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Bill Murray Joins the Band at ‘Rock the Kasbah’ Party

Wherever Bill Murray goes, there he is. Murray isn’t just one of the most acclaimed actors alive; he’s also a notorious free-spirit, one seemingly allergic to ever being bored.

So when Murray decided to join the cover band playing at Monday’s after-party for the New York premiere of “Rock the Kasbah” for a spirited rendition of the Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin,” it was both one of those moments everyone who attended will talk about it forever, and just another day in the life of Murray.

Later, Bruce Willis, Murray’s co-star in Kasbah, joined the band, Chevy Chevis Entertainment, for a run through of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” while partygoers, including Zooey Deschanel, Sofia Coppola, Fred Durst and Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg looked on as they were served crab cakes and tomato soup at Good Units in the basement of the Hudson New York City.

Jennifer Lopez, Mitch Glazer, Zooey Deschanel, Bill Murray, Kate Hudson, Barry Levinson and Bruce Willis at Open Road’s “Rock the Kasbah” premiere. After the screening, the stars joined guests at the after-party, sponsored by Belvedere Vodka.
Stephen Lovekin/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

At the premiere at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square, writer and producer Mitch Glazer, who first met Murray in 1977 through John Belushi and who also worked on Murray’s upcoming Netflix special “A Very Murray Christmas,” told Variety that he was inspired to write “Rock the Kasbah” for his friend because “he’d done three or four Oscar-nominated, beautiful movies, but I wanted to write something bigger and with more humor,” he said. “To me, it felt like a gunslinger who wasn’t pulling out his guns. He’s the funniest man alive, but he just decided not to be funny for a while.”

“Rock the Kasbah” follows the adventures of a past-his-prime, low-level rock promoter who ends up in Afghanistan on a USO tour, runs afoul of gun dealers and ends up working with the first woman to sing on “Afghan Star.” Part of the film is inspired by the real story of the first Afghanistan woman to sing on the “American Idol”-like show, while other parts are taken from Glazer’s “misspent youth” as a music journalist for Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy! “I wanted to talk about the guy who never made it to the level of Gram Parsons,” Glazer said.

Though director Barry Levinson had never worked with Murray before, he told Variety that as soon as he read the script he thought of the actor. “It doesn’t have jokes,” he said of the movie, “but it needs someone with a certain sensibility, to go between the comedy and the drama. We don’t want it to be goofy things in a far off land. We’re trying to navigate what the humanity of the characters. That is what is at the heart of it.”

By chance, Levinson saw the “Afghan Star” documentary before he received Glazer’s script, and he knew the singing competition aspect would allow him to tell a story about the Middle East in a fresh way. “There’s a natural instinct, people want to use their talents and be in front of people,” he says. “They have the same desires; the language is different, but there’s a commonality. How can we explore that and do it in a way that allows for humor to be part of it, rather than do it in a very serious way? I like to blend the two.”

Open Road opens “Rock the Kasbah” Oct. 23.

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