22 Fun Facts About Scrooged

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Since the publication of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in 1843, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge has become familiar fodder for adaptations of all sorts—from ballets to operas to a mime performance by Marcel Marceau. But Richard Donner’s film adaptation, Scrooged, has one thing that sets it apart: Comedy.

Since its release in 1988, the holiday comedy starring Bill Murray as a ruthless television executive tasked with pulling off a live Christmas Eve broadcast of A Christmas Carol (starring Buddy Hackett, Jamie Farr, the Solid Gold Dancers and Mary-Lou Retton as Tiny Tim!) has become a contemporary classic. Here are 22 things you might not know about the movie.

1. THE FILM MARKED BILL MURRAY’S RETURN TO THE BIG SCREEN.

Though it’s easy to remember the 1980s as a decade packed with Bill Murray comedies, Scrooged marked a reemergence of sorts of the in-demand comedian. Though he had a brief cameo in Frank Oz’s 1986 remake of Little Shop of Horrors (playing a pain-seeking patient of Orin Scrivello, Steve Martin’s demented dentist character), Scrooged was Murray’s first major role following a self-imposed, four-year exile from Hollywood.

2. MURRAY REFERENCES LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS IN THE MOVIE’S CLOSING SONG.

Scrooged concludes with the cast and crew singing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” For his part, Murray went a bit off-script, adding in lines like “Feed me Seymour,” a direct reference to Little Shop of Horrors.

3. MANY MORE OF MURRAY’S LINES WERE AD-LIBBED.

In a 1988 interview with Philadelphia Daily News, Richard Donner discussed Murray’s penchant for improvisation and described the experience of directing Murray as follows: “It's like standing on 42nd Street and Broadway, and the lights are out, and you're the traffic cop.”

4. MURRAY HAD ORIGINALLY BEEN APPROACHED ABOUT THE MOVIE TWO YEARS EARLIER.

At that point, he wasn’t ready to jump back into the moviemaking fold just yet. “But when I wanted to work, the scripts were just not good,” Murray told Starlog Magazine in a 1989 interview.

5. BEFORE HE SIGNED ON FOR SCROOGED, MURRAY REQUIRED THAT THE SCRIPT BE REWORKED.


Paramount Pictures

“We tore up the script so badly that we had parts all over the lawn,” Murray told Starlog. “There was a lot I didn't like. To remake the story, we took the romantic element [Frank's relationship with his former girlfriend, Claire, played by Karen Allen] and built that up a little more. It existed in the script’s original version, but we had to make more out of it. The family scenes were kind of off, so we worked on that.”

6. THE MOVIE WAS AN SNL REUNION OF SORTS.

The script for Scrooged was written by Mitch Glazer and Michael O'Donoghue, whom Murray had worked with in the early days of Saturday Night Live.

7. EVEN PAUL SHAFFER WAS THERE.

Before he rose to fame as David Letterman’s musical director, Paul Shaffer was a member of the SNL house band from 1975 to 1980 and appeared in a number of sketches, most notably as the piano player to Murray’s Nick the Lounge Singer character. He makes a cameo in Scrooged as a street musician, where he plays alongside fellow musical legends Miles Davis, David Sanborn, and Larry Carlton.

8. A LOT OF FOOTAGE ENDED UP ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR.

“We shot a big, long sloppy movie, so there's a great deal of material that didn't even end up in the film,” Murray told Starlog. “It just didn't work. You tend to forget what was wrong. It's hard. I just figured that anyone who's good could step into this part and have a lot of fun with it. It's sort of a wicked character. The idea of making a funny Scrooge was an inspired touch. That's what was appealing to me about it.”

9. RICHARD DONNER HAD HIS RESERVATIONS ABOUT TURNING A CHRISTMAS CAROL INTO A COMEDY.

“It’s a thin line,” director Richard Donner told the Texas Archive of the Moving Image about getting the right tone for the film. “But you have two of the most irreverent writers in the world. You have the most irreverent humorist since W.C. Fields. And you say, ‘Let’s go!’ There’s a thin line you walk, but the line is broken—hopefully—in the end of the picture when you see a man evolve out of a situation.”

10. DONNER CALLS IT THE MOVIE WHERE MURRAY BECAME “AN ACTOR.”

Though Scrooged is mainly a comedy, it concludes with Murray’s character being a changed man, who has to deliver a rather dramatic speech in order to make his character’s transformation clear. But Donner told Philadelphia Daily News that what they witnessed in that pivotal scene was something much greater: “On the last take I saw something happen to Billy. I saw Billy Murray become an actor.”

