7 major movies Bill Murray turned down — or just didn’t pick up the phone for

He gets all of his offers via a 1-800 number he’s set up

Projects he turned down
It’s always fun to think about how a famous role would have been handled if another superstar actor had landed it instead.

And it turns out there are a lot of roles Bill Murray had in his grasp.

In the new book “The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray,” author Robert Schnakenberg looks back on the legend’s career in glowing, but brief, snippets, including those projects he turned down.

In some cases, he "passed" on roles because he just didn’t feel like checking his voicemail at the time. (Murray no longer has an agent or manager and gets all of his offers via a 1-800 number he’s set up.)

Here are some of the roles that have come Murray’s way over the years.


The directors of the iconic 1980s comedy, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, reached out to Murray to play the lead role, Ted Striker. According to the book, Murray turned it down. (The filmmakers also went to David Letterman.) Murray later said that “Airplane!” was an example of a project he passed on but knew would be a hit.

“Bad Santa”

Murray was director Terry Zwigoff’s first choice to play despicable strip-mall Santa/safe cracker, Willie. Zwigoff said that he even got a verbal agreement from Murray. But when it was time to sign a contract the actor was MIA.

“I was told by one of the producers that he really wanted to do it,” Zwigoff said. “I left several messages on his answering machine, but after a few weeks of hearing nothing we eventually moved on.” The role went to Billy Bob Thornton.


It's hard to believe, but according to the book, Murray was briefly considered by Tim Burton to play the Dark Knight in his 1989 movie. Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, and Pierce Brosnan were also in contention. The role eventually went to Michael Keaton. Could you even imagine Murray as Batman?

“Cape Fear”

Though Martin Scorsese directed the 1991 remake of “Cape Fear,” it was Steven Spielberg who originally got the project off the ground and was to be its director. His first choice to play crazed ex-con Max Cady was Murray.

But eventually Spielberg bowed out, passing the reins to Scorsese, who brought along his buddy Robert De Niro for the role. De Niro would receive a Best Actor nomination for his performance as Cady.

“Clint Eastwood’s never made World War II comedy”

The book recounts how in the early 1980s Murray was fixated with making a movie with Clint Eastwood after seeing him star with Jeff Bridges in the 1974 film “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.” Specifically, Murray was taken by how he thought Bridges stole so many scenes from Eastwood.

“I could kill in one of those movies,” Murray said once. “I could get in one of those. There’s lots of fun action stuff to do. There’s some funny repartee. You get some jokes. The sidekick gets all the funny stuff. And then you get killed so that Clint can avenge you.”

When the two connected, Eastwood offered him a role in a World War II comedy he was developing. But the talks never evolved into anything as Murray had just done “Stripes” and didn’t want to do another war comedy. Murray and Eastwood still have not worked together.

“Raiders of the Lost Ark”

That’s right. Murray was one of several actors considered to play Indiana Jones — about as hard to imagine as him playing Batman.

“Rain Man”

According to the film’s screenwriter, Barry Morrow, Murray was offered the part of autistic savant Raymond Babbitt. Eventually Dustin Hoffman took the role, which earned him an Oscar win for Best Actor in 1989.
Murray has only been nominated once for an Oscar (best actor for 2003's "Lost in Translation").


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