- Peter Riegert, National Lampoon's Animal House, 1978. Harold Ramis wrote Boone for Chevy Chase’s replacement on Saturday Night Live but Bill refused it.“I’m basically a lazy person, I’ve got to get motivated to get out of bed.” He accepted several other Ramis movies - the best being Groundhog Day, 1993.
- Harrison Ford, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1980.
- Christopher Walken, The Dead Zone, 1983. Murray was the surprise choice of author Stephen King for his Johnny Smith gaining extra-sensory gifts after a five year coma. He can foresee the future. And change it. “But he had a commitment, or he was on vacation,... something like that.” Story of the Murray career. After musing upon fellow Canuck Nicholas Campbell, director David Cronenberg fell for Walken. Or, rather, for his face. “That’s the subject of the movie. That’s what the movie was about. All the things that are in his face.”
- Tom Hanks, Splash, 1983. Once upon a thought, it was Murray opposite PJ Soles as his mermaid. Until Murray scurrried. Within two years he was cock o’ the walk due to Ghostbusters. “I knew then I was gonna be rich and famous … and be able to wear red clothes and not give a damn,” Murray proclaimed. “All you people in red, you know what I’m speaking about.”
- Jack Nicholson Prizzi’s Honour, 1984. ”Do I ice her? Do I marry her?” Conundrum for Charley Partanna, hit-man for the Prizzi Family, when he falls for a fellow contractor: Kathleen Turner. John Huston had ten other Charley notions, each as mad as the other. Italians Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone, even John Travolta made more sense than, say, Murray, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, Ryan O’Neal, Christopher Reeve (!), Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight. Of course, Nicholson was the unlikeliest Brooklyn Mafioso since the Corleones’ James Caan, but terrific. Because Huston kept reminding him: ”Remember, he’s stupid!”
- Lorenzo Music, Ghostbusters, TV, 1986-1987. Two years after the movie, the blissfully laconic Music took over Murray’s big screen role of Peter Venkman when Murray refused the toon series. Ironically, Murray later took over voicing a certain fat, lazy, lasagna-loving cat for the 2003 movie, following the tragic 2001 death of Music - the TV Garfield, 1983-1991. Murray reprised the role in Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, 2005, and was Venkman on the video-games.
- Debra Winger, Legal Eagles, 1986. Ghostbusters' boss Ivan Reitman planned it for Dustin Hoffman and Murray. Better chemistry than Robert Redford and Winger!
- Rob Lowe,About Last Night, 1986. John Byrum felt Bill was more thanjust a Saturday night TV clown. For their version of David Mamet’s Sexual Peversity In Chicago, they flew Nick Nolte to meet Murray in New York. “Not,” said the then director, Rob Cohen, “a match made in heaven.” Bill proved more passionate about Byrum's idea of filming W Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge.“I am Larry Darrell. And you have a meeting tomorrow with [Columbia's] Frank Price to tell him why.”
- Michael Keaton, Gung Ho, 1986. A name was required and director Ron Howard tried to land Murray or Eddie Murphy - although he always wanted “my secret weapon.” Er, Keaton..?
- Chevy Chase, !Three Amigos, 1986.
Five years earlier, Steven Spielberg contemplated making the Western comedy. Obviously he would retained the same Lucky Day - writer-producer Steve Martin. Plus Murray as Dusty Bottoms (oh, ho!) and Robin Williams set to steal it all as Ned Nederlander. The John Landis’ version comprised Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short. Oh yes,and the film Spielberg made instead was a small, personal project. ET.
- Robin Williams, Club Paradise, 1986. The, er, comedy died once Murray and John Cleese were switched to Williams and Peter O’Toole. As Chicago critic Roger Ebert put it: “The credits aren't long, but they are long enough for the Williams character to drop every shred of credibility as a Chicago fireman.”
- Jack Nicholson, The Witches of Eastwick, 1986. “There’s riskier material and riskier ways of working.” On hearing this from his lady, Anjelica Huston, who had been testing with Murray, Nicholson expressed his interest in being Darryl Van Horne and she called director George Miller: This is your lucky day! Jack was signed - within hours. Huston was not. She was both annoyed/pleased that Nicholson did not fight for her inclusion. Murray had re-spun Jack’s 1960 masochistic dental patient in the 1986 musical version of Little Shop of Horrors.
