Bill Murray stood atop the celebrity pyramid for decades.
Yes, we loved him for “Ghostbusters,” “Caddyshack,” "Groundhog Day" and “Stripes,” but his off-screen antics made him a beloved figure.
He didn’t rant about politics or use social media to silence others. He would pop up in the strangest places and make us smile. It might be singing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at Wrigley Field or cracking wise at a stranger’s bachelor party.
Who wouldn't want Murray to crash their wedding or bar mitzvah? He hearkened back to a time when celebrities did their best to entertain us, eschewing cultural war rants along the way.
And then his shtick shut down an upcoming film project, and Hollywood turned on him.
Murray’s behavior caused a commotion on the set of “Being Mortal,” comedian/director Aziz Ansari’s upcoming film. We didn’t know the details behind the issue then, but now there’s more clarity on the matter.
Murray allegedly straddled a female crew member and kissed her while both parties wore COVID-19 masks. Murray allegedly settled with the woman to the tune of $100,000.
The 72-year-old Murray defended himself, saying he was trying to be funny. He is a comedy institution, after all, and impulsive shtick is in his DNA. It’s easy to see how someone might find that behavior unsettling, at the very least. And someone entrenched in the Hollywood ecosystem, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement's heightened sensitivities, should have known that.
What was he thinking?
Except it’s not the only news surrounding Bill Murray. Suddenly, the floodgates are open and we’re hearing lots of older stories about his behavior.
Hollywood, Inc. excels at keeping secrets. Just ask Harvey Weinstein prior to 2017. When it’s trendy to snitch on someone, for better or worse, stars can’t stay silent.
Oscar winner Geena Davis recalled Murray prodding her with a massage device on the set of 1990’s “Quick Change.” He also allegedly played with her dress' spaghetti strap during an appearance on “The Arsenio Hall Show.”
Davis’ accusations are more than 30 years old. They’ve only recently come up, in part, because she’s promoting her new autobiography, “Dying of Politeness: A Memoir.”
Other off-screen Murray tales seem either petty or hardly worth exhuming to cancel the comedy icon. Seth Green, an “Austin Powers” alum and Adult Swim creator, says Murray held him over a trash can on the set of "SNL" when he was 9-years-old and deposited him there.
Is that the same as sexual harassment? Not remotely. Would other children love to tell that story to strangers? Perhaps. Why is it coming to light now, and why use it as a cudgel against Murray?
Comedian Rob Schneider recently said Murray loathed multiple “Saturday Night Live” stars when he visited the show in the early ‘90s. So what? And why is that being lumped in with other accusations against the superstar?
If Davis’ accusations are true that behavior isn't remotely appropriate for the work place. Yet the media is suddenly throwing anything anti-Murray on the pile, perhaps hoping his “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” appearance marks the end of his film career.
For clicks, most likely. It’s also a way for media outlets to appear woke and progressive, no matter if it benches an iconic talent indefinitely.
Plus, celebrities know they’ll get oodles of press for any anti-Murray memory they have at the moment, and media coverage is very important to them.
What’s missing here? Perspective, for starters. The allegations against actor Ezra Miller, including grooming allegations and a burglary attempt that could see him in jail for 20-plus years, are far more damning, and consequential, than anything Murray has ever been accused of doing.
Yet Miller recently joined his “Flash” colleagues for some reshoots on the 2023 film release. And his film is still set for a Summer 2023 release.
As is often the case, we don’t know the full scope of Murray’s behaviors over the decades. It’s obvious, though, that the cultural forces want another scalp for their mantle. And they might just have it, whether Murray deserves it or not.