There’s nobody in Hollywood quite like Bill Murray. Even though Sony Pictures and the Ghostbusters creative team built a sequel around Murray, I’m told the actor still hasn’t contacted the studio to tell them if he’s even read the script script by The Office writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky that was delivered to him at the beginning of the year. The movie won’t happen if Bill doesn’t say yes, plain and simple. Now, Murray is being courted to play Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Roger Michell-directed Hyde Park on the Hudson, the film set up at Focus Features and Film Four with script by Richard Nelson. Like Ghostbusters, this is a film that becomes an immediate go picture if Murray says yes. I’m not sure it happens if he says no, or doesn’t say anything at all.
For days, I’ve heard that Focus has been approaching cast and basically telling them that Murray will do the picture. Focus has denied that to me several times. Perhaps Focus doesn’t want to jinx things because you never really know that you have Murray until he shows up to go to work, which is the reason Ghostbusters III has languished so long–you can’t prep a $150 million picture on a wing and a prayer.
Communicating with Murray has gotten more difficult since he dropped his last agency, CAA. He does have an attorney who makes his deals, but I’ve heard he’s a dead end for information and in my attempts to call him, I can’t get past his secretary. When Deadline wrote a story recently about the complexity of building that Ghostbusters sequel around Murray when he was so difficult to pin down, I got an email that night, purportedly from the man himself. The sender said he planned the read the script shortly, and respond. Was it him? It made some corners of Sony Pictures optimistic, but nothing happened. So Ghostbusters III remains merely a talking point when Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd or Harold Ramis are out promoting other movies and have to suffer the inevitable question.
Murray is hardly a recluse. You can find him on the golf course, and he just presented the Johnny Carson Comedy Award to David Letterman. He sat recently for an interview with Howard Stern, where he confirmed he never read that Ghostbusters script. Sometimes Murray shows up on movie sets. Murray did Zombieland for Sony, after pal Woody Harrelson coaxed him into playing what was a wonderful surprise cameo. Perhaps the best thing Focus can do is put Harrelson in Hyde Park on the Hudson. Murray could bring a lot as FDR in a story that covers his foibles–including an affair between Roosevelt and his distant cousin Daisy–all of which play out during a visit from the King and Queen of England to FDR’s upstate New York home before the start of WWII. It could be a memorable turn for Murray, with no ghost chasing involved.