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Production on Bill Murray film 'Being Mortal' is halted after a behavior complaint

Bill Murray walks the red carpet during the 2019 Rome Film Festival.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto
Getty Images for RFF
Bill Murray walks the red carpet during the 2019 Rome Film Festival.

Searchlight Pictures has suspended production of the film Being Mortal after a complaint was filed last week about "inappropriate behavior," reportedly by actor Bill Murray. The production company sent a letter to the cast and crew this week saying it was looking into a complaint, though it did not say who or what it was about.

"After reviewing the circumstances, it has been decided that production cannot continue at this time," the memo read. "We are truly grateful to all of you for everything you've put into this project. Our hope is to resume production."

It's unclear whether Murray will be replaced in the movie, which began production at the end of March. Actor Aziz Ansari wrote the script, based on the nonfiction book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Ansari was also making his directorial debut on this film, and acting in it, along with Murray and Seth Rogan.

Searchlight's memo, confirmed to NPR, also said the company is working with Ansari and his production partner Youree Henley to figure out next steps for the film. A spokesperson says Searchlight would not comment on investigations. NPR has also reached out for comment through an attorney who has represented Murray in the past.

The 71-year-old actor is known for his deadpan style of comedy, something he honed at The Second City improvisational comedy troupe in Chicago and with The National Lampoon Radio Hour before joining the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1977. He went on to star in the comedies Ghostbusters, Caddyshack and Groundhog Day, among other films. He also appeared in several Wes Anderson films, such as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The French Dispatch. He also costarred with Scarlett Johansson in Sofia Coppola's 2003 film Lost in Translation.

Over the years, the actor became something of a folk hero to some, crashing parties and kickball games, photobombing an engagement party and surprise bartending at the SXSW festival. Instead of an agent or PR representative, the elusive actor famously has a 1-800 phone number to field offers for scripts and movie roles.

On set, Murray also developed a prickly persona with a bad temperament and reportedly clashed with his directors, co-stars and others. His fellow SNL and Ghostbusters costar Dan Aykroyd referred to him in a tweet as "the Murricane" for his mood swings. According to the book Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, Murray and Chevy Chase famously traded insults and blows on set. Murray's longtime friend Harold Ramis told The New Yorkertheir arguments got so heated on the set of Groundhog Day, he and Murray stopped speaking for more than two decades.

"He was an Irish drunken bully," Richard Dreyfuss told Yahoo Entertainment, adding that Murray once screamed and threw an ashtray at him during production of the 1991 film What About Bob? The film's producer Laura Ziskin was quoted in Kim Masters' book Keys to the Kingdom saying that during a spirited disagreement about time off, Murray threw her into a lake. "Bill also threatened to throw me across the parking lot and then broke my sunglasses and threw them across the parking lot. ... I was furious and outraged at the time, but having produced a dozen movies, I can safely say it is not common behavior."

Actress Lucy Liu told the Los Angeles Times' podcast Asian Enough that she had to stand up for herself against Murray during a scene rehearsal for the 2000 movie Charlie's Angels. "Bill starts to hurl insults," she said, adding that they were directed at her. "It was unjust, uncalled for and some of the language was inexcusable and unacceptable. I was not going to sit there and take it." Murray was replaced in the Charlie's Angels sequel Full Throttle. Later, Murray insisted their 20-minute argument was blown out of proportion. "We began rehearsing this scene and I said, 'Lucy, how can you want to say these lines? These are so crazy....She got furious with me because she thought it was a personal assault, but the reality is she hated these lines as much as I did. But for 15 or 20 minutes there, we went to our separate corners and threw hand-grenades and sky rockets at each other."

In 2007, he was divorced from Jennifer Murray, who alleged he physically abused her and left threatening voice messages when he traveled out of town. In court documents, she claims Murray "hit her in the face and then told her she was "lucky he didn't kill her."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.

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