The actor talks about solitude, big families, his temperamental reputation – and why he loves to live in the moment
The last time I met Bill Murray things got rather physical rather quickly. It was the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscars party and I was about to leave, bloated with celebrity sightings and starting to suffer from indigestion. But as I walked out I saw a man arrive who made me turn around and go right back in.
By now, Bill Murray has long bypassed mere celebrity status to become something close to a spiritual symbol, a guru of zen, and his frequent appearances among the masses (in a karaoke bar! In a couple’s engagement photo!) are reported on the internet with the excitement of sightings of the messiah. Ever since his pitch perfect performances in 90s classics Groundhog Day and Rushmore, he has enjoyed a career renaissance, shucking off his well-hewn 80s comedy persona to become one of the most delightful dramatic actors around in films such as Lost in Translation and The Royal Tenenbaums. But to me, he will always be the wisecracking rumpled cynic he played in the early comedies I grew up with: Scrooged, Stripes, Tootsie, Meatballs and, of course, Ghostbusters. Watching him stride past was like watching my childhood walk by. I failed to play it cool.
“Mr Murray, my name’s Hadley Freeman –” I began, expecting him, at most, to nod, say hi and walk away. I was wrong.
“Oh, there, there, nobody’s perfect,” he bellowed. “Come here, you look ill.”
He then picked me up and, while giving me an enormous bear hug, swung me around the room.
“This woman’s very ill! She needs a doctor! She’s ill!” he shouted.
Eventually he put me down, rumpled my hair and disappeared into the party. As I walked towards the bar for a steadying drink, I thought how my encounter with Murray had felt weird, unforgettable, unique and surprisingly aggressive. Just like, in fact, the 30-year-old comedy performances I still love him for.