The Difficulty of Casting Bill Murray Is First Finding Him

He's agreed to play FDR in a new movie, if he bothers calling the studio back

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Tuesday's report on New York magazine's Vulture blog that Bill Murray would be playing Franklin Roosevelt in director Roger Michell's adaptation of the BBC radio play Hyde Park On the Hudson didn't come as a surprise to Deadline's Mike Fleming.. "For days, [I'd] heard that Focus [had] been approaching cast and basically telling them that Murray will do the picture," a claim he says Focus sources repeatedly denied. Not that he blamed them. In Hollywood, there's nobody tougher to do business with than Bill Murray.

Stories about the actor's unpredictable and uncommunicative side have been around for years. Lost In Translation director Sofia Coppola said it was a "huge relief" that Murray even showed up on the set the first day. Harold Ramis worked with Murray on six films, but when he wanted to offer him a cameo in The Ice Harvest in 2005, he had to give the script to his brother. Following Murray's departure from last year's How Do You Know during preproduction, director James L. Brooks characterized the actor as "clinically personal."

Fleming traces the trouble back to 2003, when Murray dropped CAA and started operating without an agent. He's kept an attorney to handle his business affairs, but Fleming's never been able to reach him for comment. "I can't get past his secretary," he explained. As a result, the glimmer of a definitive yes or no from Murray has the ability to drive entire studios bonkers. Fleming recalls receiving an email from somebody who claimed  to be Murray after Deadline published an article on the stalled Ghostbusters sequel. "The sender," Fleming wrote, "said he planned the read the script shortly, and respond." Was it even really Murray? The thought that it could be "made some corners of Sony Pictures optimistic," even though Murray recently told Howard Stern he still hasn't read the script.

When he does want to work, he just "shows up on movie sets" as a favor to friends. According to Fleming, it was his Kingpin co-starstar Woody Harelson who "coaxed [Murray] into playing what was a wonderful surprise cameo" as himself in Zombieland. There's no word yet on which Murray pal thought he'd be a great FDR.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.