Because it was “Bill Murray Day” at the Toronto Film Festival, the man of the hour paraded into the Friday premiere of his film “St. Vincent” in a crown and sash, and ended the night at the Weinstein Co. party bopping to hits from Sam Smith and Sia. Murray received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the packed crowd, who laughed, cried and broke out into applause throughout the screening. In the midst of festival excitement, at least, it was a sign that “St. Vincent,” which plays like a cross between “Silver Linings Playbook” and “As Good As It Gets,” is a Oscar contender and could land Murray his first best-actor nomination since 2003’s “Lost in Translation.”
At the end of the film, Murray joined his cast — including Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy — as well as first-time director Ted Melfi for a Q&A and the laughs continued to roll. Melfi tried to explain how he got Murray to star in his film as a grumpy alcoholic who befriends the kid of his next door neighbor (played by Jaeden Lieberher). “I know that the story is well documented,” Melfi said. “He’s hard to reach. I think Bill really finds what Bill is supposed to do.”
To which Murray interjected: “Because he couldn’t get Jack Nicholson. It’s well documented.” Murray continued that he was “proud of the work that everybody did,” and he was emotional from seeing the finished product for the first time.
Watts plays a pregnant Russian hooker in the movie, complete with a prosthetic belly. “It was very scary for me to take on something like this,” Watts said. “Look around me! I don’t really belong in this crew. People think of me as a not-funny person. My friend Harvey [Weinstein] called me, and said, ‘Do you want to try something different? And I did.” Watts’ character straddles Murray in a sex scene, which made the actress even more anxious. “I was terrified about the idea of being all over you, Bill,” she said. “I thought there’s only way to do this. And that’s to terrify him. I just worked on my moves and my accent and my underwear.”
McCarthy, who plays the neighbor’s mom, had to put herself on tape for Weinstein to persuade him she could pull off a more character part that doesn’t include any of her trademark slapstick comedy. “I read the script and absolutely loved it, and I thought I’m doing everything I possibly can to be in it,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, I never thought I would get a chance to work with Bill Murray, and it’s still kind of dreamy.”
A member of the audience asked Lieberher, who is only 11, if he was familiar with Murray’s work. “I definitely knew who he was,” Lieberher said. “I love Bill Murray movies. Everybody does.” And with that, the crowd broke out into a collective awww.