- Sidney Poitier, Little Nikita, 1987. Columbi's new production chief, David Puttnam, offered him the “benevolent FBI agent. I didn’t think these two terms worked together and a lot of people-the public - didn't think so either.” Puttnam later, allegedly, complained Murray was not putting any of his Ghostbusters fortune back into the industry, which helped lead to Puttnam’s getting the bum’s rushfrom heading Columbia in LA.
- Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
- Steve Martin, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,1988. Marlon Brando-David Niven’s Bedtime Story con men caper was tailored for Mick Jagger-David Bowie, passed to Eddie Murphy, reconstructed for Murray-Steve Martin. Finally,Martin took on Murray’s lout and Michael Caine became the sophisticate.
- Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man, 1988. With Hoffman as his smart alec brother. Said Bill:“People say: You could do anything you want. Well, what do I want to do?” The answer, apparently was... Scrooged. That he was!
- Christopher Reeve, Switching Channels, 1988. Just not his year for decisions. He was anti-CAA packaging. So was the box-office.
- Michael Keaton, Batman, 1988.
- Bob Hoskins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988. Chevy Chase was too nervy, Harrison Ford too pricey and Eddie Murphy regretted passing… Up for the human shamus saving a cartoon star’s reputation in Hollywood 1947 were Murray, Charles Grodin, Ed Harris, Don Lane, Jack Nicholson, Joe Pantoliano, Robert Redford, Peter Renaday, Wallace Shawn, Sylvester Stallone. Londoner Hoskins nailed Eddie Valiant in what critic Roger Ebert called “a joyous, giddy, goofy celebration of the kind of fun you can have with a movie camera.”
- Robert De Niro, Awakenings, 1989. Director Penny Marshall backed away for her first choice - fearing that Murray’s name on the marquee would have the public anticipating expecting a comedy.
- John Heard, Home Alone, 1990. An astonishing 37 stars (Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, etc) were considered for the forgetful parents - nothing roles in a film written for and duly stolen by the stranded kid, Macauley Culkin.
- Mel Gibson,AirAmerica, 1990. “He loved it,” said the helmer of the hour, Richard Rush. “But he wasn’t ready to do a movie.” Not even with, at that time, Sean Connery.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kindergarten Cop, 1990. It was around this point that Bill withdrew from movies, sacked his agent, and ran his own life and career - extremely well. Future co-star Tilda Swinton says he has the look of “a tired child who has laughed so much he aches – but finds it too complicated to fully explain the joke… It’s like talking to a crumpled bag of sweets.”
- John Goodman, King Ralph, 1991. Hollywoodisation of the Emlyn Williams novel, Headlong, about an English actor becoming the UK monarch. Producer Jack Brodsky brought it to director Sydney Pollack in 1986for that most British actor - Bill Murray! Goodman’s TV fame, image, freedom - and likeability - had grown apace while Bill's was stricken almost mortally.
- Robert De Niro,Cape Fear, 1991. When Steven Spielberg was actually thinking of re-making the dark1962 thriller, he wanted (another surprise) Murray for the the heavy - unattracted to the violent script! Next idea: the flamboyant David Johansen, from the 70s glam rock band, New York Dolls. Once the Amblin project was passed overto Martin Scorsese, it was obvious who was going to be eating the scenery...
- Tim Allen, Toy Story, 1992. First, Murray, then Chevy Chase missed the #1 film of 2005 in the US by refusing to voice Buzz Lightyear - named after NASAtronaut Buzz Aldrin and facially based on the director John Lasseter’s eyebrows, cheekbones and dimpled chin
- Denzel Washington, Philadelphia, 1993. At first, director Jonathan Demme felt that the lawyer should be a comic, to infiltrate some lightness in the heavy drama. Not a comment to convince Bill to hang around. His client, another lawyer fighting hisunfair dismissal because he had AIDS,would have beern Daniel Day-Lewis.
- Michael Keaton, The Paper, 1994. For any film, any time, director Ron Howard always, stubbornly preferred Keaton. Well, they are about as vapid as each other.
