Open Road Films’ new comedy “Rock the Kasbah,” starring Bill Murray, Kate Hudson and Bruce Willis, debuted at the United Artist Theater in East Hampton, N.Y., on Friday night for a special sneak preview. The screening — presented by the Peggy Siegal Company and hosted by famed singer Jimmy Buffett and his wife Jane — was a crowd pleaser. Guests raved about Murray’s funny yet heartfelt performance as a washed-up rock manager.
But it was the post-screening after party at the Blue Parrot Bar & Grill that drew the most buzz. A star-studded guest list that included Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and president Bill Clinton joined the film’s cast and Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg and Jason Cassidy to celebrate the pic and enjoy a casual nightcap. All eyes were on Clinton. The 42nd president of the United States received the most attention and selfie requests from the partygoers. Even the musicians and actors seemed to be starstruck.
“It’s very exciting that the president is here,” Murray told Variety at the party. “It’s an honor to meet him and get to talk to him.”
Murray greeted Clinton with a firm handshake and shared a lighthearted conversation. The two posed for photos and then Willis and his wife Emma introduced themselves to the president. Clinton made his way to the Blue Parrot’s outdoor dinning area where McCartney, Springsteen and Buffett stood in a circle socializing among a crowd of partygoers. Clinton joined in on the conversation with the prolific musicians and briefly chatted. Meanwhile, Mellencamp was in a corner socializing with some friends and Bon Jovi worked the room, conversing with all the guests.
Throughout the star-stuffed evening, Variety caught up with the cast of “Rock the Kasbah.” Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson helms the film written by Murray’s longtime pal Mitch Glazer. The movie is inspired by true events from an Afghan reality television show competition similar to “American Idol” and based on one woman who had the courage to sing in public despite facing death threats and being ostracized by her family and friends. With a $15 million budget, the film was made in 28 days and shot in Morocco with temperatures over 110 degrees.
“I wrote this story specially for Bill and I’ve pretty much written for him my whole life,” said Glazer, who first wrote “Scrooged” for Murray in 1987. “We are dear friends and I wanted to write something that would show Bill’s humor and heart and all the things that he can do. That was the goal. Whether I did that or not is up to other people.”
Murray — who declined to talk about his gig in the new “Ghostbusters” reboot by saying, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone about it” — was drawn to “Rock the Kasbah’s” storyline.
“I liked that it’s not a political or a military story. It’s much more of a human story,” said Murray. “I was interested in the story from the beginning. We spent years getting it made and I liked the way it turned out. All the actors are so good. I think this is as good as anyone in this film has ever been. Kate Hudson, Bruce and Zooey [Deschanel] are amazing in this movie. Everyone did their very best and it just jumped up the level. Every day we out-shot the script. That’s cool.”
Willis, who plays an on-edge mercenary, took on the supporting role in order to act with Murray.
“I only worked five days on the film and one of the main reasons I chose the part is to work with Bill Murray,” said Willis, dressed down in jeans and Nike sneakers. “I got to bounce off of Billy Murray, which made shooting in the desert a ball. I never really liked deserts, but he made it fun. He makes me laugh and he’s a comic genius. He’s a funny guy on-and-off the screen. I’d love to work with him again.”
“Rock the Kasbah” opens Oct. 23 nationwide.