11. DONNER SAVED THAT DRAMATIC SCENE FOR THE VERY END OF THE SHOOT.

“I always had my car parked facing the gate,” Donner joked to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image about how the film’s ultimate success hinged on that final scene. Which is why he saved it for the end. “When Bill Murray played off that last scene in the way that he did, I felt confident—and slightly insecure—but I felt confident that we had accomplished what we wanted,” said Donner.

12. FOR MURRAY, THE BIGGER CHALLENGE WAS CARRYING A MOVIE ON HIS OWN.


Paramount Pictures

Murray was a bona fide movie star by the time Scrooged hit theaters, but up until that point—in movies like Caddyshack, Stripes, and Ghostbusters—he had always been part of an ensemble cast. “Scrooged was harder [than Ghostbusters] because I was by myself, really,” Murray told Starlog. “Even though there are a number of people in the movie, they only had cameos. They would stroll in for a day or two and split. I was there every day, and it was like flunking grade school again and again.”

13. ROBERT MITCHUM’S CAMEO WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT MURRAY.

In one of the film’s many aforementioned cameos, Robert Mitchum plays Murray’s boss, Preston Rhinelander. But such a small role for such a major star wasn’t an easy sell, so Donner invited Mitchum to meet with Murray. “Mitchum was not going to play that small a part, but we said, ‘Well come in and meet Bill. Let’s rap, let’s talk,’” Donner recalled to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. “He came in and we never got a word in edgewise. He’s so wonderful with stories and we didn’t want to talk … The minute you get around Bill, you’re swooning. Everybody is.”

14. SCROOGED IS A MURRAY FAMILY AFFAIR.

Though seeing one of Bill Murray’s brothers in one of his films is nothing new, Scrooged features all three of them—John, Joel, and Brian Doyle-Murray.

15. IT TOOK 23 YEARS FOR THE FILM’S SOUNDTRACK TO BE RELEASED.


Paramount Pictures

It wasn’t until 2011 that Danny Elfman’s score for Scrooged was released. The album, which was limited to just 3000 copies, contained a total of 34 tracks, not all of which were included in the film. The final track is a bonus track that was actually created for Trading Places.

16. KEITH HARING'S WORK MAKES A COUPLE OF CAMEOS.

Look at the background throughout the film and you’ll likely spot Keith Haring’s “Free South Africa” poster on a few occasions. The same poster is seen in Lethal Weapon 2, also directed by Richard Donner, which was released the following year.

17. SAM KINISON WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST.

The part eventually went to David Johansen, and rumor has it that that happened because of Murray’s close friendship with the actor-musician. If Johansen’s face looks familiar to you, but not his name, that’s because he often went by a different name at the time: Buster Poindexter. Yes, the very same guy who sang “Hot Hot Hot.”

18. CAROL KANE DIDN’T HAVE MUCH FUN AS THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT.


Paramount Pictures

Though it’s a running gag throughout the film that Carol Kane, as The Ghost of Christmas Present, be rather abusive toward Murray whenever they meet, the task began to take a toll on the actress. Both Donner and Murray told Starlog that Kane would often break down on the set, and spend 20 minutes or so simply crying.

19. KANE’S SCENES WEREN’T MUCH FUN FOR MURRAY EITHER.

In one scene, Kane is supposed to grab Murray’s lip. Which she did—a little too well. “There's a piece of skin that connects your lip with your gums and it was really pulled away,” Murray explained of the scene to Starlog. “She really hurt me, but it was my idea to be physical and it was her idea just to hit me as opposed to pulling the punches.” Filming had to cease temporarily while Murray healed from the incident.

20. JOHN HOUSEMAN PASSED AWAY LESS THAN A MONTH BEFORE SCROOGED PREMIERED.

John Houseman is yet another one of the preeminent actors who made a brief appearance in Scrooged. Unfortunately, he passed away on October 31, 1988, less than a month before the film made its debut on November 23, 1988.

21. IT WAS THE LAST PERFORMANCE BY THE SOLID GOLD DANCERS.

In the telecast within the movie, one of A Christmas Carol’s selling points is that it will feature the Solid Gold Dancers as The Scroogettes. The movie would mark the small-screen dance group’s final aired performance, as Solid Gold the television series had been cancelled back in July.

