Bill Murray couldn’t care less if people think he’s obnoxious. In a 1988 interview that PBS recently animated as part of its Blank on Blank series, he told journalist T.J. English the secret of his jerky success. “There are a lot of actors that are more talented than me at Second City who quit it before they even got to a paying status,” he said. “I had no other option. I’m still just like a punk kid, really. I’m just an obnoxious guy who can make it appear charming. That’s what they pay me to do.”
Although the interview took place around the release of Scrooged – almost a decade after the comedian became a breakout star, thanks to Saturday Night Live and the summer-camp comedy classic Meatballs – the actor joked that he still felt like a young hotshot. “People usually go through a bad period when they first get successful,” he said. “You’re new … people treat you differently, and what happens is you start taking that seriously and then you start becoming an ass and then they treat you like an ass.”
When English asked Murray to name a time in his life he felt things were out of control, the actor said, “Right now.” He also joked that he could no longer act like a jerk, such as jumping into traffic and saying, “There’s a Mercedes that’s got to get through here,” because people would say, “Hey, look, Meatballs.”
Murray’s current project is Rock the Kasbah, a comedy about a beleaguered rock-star manager trying to keep his career going. “I’ve been writing for Bill’s voice since 1987,” screenwriter Mitch Glazer, who also wrote Scrooged, told Rolling Stone this month. “I know what he likes and how he sounds and how he reacts – so when he gets the script, he thinks he’s improvised it, which is the ultimate compliment.”
Blank on Blank animates archival interviews with musicians, actors and other notable people. Past interview subjects have included Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Tupac Shakur and Jim Morrison.