddyshack.”
What was clear was that, for this crowd at least, Murray has passed from star to icon. He is now a figure of effortless cool who is sought out as much for his take it as it comes approach to life as he is for his on-screen affectless brilliance.
“You can do the very best you can when you’re relaxed,” Murray advised fans. “The more fun I had the better I did.”