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Bill Murray

Lost in Translation

When Sofia Coppola interviewed Bill Murray for a chic magazine earlier this year to promote “Lost in Translation,” the article ran with a photo of a beaming Coppola with her arms wrapped around a bemused Murray.

“Who doesn’t love Bill Murray? Who wouldn’t want to hug Bill Murray?” Coppola asks.

She’s probably too young to remember that it wasn’t always that way. At least one industry insider who remembers the early ’80s, when Murray toplined comedies like “Stripes,” recalls that the “SNL” vet made enemies in those days.

If Coppola is to be believed, though, that wild Murray is long gone. During “Lost in Translation’s” Tokyo shoot, she says, Murray impressed her with his unselfishness and commitment.

Many of Murray’s scenes with Scarlett Johansson seem improvised, but in fact they were tightly scripted. “Because he’s a good actor it seems improvised,” says Coppola. When she did call on him to improvise, though, he was so funny that they lost takes because the crew’s laughter spoiled the sound.

Both Coppola and producer Ross Katz marvel at the memory of shooting a more serious scene, though, when Murray’s character, fading movie star Bob Harris, talks about life as a parent. “I really felt like he was talking about something personal and real to him, that he was sharing vulnerable, personal side,” Coppola says. “I was really struck by that.”

Katz calls it a privilege just to have watched the scene being shot. “I’ll never forget seeing him do that,” says Katz. “It’s unbelievably moving in his eyes and his face. It’s a guy who’s lived a life and he brings that. He makes it feel like that moment is so effortless, but there’s so much going on in him, in his eyes, in his delivery. There’s so much humanity.

“Bill Murray was one of my heroes. When his light shines on you there’s nothing like it.”

Coming attractions: “Garfield: The Movie,” “The Life Aquatic,” “The Squid and the Whale”

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