Last February I had the total treat of attending the Berlinale. It has become my favorite festival: great movies, a city that hasn’t been plastic-wrapped and priced-out like New York, and a cross-section of people from around the world truly interested in film punctuated by rounds of drink and great food.
Berlin still has that partially ruined, my regiment leaves at dawn feel.
While Fox held their The Grand Budapest Hotel (available on DVD as of yesterday) at the legendary Hotel Adlon (Yes, where the protagonist of the Philip Kerr novels, Bernie Gunther, worked as a house detective), Bill Murray showed up for the first roundtable of the morning — and then vanished with an I’ll be right back. He lied. Fortunately, I was there for that half hour when Murray regaled American press with stories and was in a buoyant mood following the rapturous reception the opening night film received. This interview first appeared on Yahoo Movies:
This year, Bill Murray is a happy man. Last year: not so much.
The 63-year-old comedy icon is a supporting-but-memorable character in Wes Anderson’s wickedly delicious movie about a randy, refined concierge named Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) at a grand European hotel.
As M. Ivan in “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Murray plays concierge colleague to Feinnes’s Gustave — who becomes the center of intrigue following the suspicious death of one of his ancient, wealthy mistresses (Tilda Swinton) in a way that would have tickled Agatha Christie. At one point, Gustave calls on M. Ivan for support in his flight from villains zealously played by Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody.
Watch Bill Murray in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ Clip:
In case this fun fact has eluded you, Murray has appeared in every single Anderson full-length feature since 1998’s “Rushmore.” That’s seven films, counting “Grand Budapest.” The actor, also known for Wes’s “Rushmore,” as well as “Groundhog Day” and “Ghostbusters,” is clearly in his comfort zone amid the Anderson band of regular irregulars (which includes Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, and Adrien Brody).
We caught up with Murray as he arrived at Berlin’s legendary Hotel Adlon last month to discuss “Grand Budapest.” He exuded the bouncy energy of a game show host. With a dark knit cap perched on his long, wild wisps of gray, he looked very elfin for a guy who is 6-foot-2.
Mr. Congeniality hasn’t always been Murray’s M.O. As recently as 2012, when making the rounds for “Hyde Park on Hudson,” his prickly alter ego surfaced as critics fell on his casting against type as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The role that had begun the season with Oscar hopes, ended taking away a Golden Globe nomination.
But last month, when discussing “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which was received quite warmly at the Berlin Film Festival with an opening night slot and a Silver Bear Award for Anderson, Murray was a total pussycat… until he pulled a Cheshire Cat and disappeared completely.
Murray’s remarks about his own participation in Anderson’s genius movie were modest. “I didn’t have much to do with it. I just showed up and did what I was told. But it’s good, isn’t it?”
[Related: Critic’s Pick: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’]
When we responded that we thought it was Anderson’s best, Murray warmed to the topic: “There’s no doubt about it: It’s pretty impressive. And that’s quite a vision to be able to see all that and achieve it.”
Since Murray’s role is relatively contained, we wondered what it was like in all those hours between takes, surrounded by Anderson, Fiennes, Swinton, Dafoe, Brody, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, and Saoirse Ronan, to name a few members of the sprawling ensemble cast. The short answer: It was great, great fun.
The actor leaned back in his chair and prepared to lay down a story: “Willem [Dafoe] said it was like the actor’s retirement home. We sort of had this small hotel in Gorlitz. It was all us. We were the only people in it.”
And for those who failed geography, we prodded: Where exactly is Gorlitz? “It’s on the border of Poland and Germany,” Murray explained. “It’s a town that’s been Polish, German, Polish, German, Prussian, German, Polish… over the last couple hundred years. We walked over to Poland. And it was closed.”
From there, Murray rhapsodized about his time in Gorlitz, which sounded just a little bit like summer camp — an experience at the center of Anderson’s last film, “Moonrise Kingdom.” The actor continued, “So we all were in this hotel. We had the, we owned the hotel. We were in the old part of Gorlitz which was really beautiful. They shoot a lot of movies there because it’s intact. It’s a part of Germany that wasn’t affected by the war. There are these beautiful, impressive clock towers that are 500 and 600 years old.”
And that setting, far away from the cell-phone culture and disposable gratifications of the typical Hollywood set, made for some very good times for the cast and crew. “We had this old, small hotel there. You’d pad down in the morning, you’d have breakfast. It was our restaurant. It was our hotel. And then you’d sort of walk across – ‘Hi, good morning!’ ‘Good morning.’”
Murray continued his tale, “On the other side of the lobby was the makeup and hair place. So, you’d say, ‘Excuse me, hold on a second, I’m gonna go get another croissant,’ you know, and you’d march back over there, you know, all the time like in your slippers and a robe, like a bunch of old men dying in a hotel.”
Given the remote nature of Gorlitz, the communal fun spilled onto the quaint streets of Germany’s easternmost town in the state of Saxony. “We were on a little town square with a church at the end of it and there was a bar across the way. It was about 40 steps, but it was snow, all snow the whole time we were there. And if you were awake, you know, you’re in the wrong time zone, you’re jet-lagged, you just kind of wake up and go, ‘Eh,’ and you’d walk over there. There’d be someone from the movie over there drinking. (At any hour of the day there’d be someone drinking.) Like, ‘Oh, hi.’ You could just roll in there and talk and listen to music and there was always something to do.”
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And there were also restaurants. “There were only a handful of places that we went to but they were all really interesting. The restaurant had great food and it had like nine separate rooms in it that you could just go hide in. It was like a hide-and-go-seek town, the whole thing. It was nice.”
While Murray’s part was short — Ralph Fiennes has the largest chunk of the movie, along with newcomer Tony Revolori, who plays Lobby Boy and acolyte to Gustave’s concierge — he stuck around for the camaraderie. “I was only there a couple weeks,” he confessed, “but we laughed about it yesterday like, why do people work with Wes and I said, ‘Well, it’s long hours and little pay.’ And so, and that’s sort of true. But you get this great experience of going to these places.”
Gorlitz is not the farthest Murray has traveled with Anderson. For their film “The Darjeeling Limited,” Murray went all the way to India. Of that trip, he said, “I was supposed to have like three days of work which I got done in a day and a half and then I was supposed to work one other day — and I did — and it was 45 minutes. But I got to go to India twice and spend like a month in India just hanging around for these couple of days of work. So you get a great experience. You get to see and do things.”
And that journey, between moviemaking and real life, between Murray and Anderson, continued through the morning and into the night. After Murray spent a relaxed and generous 30 minutes delighting American journalists in Berlin, he played hide-and-seek with the European press waiting nearby.
Rumor has it that Murray told a publicist he was just stepping out for a minute — and then disappeared. That night, Murray and Anderson allegedly hopped the first-class, five-hour train to Prague to check out that elegant, old-world city.
Who knows: Anything can happen when you’re deep in Anderson-ville. Come for the movie. Stay for the adventure.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is now available on DVD.