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14 Things We Learned from Bill Murray's Reddit AMA

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Tonight, Bill Murray did something that is very, very Bill Murray: He did a surprise Reddit AMA to promote his upcoming movie, The Monuments Men. His answers to user questions are equal parts delightful and thoughtful. Here’s what we learned.

1. Even Bill Murray can’t believe how awesome he is.

When one user asked Murray what it was like to be so awesome, Murray replied, “Nothing prepared me for being this awesome. It's kind of a shock. It's kind of a shock to wake up every morning and be bathed in this purple light.”

2. After filming Broken Flowers, he didn't think he could do anything better.

Murray told Jim Jarmusch that he would only do Broken Flowers if the director could find places to film that were within an hour of the actor’s house. Jarmusch did, so Murray did the movie—and when it was finished, “I thought ‘this movie is so good, I thought I should stop,'" Murray wrote. “It's a film that is completely realized, and beautiful, and I thought I had done all I could do to it as an actor. And then 6-7 months later someone asked me to work again, so I worked again, but for a few months I thought I couldn't do any better than that.”

3. Murray thinks Einstein was a “pretty cool guy.”

But if he could go back in time and have a conversation with just one person, it would be scientist and friar Gregor Mendel, "because he was a monk who just sort of figured this stuff out on his own," Murray said. "That's a higher mind, that's a mind that's connected. They have a vision, and they just sort of see it because they are so connected intellectually and mechanically and spiritually, they can access a higher mind. Mendel was a guy so long ago that I don't necessarily know very much about him, but I know that Einstein did his work in the mountains in Switzerland. I think the altitude had an effect on the way they spoke and thought."

4. He really likes Wes Anderson.

It’s probably not a surprise that Murray likes director Wes Anderson—they’ve worked on seven films together. But during his AMA, Murray enumerated why he likes working with Anderson so much: “I really love the way Wes writes with his collaborators, I like the way he shoots, and I like HIM,” Murray said. “I've become so fond of him. I love the way that he has made his art his life. And you know, it's a lesson to all of us, to take what you love and make it the way you live your life, and that way you bring love into the world.”

5. He thinks that, at the time it came out, Groundhog Day was underrated.

“The script is one of the greatest conceptual scripts I've ever seen,” he wrote. “It's a script that was so unique, so original, and yet it got no acclaim. To me it was no question that it was the greatest script of the year. To this day people are talking about it, but they forget no one paid any attention to it at the time. The execution of the script, there were great people in it.”

6. The strangest experience he had in Japan while filming Lost in Translation involved an eel.

Once, while at a sushi restaurant, the chef asked Murray, “Would you like some fresh eel?" Murray replied that yes, he would. “So [the chef] came back with a fresh eel, a live eel, and then he walked back behind a screen and came back in 10 seconds with a no-longer-alive eel,” the actor said. “It was the freshest thing I had ever eaten in my life. It was such a funny moment to see something that was alive that no longer was alive, that was my food, in 30 seconds.”

7. He thinks the previous SNL cast was “the best group since the original group.”

The current SNL cast is good, in Murray's opinion, but “the last group with Kristen Wiig and those characters, they were a bunch of actors and their stuff was just different," he said.

It's all about the writing, the writing is such a challenge and you are trying to write backwards to fit 90 minutes between dress rehearsal and the airing. And sometimes the writers don't get the whole thing figured out, it's not like a play where you can rehearse it several times. So good actors—and those were really good actors, and there are some great actors in this current group as well I might add—they seem to be able to solve writing problems, improvisational actors, can solve them on their feet. They can solve it during the performance, and make a scene work. ... So this group, there are definitely some actors in this group, I see them working in the same way and making scenes go. They really roll very nicely, they have great momentum, and it seems like they are calm in the moment.

8. Doing the voice recording for The Fantastic Mr. Fox was basically one big party.

The process, Murray said, "dragged on and on and on," but it was "great fun" that started at a friend's farm:

[W]e all stayed at her place for a handful of days while we recorded during the day and then at night we would have these magnificent meals and we would all tell stories. We had a LOT of great food, a lot of great wine and great stories. It went on until people started literally falling from their chairs and being taken away. And then we had to go to another place and do it again, we went to George's place, but then something happen and the whole party broke up, and George said "you don't have to go, do ya" and I didn't, so we just kicked around Northern Italy for a while. It was a real fiesta.

9. He didn’t part on good terms with his assistant.

When the actor was working on Groundhog Day, director Harold Ramis asked Murray to hire an assistant to make communicating easier. So Murray hired a deaf woman who didn't speak—and Murray didn't know American Sign Language. Murray says he and the woman didn’t part well:

I was sort of ambitious thinking that I could hire someone that had the intelligence to do a job but didn't have necessarily speech or couldn't quite hear or spoke in sign language. ... I tried my best, but I was working all day. She was lovely and very smart, but there's a lot of frustration when you meet people who can't speak well. Being completely disabled in that area causes a great amount of frustration, and this was going back 30 years or so before there were the educational components that there are today. It didn't go particularly well for me, but for a few weeks she really was a light and had a real spirit to her. … We were both optimistic, but it was harder than either of us expected to make it work.

