What can I say? Bill Murray is Bill Murray is Bill Murray. He had been in the script for SPACE JAM since the beginning but hadn’t been signed even though we were in production. The producers were close to panic but eventually Jordan made some personal calls to Murray and he consented.
Ivan Reitman asked me (insisted) to be on the set with Murray (because of GHOSTBUSTERS?). Okay. Mistake! Murray shows up in an absurd wardrobe, including a ridiculous hat. Ivan, panicked, asks what I think and I say, ‘Two choices…go with it…or risk a time-consuming argument and get a poor performance.’ It was the same argument as the famous one in RAGING BULL, ‘If you win you win and if you lose you win.’ I also said, ‘I’m just happy he showed.’
The wardrobe always gets a laugh.
Later in the shoot Murray asked me how we were doing the green screen stuff. I explained that I had put together a troupe of actor/comedians in green suits and each had a character, Bugs, Daffy, etc. Murray had been used to acting against script supervisors and seeing marks on the greenscreen. He was fascinated with this solution and asked Ivan if he could be in a later scene with the characters. We quickly wrote/improvised a scene for the end of the movie and then did a quick scene with Murray and Larry Bird to set it up.
Murray was the identical character on and off the set. We would be chatting off camera and he would then go into the setup with the same attitude, no difference in his wit, charm, and humor. Years later, I heard that most of his performance in LOST IN TRANSLATION was improvised and not really in the script and that he should have shared the Academy Award for best screenplay for that film.
I could believe that.