22. THE STUDIO PLAYED UP GHOSTBUSTERS’ SUCCESS TO PROMOTE SCROOGED.

In an attempt to recapture the attention of Ghostbusters fans, the studio referenced the movie in Scrooged’s marketing materials, most notably with its tagline: “Bill Murray is back among the ghosts, only this time, it’s three against one.” The tactic probably didn’t get the studio the exact results it was looking for; while Ghostbusters was the second highest-grossing film of 1984 with $229,242,989 in box office totals, Scrooged made about a quarter of that ($60,328,558 to be exact) and was only the 13th highest grossing film of 1988.

The Elder Wand from Harry Potter Will Be Surprisingly Important in Fantastic Beasts 2

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

For about a year now, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has been using an image of the Elder Wand in promotional teases, as pointed out by The Ringer. You surely remember the instrument—which is said to be the most powerful wand to have ever existed in JK Rowling's Wizarding World—from the original Harry Potter series. So just how important will it be to the Fantastic Beasts sequel? Extremely.

According to Pottermore, the Elder Wand (also known as the Deathstick or "The Wand of Destiny") is the most sought after of the three Deathly Hallows. According to "The Tale of the Three Brothers," a fairy tale often told to wizard children, the Elder Wand was given to Antioch Peverell by Death himself. Whoever was able to reunite the wand with the other two Deathly Hallows—the Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility—would become the Master of Death.

As such, the Elder Wand is extremely dangerous—and can be made even more so, depending on the intentions of the wizard who possesses it. As Dumbledore once ​said in The Tales of Beedle the Bard, "Those who are knowledgeable about wandlore will agree that wands do indeed absorb the expertise of those who use them."

So how does all of this connect to Fantastic Beasts? While in disguise in the first Fantastic Beasts movie, Gellert Grindelwald didn't carry the Elder Wand—though we know from previous installments that he had acquired it by the time the first movie takes place. Grindelwald stole the wand from Mykew Gregorovitch, stunning the wizard to gain the allegiance of the Elder Wand, sometime before 1926. But while promotional stills indicate that Grindelwald will have physical possession of the wand in this second movie, which witch or wizard has the wand's allegiance is less clear—after all, Newt Scamander captured Grindelwald at the end of the first film, and Tina Goldstein disarmed him.

However, we know from the Harry Potter series that Dumbledore takes possession of the Elder Wand after a duel in 1945, which is the same year the Fantastic Beasts series will end (so it's pretty safe to assume that Dumbledore and Grindelwald will face off in the series' fifth and final film). And Dumbledore's own words about how he came to possess the wand in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are also particularly telling. "I was fit to own the Elder Wand, and not to boast of it, and not to kill with it," he stated in the novel. "I was permitted to tame and to use it, because I took it, not for gain, but to save others from it."

We'll have to wait until this weekend to see how it all plays out in The Crimes of Grindelwald, but this is one story that will take several more installments to tell.

Simon Pegg Says New Star Wars Films Are Missing George Lucas's Imagination

John Phillips, Getty Images for Paramount Pictures
John Phillips, Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

While many Star Wars fans were unimpressed with the most recent film in the Luke Skywalker saga, The Last Jedi, even those viewers would likely agree that the most recent slate of entries into the Star Wars franchise are much better than the prequel series ... right? Well, it might not be so black and white.

Simon Pegg, who appeared in The Force Awakens as Unkar Plutt, had previously slammed the prequels, specifically ​calling The Phantom Menace a "jumped-up firework display of a toy advert." But now he seems to have come to a new conclusion: Star Wars needs George Lucas.

"I must admit, watching the last Star Wars film [The Last Jedi], the overriding feeling I got when I came out was, 'I miss George Lucas,'" Pegg confessed on The Adam Buxton Podcast. "For all the complaining that I'd done about him in the prequels, there was something amazing about his imagination."

Pegg also shared the story of how he once met Lucas at the premiere of Revenge of the Sith, and that the legendary filmmaker gave him some advice.

"He was talking to Ron Howard and I think he'd seen Shaun of the Dead  because he immediately went, 'Oh hey, Shaun of the Dead!,' and shook my hand," Pegg recalled. "And George Lucas immediately changed his demeanor."

"Don't be making the same film that you made 30 years ago 30 years from now," Lucas told Pegg, according to the actor.

Of all the complaints about The Last Jedi, from Rey's parentage reveal to Luke abandoning the Force, the lack of George Lucas is not quite a popular criticism. But we are glad to know his influence is missed—by at least one person.

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