10. Here's where to get what is, in Murray’s opinion, the best sandwich.

“There's a place not far from Warner Brothers, I think it was called the Godfather? And they made all kinds of sandwiches with smashed avocado and sprouts and stuff like that," he said. "And when you were having a bad day ... you'd get sandwiches from this place. And they were very filling and very tasty, and then you'd forget about the morning.”

11. You can thank Murray’s brother Brian for Bill.

Murray called his brother his "first great influence. He made much of what I am possible. To this day, if I have a question about something ethical or about being an actor or entertainer or a person or something like that, he's a person who helped form me.”

12. Bill has some pretty interesting thoughts on marijuana.

When asked what he thought about the recreational use of marijuana, Murray didn't exactly answer the question—instead, he discussed the American penal system and the failure of the war on drugs. "Now that we have crack and crystal and whatnot, people don't even think about marijuana anymore, it's like someone watching too many videogames in comparison," he said. "The fact that states are passing laws allowing it means that its threat has been over-exaggerated. Psychologists recommend smoking marijuana rather than drinking if you are in a stressful situation. These are ancient remedies, alcohol and smoking, and they only started passing laws against them 100 years ago."

13. He likes pickles.

And peanut butter. But he’s never tried them together. "I'm big on pickles, but I've never had them with peanut butter," he says. "I really like peanut butter though. I'm kind of surprised because I like them both so much that I haven't combined them.”

14. He thinks stealing art is “worse than stealing gold and diamonds.”

Murray's next film, The Monuments Men, tells the story of a group of museum curators and art historians who venture into Germany to rescue art stolen by the Nazis and return the pieces to their rightful owners. And there are direct parallels between what happened in history (and in the film) and what's happening in some parts of the world today. "You hate to say that a film is an important film but I think it's a movie that people will say enlightened them about something that was forgotten, and it's a situation that exists around the world now," Murray said. "For example when we invaded Iraq, we weren't really taking care of business and a bunch of criminals went in and looted the museums. It's what's happening in Syria now. It's far worse than stealing gold or diamonds. It's stealing a culture, a mystery, and if those works of art are stolen, we are losing the ability to learn about culture and about ourselves."

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Chloe Efforn
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Animals
John Lennon Was a Crazy Cat Lady
Chloe Efforn
Chloe Efforn

John Lennon was crazy about cats, and though he owned a couple of dogs (Sally and Bernard) over the years, he was better known for getting by with a little help from his feline friends.

1. ELVIS

Growing up, Lennon's beloved mother, Julia, had a named cat after Elvis Presley, whom Julia and John were both crazy about. The Lennons later realized they had misnamed Elvis when "he" gave birth to a litter of kittens in the cupboard, but they didn't change the cat's name based on that small mistake.

2. AND 3. TICH AND SAM

He had two other cats as a boy growing up in Liverpool: Tich and Sam. Tich passed away while Lennon was away at art school (which he attended from 1957 to 1960), and Sam was named after famous British diarist Samuel Pepys

4. TIM

One day, John Lennon found a stray cat in the snow, which his Aunt Mimi allowed him to keep. (John's Aunt Mimi raised him from a young boy through his late teenage years, and he affectionately referred to her as the Cat Woman.) He named the marmalade-colored half-Persian cat Tim.

Tim remained a special favorite of John's. Every day, he would hop on his Raleigh bicycle and ride to Mr. Smith's, the local fishmonger, where he would buy a few pieces of fish for Tim and his other cats. Even after John became famous as a Beatle, he would often call and check in on how Tim was doing. Tim lived a happy life and survived to celebrate his 20th birthday.

5. AND 6. MIMI AND BABAGHI

John and his first wife, Cynthia, had a cat named Mimi who was, of course, named after his Aunt Mimi. They soon got another cat, a tabby who they dubbed Babaghi. John and Cynthia continued acquiring more cats, eventually owning around 10 of them.

7. JESUS

As a Beatle, John had a cat named Jesus. The name was most likely John's sarcastic response to his "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" controversy of 1966. But he wasn't the only band member with a cat named Jesus: Paul McCartney once had a trio of kittens named Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

8. AND 9. MAJOR AND MINOR

In the mid-1970s, John had an affair with his secretary, May Pang. One day, the studio receptionist brought a box of kittens into the recording studio where John and May were. "No," John immediately told May, "we can't, we're traveling too much." But she picked up one of the kittens and put it over her shoulder. Then John started stroking the kitten and decided to keep it. At the end of the day, the only other kitten left was a little white one that was so loud no one else wanted it. So they adopted it as well and named the pair Major and Minor.