- Anthony Hopkins, The Road To Wellville, 1994. UK director Alan Parker’s version of life on the health farm set up by cereal king, Dr John Harvey Kellog
- Tom Hanks, Forest Gump, 1995. An early, as they say, consideration. Not a good one. An early one.
- Tim Allen, The Santa Clause, 1994. Scott Calvin/Santa Clause was penned for Murray but he didn’t go for it.
- John Goodman, The Flintstones, 1994.
Yabba-dabba-don’t! Thin Bill as the Stone Age hero? Yeah, in a fat suit, why not? An idea as dumb as putting Bill in a cat-suit for a Garfield venture. Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, John Candy, Chevy Chase came and went. The live action take on the cartoon series (The Simpsons of its days, 1960-1966), would never have happened if Goodman had been unable to squeeze it in during his Roseanne series hiatus. Because, according to co-creator Joseph Barbera: “When John Goodman was born, he was stamped Fred Flintstone right there on his bottom.” The producer agreed. End of debate. ’Cos the producer was Steven Spielberg!
- Woody Harrelson, The People vs Larry Fynt, 1996. Another biography from Ed Wood scenarists Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. Director Milos Forman preferred his Flynt to Columbia's. Anyway, Murray never returned phone calls. If you could find his number. What else is new?
- Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996. Hollywood goes Who. Why? For the pilot of a USeries to exhume the BBC science-fiction cult, buried since it ran out of puff after 26 seasons in 1989. As if to prove this was big deal LA in action (!), some 63 actors were listed for Doc8 and a further 71(well, some were on both lists) for his foe, The Master. Such as… James Bond, Caligula, Dracula, Gandhi, Han Solo, Freddy Krueger, Magnum, Jean-Luc Picard, Spock and - hey, they’re doctors! - Emmett Brown and Frank-N-Furter. Aka… Timothy Dalton, Malcolm McDowell, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford, Robert Englund, Tom Selleck, Patrick Stewart, Christopher Lloyd. Tim Curry. Oh, and a certain Ghost Buster…
- JE Freeman, Alien: Resurrection, 1996. So… no reunion of the Ghostbusters Murray and, in her fourth and final Alien chapter, Sigourney Weaver. Pity.
- Matt Dillon, There’s Something About Mary, 1998. To be the sleaze hound private eye hired by a lovestruck Ben Stiller to locate Cameron Diaz.
- Christopher Lloyd, My Favourite Martian, 1998. A Martian makes a visit – and friends with Jeff Daniels’s reporter. There goes the neighbourhood (title of another Daniels’ movie, circa 1992). The five possibilities for “Uncle Martin” were Murray (a tad obvious), Michael Douglas, Charlton Heston(!), Martin Sheen - and Star Trek’s latest skipper, Patrick Stewart.
- Jason Lee, Dogma, 1999. Said Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers: Thou shalt not stop laughing... New Jersey auteur Kevijn Smith reached high (Murray, John Travolta) and low (Adam Sandler) for his demon Azrael in his askew take on religion. "It's hard to conceive of a flick without Jason," he said when his mate was not free for the fallen angel, Loki. "Luckily, his schedule freed up and he was able to segue into Azrael. You couldn't ask for a better villain. Jason became the guy people in rehearsals measured themselves against - such was the passion and intensity of his performance."
- Mike Myers, Shrek, 2000. A decade earlier athis Amblin Entertainment, long before giving birth to DreamWorks, Steven Speilbergwas planning his animation debut - and selected Murray for the titular gree ogre (Shrek is Yiddish for monster) oppositeSteve Martin’s Donkey.Murphy and the DreamWorks Animation chief, Jeffrey Kaztzenberg, friendsfor years, had always promised themselves atoon movie. This one turned into three features and two shorts.
- John Goodman, Monsters, Inc, 2000. Bill tested and won the Monstropolis gig of voicing the blue James P “Sulley” Sullivan. Except the Pixar execs couldn’t reach him by phone, fax, post, mail, pigeon, pony express or agent to confirm dates. “We took that to mean No,” said director Peter Docter. Goodman was a good move: he suggested getting Steve Buscemi for Randall Boggs.
