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Fantastic Mr Fox - Bill Murray interview

Bill Murray

Interview by Rob Carnevale

BILL Murray talks about working on Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox at a press conference to start the Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival. He also talks about channelling his inner badger and why working with the animators at Three Mills Studios in London rated among his most memorable experiences of working in movies…

Q. How did you find your inner badger?
Bill Murray: My little animal secrets must remain my little animal secrets. How I do my nails and everything is really my business. Channelling the badger? Well, we’ve all got a little critter in us! When cornered, we can bite ferociously and sometimes we burrow deep, deep, deep to get away from other people and be safe. I don’t know if that makes any sense right now, but I think playing a badger – unless you’ve done it you can’t even have this conversation.

Q. You’re known for your improvisational skills, so did working in animation help or hinder that?
Bill Murray: Well, it really has to do with the director and the actors you’re working with. It’s just like any other character… improvisation is really a function of how good the script is. The script [on this] was good and the story is great. The worse the script is, the more you improvise – it’s as simple as that. Whether it’s a badger, or a doctor, or a housewife [I’m playing], if the script’s lousy you’re going to see more and more improvisation from me – especially if I’m a housewife. But working with these characters was great.

Q. Felicity Dahl said that Roald was a wonderful man to live with until the last few weeks before any book was published, when he got really grumpy and feared whether this would be his last work. Do you, as an actor, share that same fear?
Bill Murray: I was just with Felicity yesterday and she made me feel that way too! [Huge laughter] So, goodbye everybody. You always feel like this is the end, but the nice thing about being animated is that people will have more difficulty picking me out. I don’t know what we’re talking about here to be honest… she [Felicity] seems OK. He’s dead now anyway, so he’s safe. She can’t do any damage to him. When he was alive, she must have roughed him up pretty bad but what happened in their household should stay there!

But seriously, we saw where they lived, it’s an amazing place and Felicity is quite a person. They had quite a life together, and she’s very devoted to him even now, so I’m sure in that moment of anxiety it must have been very forceful to her to realise there’s nothing I can do for him now. It’s just an anxiety that no person can help you with – it’s your own question about your own worth of identity. But he came through it time after time. Somebody must have roughed him up once upon a time, and it doesn’t go away so easily. But she’s a wonderful, wonderful woman and if I was going to re-marry, I’d take a chance with her.

Q. How important is London Film Festival on the film-going calendar?
Bill Murray: We kid about the English being bad guys and everything because that Revolution thing is still sticking with us… But one of the reasons why the London Film Festival is so important is that this film couldn’t have been made anywhere in the world but in Britain. One of the most exciting days I’ve ever had in the film business was the day I spent with the artists at Three Mills Studios.

There’s more talent in one little factory than I’ve ever been closeted with. I’ve never been with so many talented people in one place. They do things there with sets, with design, with building, with models that America couldn’t dream about. We can put a man on the moon, but we could not make this movie. To me, it’s a celebration of all the people that worked on this film. And they’re fun after work too! I want to make a special point of saying that.

Read our review of Fantastic Mr Fox