10. AND 11. SALT AND PEPPER

John owned a pair of black and white cats with his wife Yoko Ono. As befitting John's offbeat sense of humor, many places report he christened the white cat Pepper and the black one Salt.

12. AND 13. GERTRUDE AND ALICE

John and Yoko also had two Russian Blue cats named Gertrude and Alice, who each met tragic ends. After a series of sicknesses, Gertrude was diagnosed with a virus that could become dangerous to their young son, Sean. John later said that he held Gertrude and wept as she was euthanized. 

Later, Alice jumped out of an open window in the Lennons' high-rise apartment at the Dakota and plunged to her death. Sean was present at the time of the accident, and he remembers it as the only time he ever saw his father cry.

14., 15. AND 16. MISHA, SASHA, AND CHARO

In later years, John also owned three cats he named Misha, Sasha, and Charo. Always an artist at heart, John loved to sketch his many cats, and he used some of these pictures as illustrations in his books.

This piece originally ran in 2012.

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entertainment
7 Famous Actors Who Starred in Obscure Short Films
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Well-known actors who can attract attention or lend prestige to film projects can often command significant salaries. Jack Nicholson, for example, reportedly made more than $50 million for portraying The Joker in 1989’s Batman after merchandising royalties were factored in. But performers don’t always opt for money—or even feature-length movies—if a filmmaker is persuasive enough. Here are several notable talents who agreed to appear in obscure short films for a variety of peculiar reasons.

1. HARRISON FORD // WATER TO WINE (2004)

Arguably one of the most successful leading men of the 20th century, Harrison Ford has always been candid about his criteria for film work. In addition to being intrigued by a role, he wants to be compensated. (“No, I got paid,” he told a talk show host who asked if he was nostalgic about returning to the Star Wars universe in 2015.) He apparently made an exception for Water to Wine, a 2004 amateur film shot by a group of snowboarders in Wyoming. Ford—who has a ranch in the state—accepted the role of “Jethro the Bus Driver” as a favor to the filmmakers, who were friends of his son, Malcolm. Ford’s sole request was that his name not appear in the credits.

2. BRYAN CRANSTON // WRITER’S BLOCK (2014)

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston was shooting the feature film Cold Comes the Night in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy interrupted production. Rather than sit idle, the actor told the movie’s production assistants that if they wanted to try writing a short film, he’d shoot it immediately. Winner Brandon Polanco came up with Writer’s Block, a 13-minute black-and-white mood piece about an author wrestling with a lack of inspiration.

3. BILLY BOB THORNTON // THE LAST REAL COWBOYS (2000)

Billy Bob Thornton broke into Hollywood with his 1994 short film Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade that he later expanded into a full-length feature. That DIY approach may have helped director Jeff Lester entice the actor to star in The Last Real Cowboys, a short that featured Thornton as one of two main characters sitting next to a campfire. The production shot for just one day 50 miles outside of Las Vegas. 

4. OSCAR ISAAC // LIGHTNINGFACE (2016)

A year after Star Wars: The Force Awakens crossed $2 billion at the box office, Oscar Isaac (who portrayed Poe Dameron) appeared in this eccentric short by director Brian Petsos. Isaac is Basil Stitt, a man who gets hit in the face with lightning and is convinced he will soon develop supernatural abilities. Isaac and Petsos previously worked on a feature film, Ticky Tacky.

5. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH // LITTLE FAVOUR (2013)

The BBC’s Sherlock helped make Benedict Cumberbatch a highly recognizable screen presence worldwide, which in turn helped this short film raise and exceed its $40,000 budget via the Indiegogo platform. Cumberbatch portrays a British intelligence officer active during the Iraq War who is contacted by an American spy to repay a favor. Cumberbatch, who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for The Imitation Game in 2015, also produced the film.

6. MICHAEL FASSBENDER // PITCH BLACK HEIST (2012)

Two-time Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender co-stars in this tight heist thriller about two thieves who are forced to complete a job in total darkness. (Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos Seaworth on Game of Thrones, co-starred.) Director John Maclean knew Fassbender before the actor broke out in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds and convinced him to take the gig. The two later worked on the well-received 2015 Western Slow West.

7. BILL MURRAY // A FILM ABOUT WALKING IN SLOW MOTION (2012)

The urban legends surrounding Murray’s puckish behavior are well-documented, from crashing karaoke parties to spontaneously tending bar. In 2012, Murray was filming a promotional video for a school in South Carolina attended by his son. Afterward, director David Smith asked if he could film Murray walking down a hall with crew members. He complied—and then kept walking, out of the building and into his car. 

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