The Razors's Edge Film Site

Press & Publicity

US Magazine

"Straight Man"

Article by Robert Kerwin

Published - 5th November 1984

Photograph by Barbara Walz / Outlin

US MagazineDon't Laugh! Ghostbuster Bill Murray is serious about The Razor's Edge

The ghostbuster who kept America in stitches last summer now wants to be a straight man. "I like to be taken seriously," claims Bill Murray. Ah c'mon. Bill! Is this the old Woody Allen trap that Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin and countless other comedy superstars have fallen into? Not quite. Murray is perfectly content to play the clown, but merely doing another Meatballs or Stripes-no matter how many millions it rakes in-just isn't enough. 'When you're doing well in this work," Murray explains, you get cocky. You feel like you have the world by the tail. You lose your real self. I like going frantic, as I've done in films and on Saturday Night Live. But you've gotta know how to come down out of that."

Murray's first totally serious film role, in The Razors Edge, is giving him that opportunity. A retelling of the 1944 Somerset Maugham novel, it focuses on Larry Darrell, a young American trying to find meaning in life after experiencing the horrors of World War I. Murray stars in the role that Tyrone Power played in the 1947 film. Except for updating the story and bringing out what he sees as Darrell's humorous qualities, the 34-year-old Murray is not playing for laughs. The question is: Will audiences, used to Murray's off-the-wall performances, buy it?

"I suppose many people might think I never have a serious thought in my head, he says. "Not true. I'm pretty contrary to that zany image. Mostly, I'm thinking about serious stuff - a lot of it spiritual. Like Darrell, I need to back off all this activity and take a better look at myself and where I'm going. I can be gregarious. I can be a loner. I can go both ways"

The Razor's Edge came Murray's way through his friend, writer-director John Byrum (Inserts and Heart Beat). They wrote the script together while Murray negotiated the deal with Columbia. Negotiated? Blackmail's more like it. "I told Columbia I'm going to do The Razor's Edge or there'Il he no more 'Biggie Goes to College movies.''

Dan Aykroyd gets the credit for supplying the ammunition - Ghostbusters. Aykroyd wrote the original script with Harold Ramis for John Belushi. After Belushi's death, he offered the part to Murray. "Danny knew that I wanted to do Razor's Edge, and he came up with the idea for me to offer Columbia both films" recalls Murray.

Though Maugham's character went to India's lowlands on his spiritual quest, Murray and crew went to the Indian district of Ladakh, 17,000 feet above sea level. Where Darrell found peace, Murray found chaos, including reported battles with monks over propriety. But the film was properly completed-just in time for Murray to report to the Ghostbusters set in New York City. From high lamas to slime in ten days.

Until now, Murray's own lifetime quest has been for laughs, and the competition was rough from the start. "He was a real tough laugh," says Murray of his father, who died of diabetes when Murray was 17. "Very dry. You'd have to play all of your A material at the dinner table. With nine kids [Murray is fifth in line] our house was a zoo." Home was Wilmette, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, and when Murray goes back now it's usually to a wake. "I'm looking at the corpse and everybody else is looking at me, like I'm gonna grow another arm out of my back. They all tell me - even my younger cousins-that they used to change my diapers. Uncles punch me in the belly and say, 'You may be in show business, Billy, but you're not such hot stuff'"

Home now for Murray. his wife, Mickey (a former talent co-ordinator for The Dick Cavett Show) and their 2-year-old son, Homer, is a rented house in Sneden's Landing, N.Y., a short drive from their Manhattan penthouse. The couple dated for ten years before marrying in 1981 - twice. Once in Vegas at 4:30 am, on Super Bowl Sunday (his idea), and two months later in Wilmette. at the church where he was baptized (her idea).

Those close to Murray aren't surprised by his "new" serious side. He is shy, anxious and given to occasional periods of brooding silence. It's not all show business with him - some days he sees the work as quite silly. "I'm, a worrier," he admits. "I worry about my wife and my son. I worry about whether to stay in this business. I worry about what I'm going to make of myself, and what there is to life for me that's more important than Ghostbusters, or any picture. I'm always trying to reassess where I'm going. and I always find myself coming back to the same point. That I'm right here standing in the middle - somewhere between an angel, a devil and the deep blue sea."