Sometimes you just have to be a go getter. That was movie director Sofia Coppola’s philosophy when she decided the she absolutely had to have Bill Murray as the leading man in a movie she wanted to make.
She felt so strongly about having him in that particular movie that if he didn’t agree to do it she would abandon the project entirely.
Her plan was to do whatever it took to get his attention and then convince him that the movie deserved his efforts.
There was a major problem with her plan though, even if she did manage to get Bill Murray’s attention (which in itself was legendary in Hollywood circles for being a nearly impossible task) and somehow convinced him to be in the movie she couldn’t actually pay him the kind of money he was used to getting. Nowhere near it.
This didn’t stop her though, I think it was one of those kinds of things where she told herself she’d just cross that bridge when she got there. At that point her entire mind and existence was set on simply getting Bill Murray to talk to her.
In an interview with the New York Times she described that period in her life with a single telling sentence:
“Stalking Bill became my life’s work.”
She pursued him for months and months doing anything she could think of to get him to meet with her. Since Murray was notoriously hard to get a hold of and didn’t like to make it known where he was at any given time this meant her trying a lot of unusual tactics like calling someone she barely knew that just happened to live in the same town as Murray and …asking him if he knew Bill Murray lol.
A couple years before all this happened Murray had gotten rid of his talent agency and replaced it with a voicemail type setup. Most people didn’t know the number but she managed to get a hold of it and called him every day.
After months and months of having Sofia Coppola and her proposal for the movie pop up in his life, Bill Murray finally agreed to meet with her and miraculously she was even able to convince him to do the movie despite not being able to pay him what he was worth.
As you can imagine this was an amazing time for her but there was a new problem to worry about: Yes Murray had agreed to do the movie but he (for some reason) wouldn’t put anything in writing.
This meant that she had no clue if he’d blow off the movie at the last minute, which would make all her time and efforts a waste not to mention all the money that was being put into pre-production (about a million dollars). Would he end up taking a more lucrative project at the last minute?
Alarmingly Murray stayed elusive about the project and the set of the movie was without its major star even just days before filming was supposed to start.
As time was ticking down Coppola finally got a call from one of her producers saying ‘The eagle has landed’, meaning he had just seen Murray arriving at the airport.
The movie, Lost In Translation, was filmed in just twenty-seven days and had a budget a small fraction of what most movies spend on special effects alone.
After reading this story about Sofia Coppola’s tenacity though it probably won’t surprise you that the movie ended up a major commercial success relative to it’s cost, bringing in a hundred and twenty million dollars.
It won an Oscar, Golden Globes, and various other major awards but it also won an award much more rare and more valuable in it’s own way.
Not only did Sofia Coppola against all odds get Bill Murray to agree to be in Lost In Translation but it also ended up being, out of all the movies he’s been in, his favorite.