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33 Movies That Almost Starred Bill Murray

Ali Goldstein/Netflix
Ali Goldstein/Netflix

Part of the charm of Bill Murray to fans is the part of him that frustrates filmmakers—namely, his willful inaccessibility to show business. He was known to be picky about his role choices throughout the 1980s and '90s, but that all came to a head in 2000, when Murray replaced his agents with an automated 800 number. To this day, writers and directors wanting to work with Murray are directed to leave a voicemail. If Murray likes the idea, he insists that the script be faxed to him in care of his local office supply store. As you can imagine, he has missed out on plenty of opportunities on this system alone. Or maybe that’s just what he wants the spurned moviemakers to think?

1. STAR WARS (1977)

It has been rumored for a long time that Murray, along with a lot of other young actors, had auditioned to play Han Solo in the original Star Wars. At Comic Con this past summer, he claimed he didn’t know if he was ever up for the part, before joking that he was working out to increase his chances of finally getting the young Han Solo in a rumored Young Han spinoff.

2. ANIMAL HOUSE (1978)

Harold Ramis, who co-wrote Animal House, claimed that "Chevy Chase was supposed to be Otter, Dan Aykroyd was going to be D-Day, and Bill Murray was supposed to be Boon." John Belushi was always going to play Bluto.

3. THE JERK (1979)

Murray was cut out of the classic Steve Martin film. The Washington Post wrote months before the premiere that he was going to appear as a “flamboyantly gay decorator” who designed Martin’s character’s mansion. The day after the movie's debut, Murray revealed on a "Weekend Update" segment of Saturday Night Live that his scene had been cut, before calling the movie a “dog” and saying “there’s something missing” from it.

4. AIRPLANE! (1980)

Murray was being considered for the role of Ted Striker. He read the script and claimed, “This is gonna work, but it’s not for me.” Robert Hays landed the role instead.

5. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

Murray was one of several actors considered to play Indiana Jones. Steven Spielberg has repeatedly tried to cast Murray over the years.

6. THE DEAD ZONE (1983)

Stephen King had approval for casting of the movie adaptation of his book, and King’s first choice to play Johnny Smith was Bill Murray. The official reason for Murray not taking the role was “a prior commitment.” Christopher Walken got the part.

7. SPLASH (1984)

P.J. Soles worked with Murray in Stripes. Soles saw Murray accept the script for Splash before flinging it across the room “in disgust."

8. LOST IN AMERICA (1985)

Albert Brooks didn’t want to star in his 1985 film, Lost in America—he wanted Bill Murray to do that. Murray was interested, but only if Brooks was willing to wait two and a half years for him. Brooks was not.

9. LEGAL EAGLES (1986)

Robert Redford and Debra Winger ended up starring in a film originally meant to star Murray and Dustin Hoffman. When Hoffman changed his mind to make Ishtar, Murray bailed, too.

10. CLUB PARADISE (1986)

Harold Ramis co-wrote and directed the comedy about a Chicago firefighter who retires from his job and starts a resort with a reggae musician (played by legend Jimmy Cliff) on a small Caribbean island. Ramis wrote the script for Murray and John Cleese as the island’s governor. Murray was initially interested, but backed out when he decided that the role was too similar to his part in Meatballs, with Cleese soon doing the same. Robin Williams and Peter O’Toole starred instead.

11. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? (1988)

Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis wanted Murray for Eddie Valiant. They couldn’t contact him, so Bob Haskins was offered the role instead. Allegedly, Murray was so upset over missing out on Roger Rabbit that he screamed—out loud, and in public—when he read that he had been considered for the part.

12. RAIN MAN (1988)

Another Tootsie reunion was thwarted: Screenwriter Barry Morrow said Murray was originally meant to play Charlie Babbitt; Tom Cruise ended up taking that job.

13. BATMAN (1989)

Tim Burton allegedly considered Murray as Batman before going with Michael Keaton. When David Letterman asked Murray about it on an episode of The Late Show, Murray said he had heard that story too, and he would have made an “awesome” Batman.

14. CAPE FEAR (1991)

Steven Spielberg was originally attached to direct the remake of Cape Fear. His first choice for Max Cady was (naturally) Murray. Before Murray could even officially turn Spielberg down (again), Scorsese took over and cast Robert De Niro in the lead.

