Presented by Sofia and Roman Coppola, the award recognized the screen icon for his long-standing contributions to the film industry. Most recently, Murray starred in Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks, opposite Rashida Jones and Marlon Wayans, earning Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice nominations for his turn as larger-than-life playboy father, Felix Keane.
“I’d like to say a few words before sentencing… it’s really an honor to receive the Maltin Milk award,” Murray told film critic Leonard Maltin, who gives the award its name. “When I heard I was involved in the award, I was taken by surprise, thinking that you had passed away. I had worked up so many nice things to say about you. But I was very happy to hear you were still alive. That’s my happy-sad moment.”
Before accepting his award, on Day 3 of the festival’s 36th edition, Murray sat down for a conversation with Maltin, offering a look back at his storied career.
One of the major topics the Oscar nominee touched on was his role in the iconic Ghostbusters film franchise. While praising the work of the late László Kovács—who served as the original 1984 film’s DP—and its special effects team, the actor noted that the film was “pretty legit” and “ahead of its time.”
Murray also paid tribute to his co-stars, who helped make the 1984 film come alive. “The four of us, Ernie Hudson, Danny [Akroyd] and Harold [Ramis], we knew we were gonna sink or swim together so we were always looking out for each other. We were constantly making sure that everybody was pumping and all getting it,” he said. “As far as improvising goes, Harold was the mind of the Ghostbusters, Danny was the heart of the Ghostbusters, Ernie was the soul of the Ghostbusters and I was the mouth of the Ghostbusters.”
In conversation with Maltin, Murray also recalled the way in which he was introduced to his longtime collaborator, Wes Anderson. “My agent kept sending me cassettes of his first film, Bottle Rocket. Finally they sent me the script to Rushmore and asked me if I would like to meet him and I said, ‘That’s not necessary,'” he recalled. “‘He knows exactly what he wants to do. When do we shoot?'”
Later, the honoree touched on his work as a writer and director. While he boasts more than 90 screen credits, Murray also co-directed the 1990 comedy Quick Change. As a writer, he boasts 10 credits, including 2015 TV special, A Very Murray Christmas.
“I really think of myself as, I should be writing. I really do wish to be a writer,” he said. “I can write dialogues and scenes, but to write a full length anything is different…I just haven’t buckled down.”
While Murray admitted that he enjoys directing, and thought he would do more of it in his career, he said that the time required to direct never ended up syncing up well with his personal life. “I liked working with actors and I thought I understood actors, I could do that,” he said. “[But] when it was time for me to continue directing movies, I didn’t have that time to give.”
First established in 1995, the Modern Master Award is the highest accolade presented by SBIFF. Created to honor individuals who have enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry, it was re-named the Maltin Modern Master Award in 2015, as a tribute to Maltin, who has long served as a moderator for the film festival. Past recipients of the award include Brad Pitt, Glenn Close, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Bruce Dern, Ben Affleck, Christopher Plummer, Christopher Nolan and more.
At this year’s 10-day festival, Sacha Baron Cohen, Zendaya, Riz Ahmed, Maria Bakalova, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Andra Day, Sidney Flanigan, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Amanda Seyfriend, Carey Mulligan and others will also be honored.
During his SBIFF panel, Murray looked back at clips from many of his films, including Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Lost in Translation and more, as a jumping-off point to spark conversation.
To view the actor’s comments on Ghostbusters, check out the video above. To check out Murray’s recollections of meeting Anderson, click on the video below.