NEW YORK — Bill Murray is watching police chase a white pickup truck along the highways of Houston. His attention is riveted to the TV screen, but when the driver veers in the direction of the one thing Murray deems holy, he is suddenly shouting.
“This (guy) is going to drive over a golf course! Oh, no!” he yells into the phone, only slightly relieved when the pickup turns away. “If he had drove over the green, I would have had to hang up and get involved with the chase. That would have been just disrespect.”
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Murray — a renowned golfer, besides actor and comedian — discussed his remaining goals in Hollywood during a conversation punctuated by somehow fitting exclamations on the pickup.
Though the interview was ostensibly for a recent guest appearance on the Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper” series, the talk zigzagged much like the chase he was watching. It revealed Murray’s theories on getaways and the reasons behind the actor’s current break from the big screen.
“I tell people I’m retired,” says Murray, 55.
This at first sounds like bombshell news for the King of the Deadpan’s fans. But he continues.
“I kinda like this Jay-Z thing, where he’s retired, but he keeps doing shows. I think I beat him to that,” Murray says. “If you say you’re retired, people don’t bother you so much, and then if you want to do something, you can do it.”
Murray, who lives with his wife, Jennifer Butler, and their four children in upstate New York (he has two more children from a previous marriage), hasn’t acted in a live-action film in over a year and half (2005’s “Broken Flowers”). He did the voice for “Garfield” and its 2006 sequel.
“I'm basically lazy”
But he has no plans to do anything anytime soon. A month ago he nearly took a part in a movie costarring Sienna Miller about a dead girl whose body is decomposing throughout the movie, but passed.
“I made several movies in a row,” he explains. “I made one where I was gone for 5½ months (‘Lost in Translation’). It takes a toll ... I’m basically lazy. I work really hard when I work, but I try to avoid work.”
At this point, the front-left wheel of the white pickup (which has been pursued more than an hour after an armed robbery) comes right off — described by Murray as “like a cartoon.”
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In the midst of explaining that he has relished working with indie directors Sofia Coppola and Jim Jarmusch — directors in “complete control” of their films — Murray again veers off.
“Oooh, and they just crashed into something because he can’t steer anymore. And he’s armed and he’s dangerous!” he laughs.
This all brings to mind some memorable chase scenes in Murray’s films — like the Army RV he and Harold Ramis drive into Czechoslovakia in “Stripes,” the suicidal dash in “Groundhog Day” or his naive getaway in the underrated “The Man Who Knew Too Little,” where he gleefully runs over a row of construction cones.
In this way, Murray is perhaps an expert in the field.
“Don’t they understand that this helicopter business is a problem?” he wonders.
“Someone’s going to figure out how to do this and get away with it,” he says, then adds sympathetically: “But, you know, your adrenaline gets going and you think you’re doing so well.”
Having lost in his one run at an Academy Award, nominated for best actor in 2003’s “Lost in Translation,” Murray says an Oscar isn’t the thing that’s missing.
Instead, if there’s something he’d still like to accomplish, he hopes to again direct a film. He co-directed the 1990 heist comedy “Quick Change” with Howard Franklin.
“I seem to know enough about it to do it,” he says sheepishly.
The pickup truck that Murray has been following eventually ends up in a watery ditch. The suspect is arrested, disappointing Murray’s hopes for a “hellacious gunfight.”
He imagines the culprit “going, ‘Well, we gave them a pretty good run for their money.”’
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