15. PHILADELPHIA (1993)

Director Jonathan Demme was rumored to have initially been interested in Murray for Joe Miller, the role that eventually went to Denzel Washington. In 2014, Murray confirmed to Howard Stern that he was considered, and said in retrospect, he would have liked to have been in it.

16. THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994)

Murray didn’t enjoy filming 1988’s Scrooged, so he turned down playing Scott Calvin/Santa Claus to avoid another holiday-themed production. Tim Allen got the part. Presumably, with his new Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas, the Scrooged wounds have healed.

17. FORREST GUMP (1994)

Murray admitted to having conversations with Zemeckis about playing the lead. "I think I had the original book and all that sort of stuff," he told Howard Stern. He also said he has never seen the movie.

18. TOY STORY (1995)

For Buzz Lightyear, Billy Crystal was sought out first. Murray and Jim Carrey were also considered before Tim Allen took the part.

19. BOTTLE ROCKET (1996)

Wes Anderson attempted to get Murray to appear as Mr. Henry in his debut feature. Murray’s agents couldn’t find their client, who was traveling around in a Winnebago at the time. James Caan played Mr. Henry instead, but Anderson and Murray have worked together several times in the years since.

20. THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT (1996)

Director Milos Forman sent the script to Tom Hanks and Bill Murray first. Forman said “fortunately” they both turned it down, because Woody Harrelson did such an amazing job in the title role.

21. BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)

After Warren Beatty passed, Paul Thomas Anderson and casting director Christine Sheaks considered Murray, Sydney Pollack, Albert Brooks, and Harvey Keitel for the role of Jack Horner. Murray and Brooks were offered the role. Burt Reynolds eventually agreed to it.

22. MONSTERS, INC. (2001)

James P. "Sully" Sullivan was almost voiced by Murray. Calls to his 800 number went unanswered, and director Peter Docter considered that a “no.”

23. SHREK (2001)

In 1991 Steven Spielberg bought the rights to the book. He wanted Steve Martin as Donkey and you-know-who as Shrek. During the 10 years it took to bring Shrek to the big screen, Murray lost interest.

24. BAD SANTA (2003)

Murray was in “final negotiations” to play the lead in Bad Santa. Writer-director Terry Zwigoff claimed Murray made a verbal agreement to do it, and then stopped taking Zwigoff’s calls. Billy Bob Thornton took over.

25. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005)

The 800 number was blamed (again) for Murray missing out on Willy Wonka in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic.

26. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (2005)

Noah Baumbach blamed the 800 number as well for not getting a chance to reach Murray to play Bernard Berkman. Jeff Daniels got the part.

27. THE ICE HARVEST (2005)

Director Harold Ramis thought Murray would work well as Pete, Oliver Platt's role. Ramis’ production staff, as The New Yorker recounted, thought this was wishful thinking, as Ramis and Murray’s lack of communication since the end of Groundhog Day was known by many. Ramis managed to convince Brian Doyle-Murray, Bill’s brother, to offer Bill the part on Ramis’ behalf. Murray passed.

28. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006)

Murray turned down playing Frank Ginsberg. Steve Carell didn’t.

29. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS (2007)

Murray said no to portraying David Seville. Jason Lee stepped in.

30. IRON MAN (2008)

Robert Downey Jr. said Murray was wanted for a part in Iron Man, but nobody could find him.

31. HOW DO YOU KNOW (2010)

James L. Brooks’ first choice for Charles Madison was Murray. Murray went as far as showing up for the first rehearsals before dropping out. Jack Nicholson took over.

32. GROSSE FATIGUE

In 2008, Murray said he wanted to star in and direct a remake of the French film Grosse Fatigue, about an actor whose doppelgänger wreaked havoc on his life. He would play both the actor and his double. Murray claimed Disney told him the adapted screenplay was the best script they had read in five years, before changing their mind two days later about proceeding.

33. GHOSTBUSTERS III

More people have read rumors through the years about Ghostbusters III than have seen Ghostbusters II. Murray has publicly stated he didn’t like two of Dan Aykroyd’s drafts of potential scripts for the third movie. Murray said one version, which featured a dead Peter Venkman haunting the other three Ghostbusters, was “kind of funny, but not well executed.” He said another draft was “crazy bizarre and too crazy to comprehend.” An all-female Ghostbusters group will star in a third installment/reboot of the movie franchise next summer.

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
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Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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