- Bernie Mac, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, 2003. He had not enjoyed the first film - or not Lucy Liu, in particular - and passed onthe sequel. Besides, he was perfecting his new, non-acting acting. Yawn!
- Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa, 2003. Jack Nicholson withdrew for Something’s Gotta Give with “Special K” (Diane Keaton) - Murraydue yo Lost In Translation and Larry David because of his TV series, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Billy Bob won - and got drunk for one scene as the titular Willie.
- Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003.
Steven Spielberg wanted to sail with Murray - or Steve Martin - or Robin Williams! - as Jack Sparrow. (Why not Tom Hanks?) Spielberg couldn’t have been more wrong - or totally old-fashioned. Anyway, this was a Disney ride and was going to stay that way.
- Eddie Murphy, The Haunted Mansion, 2003. Phantoms were in and Disney was ready! with this this spectre special… as long as one of the 1983 Ghostbusters agreed to be Jim Evers. None did. Not Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Rock Moranis or Harold Ramis. Twenty years later, Murphy headed the tale named rather than based on the Disneyland attraction.
- Johnny Depp, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004. Surely, Murray would have scared the kiddywinks, like some other Tim Burton ideas: Nic Cage and Chris Walken. Tim’s 20 other fancies were one ole Beetlejuice Michael Keaton, three Monty Pythons - John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin - plus Rowan Atkinson, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Steve Martin, Mike Myers, Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler,Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken, Robin Williams. Depp said his Willy, as it were, was “part Howard Hughes-reclusive, part 1970s glamorous rock star.” No wonder Marilyn Manson wanted the gig
- Jeff Daniels, The Squid and The Whale, 2005. Fled from head of a weirdo family. Excuse: He needed a break after Broken Flowers. And thereby embarrassed Daniels… He had a sex scene with Anna Paquin, who had been his daughter teaching geese to fly in Fly Away Home nine years earlier. “We tried not to think about... you know, geese.”
- Mos Def, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 2005.
- Billy Bob Thornton,School For Scoundrels, 2005. Murray ran, possibly understanding the script was a disastrous re-hash of the 1959 UK original... not that funny, it’s true, but at least it had class via Alistair Sim, Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, etc.The choice of BBT as the now foul-mouthed Dr P (for Potter, the author Stephen Potter) was, said UK critic Philip French, “rather like casting Burt Reynolds as Bertrand Russell.”
- Jason Lee, Alvin and the Chipmunks, 2006. For some reason all the A List - Murray, Tim Allen, Chevy Chase, John Travolta - edged back from beingDave Seville -the chipmunks’ adoptive father, songwriter and supplier of that iconic yell:Allvviinn!!Main reason Lee acceptedthe role wasbecause it had been offered to his idol, Murray.“I was so excited I did backflips!”
- Bruce Willis, Over The Hedge, 2006. The DreamWorkers wanted Bill and Harold Ramis to voice the RJ, the racoon, and Verne,the Turtle.But this was no Shrek. And two Garfield movies were toon enough for him.
- Steve Carrel, Little Miss Sunshine, 2006. First choice for the suicidal Frank. Next? Robin Williams. Next? Carrel, then unknown. And thereby,cheaper.
- Steve Carrel, Dinner For Schmucks, 2009. Among the 2006 choices for the pathetic loser (due opposite Steve Martin) in the (as always, highly flawed) re-make of the French Diner de cons, 1998, writer-directed by Francis Veber. If they’d only stopped tampering with his (near) perfection… when Jacques Villeret was the original con.
- Jack Nicholson, How Do You Know, 2010. When Murray passed on playing Paul Rudd’s father, Nicholson jumped aboard. Anything for a pal… particularly when he is auteur James L Brooks, for whom Jack made three films (Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets) resulting two of his three Oscars. Not. This. Time.
- Christoph Waltz, The Zero Theorem, 2013. Too busy completing his seventh Wes Anderson movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, to join Terry Gilliam’s film.“Terry’s a fun guy to hang out with,” said Murray. “His stuff doesn’t always work for me, but its not for lack of trying. He really throws it out there.Now if I had a pint of Terry’s blood, I would get some shit done.”