Bill Murray on 'Ghostbusters': 'It paid for my children's college education'

Leading star-studded congo lines and braving the pouring rain to greet fans, Bill Murray was a hit at the Toronto International Film Festival this year.

Not only did Bill have a namesake day dedicated in his honour, but his new film, St Vincent – costarring Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy – was widely praised by critics, even receiving a standing ovation at its world premiere.

The best of the 2014 TIFF red carpet

Now in theatres, the film follows an unlikely friendship between a curmudgeonly old man, played by a perfectly cast Bill, and the young boy (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) who becomes his new neighbour.

While in town at a St Vincent press conference, the 64-year-old actor dished, in his typical deadpan style, on everything from the worst neighbours he's ever had to re-watching Ghostbusters 30 years on.

Photo © Getty/George Pimentel

There seems to be connecting theme in some of your most famous performances (Lost In Translation, Rushmore, St Vincent) of a surprising, cross-generational friendship. Is that something you respond to?
I don’t know if there’s a connecting theme in my work, but I’m glad that you have found it. Wouldn’t you like to have one of these in your life? [Laughs]I’m sorry, it’s early! These kinds of things are interesting. Sure, I’m an older fella, and with a director like Wes Anderson of Ted Melfiit's sort of automatic that I would fulfill some role of a neighbour or a father. But it’s kind of great because I end up working with all kinds of people with talent; it’s nice.

And what do you think of your young costar Jaeden Lieberher's performance, especially that long speech at the end?
What kind of a director gives a 10-year-old a four-page speech and then shoots 50 angles of it? Only a first-time director would do something so foolish. Do they have child labour laws? I don’t think I would’ve done really well with four pages and he did an extraordinary job. That speech is great, what he did.

It’s been 30 years since you did Ghostbusters. That movie changed your career. What do you remember from those days?
Well, Ghostbusters paid for my children’s college education, which means that they can flunk out much earlier than they otherwise would have. That was such a big experience for me, more than I could handle. I had to leave town and get out of the country. But it also had a great effect on my life in terms of what I could do. It meant that I could be comfortable and concentrate on other parts of life.

Bill Murray in the 1984 film Ghostbusters.Photo © Getty

What was the biggest difference between doing movies now and back then?
Back then we didn’t take movies so seriously. You could do them for fun, because we liked the work. And we had a lot of fun working with that group – Harold Ramis, Danny and Ivan – these are all just people you would love to be trapped with for a couple of months.

Have you watched Ghostbusters again recently?
It’s on a loop in my house. If you have a television, it’s on any day of the week. There are people in it I don’t see that often anymore, and if I see them on the screen, I’ll watch it just because I haven’t seen them.

A lot of people are like Vincent in both Boston and Queens – the guy that’s broken down and hangs out at the bar. Is there anyone in your life that helped influence this character?
Someone will say to me, “How much of your grandfather was in this?” And I’m going, “Oh my god,” because my grandfather is in this. My grandfather was a really funny guy. He had false teeth and would pop them out at babies and make them cry and stuff. Fantastic family, great family. My brother, Brian, is in there too. You just pick it up - I think we all pick it up, stuff from people we’ve seen and witnessed. Any day of the week, you can find that guy walking in Queens or Brooklyn. They’re there.

Bill braved the rain to greet fans at TIFF. Photo © Getty/George Pimentel

You were clearly touched after the premiere screening. What were you feeling in that moment?
I think that we were all moved by the audience’s response. We had all seen the movie in one stage or another on its way to being finished. But the final work that Ted [director Ted Melfi] did on it – he really cleaned it up and it really rolled. It affected me. It worked. We all got emotional from it. I was crying, and as I say, “If the lights come up and I’m crying, my career is finished.”

Did you have emotional moments while you were filming?
Yeah, there were moments that were strong. I really enjoyed singing the song at the end of the movie – that was a fun day. There were a couple days like that.

Have you ever had a really horrifying neighbour that you’ve had to deal with?
I once had a whole clan of peacocks living near me. When peacocks mate in the summer they go all night long and it sounds like crying babies. It’s the most disturbing thing. If you have babies, it’s pretty terrible – you both wake up in the night and it goes on for weeks.

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