TORONTO (Reuters) - If there was ever a good reason to skip school, it might just be "Bill Murray Day."
The Toronto International Film Festival declared Friday "Bill Murray Day," and called on fans of the quirky comedic actor to dress up as his beloved characters in a costume contest and see screenings of films "Stripes," "Groundhog Day" and "Ghostbusters."
For two public sector workers and a barista dressed up as the three main characters from "Ghostbusters", the decision was a no-brainer.
The trio were first in line for a free screening of the classic comedy, decked out in authentic-looking jumpsuits and proton packs that flash lights and make noise but do not shoot anti-apparition projectiles.
"We're not at that stage with the technology. Maybe one day," said 25-year-old Solange Houle, the barista.
Although Murray is famously elusive and unpredictable, organizers announced late Thursday that he will be here for his own day. Murray will take questions after "Ghostbusters" and the world premiere of his film "St. Vincent", a prospect that delighted fans like movie critic Mark Bell.
"Every single time you hear a story about Bill Murray it's about all these crazy things he does that if any other human did them, people would be like 'we need to arrest this person.' But when Bill Murray does it it's just awesome. How does he pull it off?" he said.
Scores of similarly enthusiastic fans, many of whom were too young to catch "Ghostbusters" when it hit big screens 30 years ago, packed a downtown Toronto theater for a free screening of what host and film programmer Jesse Wente dubbed "the greatest supernatural comedy ever made."
"Toronto's celebration dedicated to the man is well-deserved and we are immensely excited that he'll be there in the flesh to celebrate with us and his huge legion of fans," Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, executive producer of "St. Vincent", said in a statement.
The 63-year-old actor from the Chicago suburb of Wilmette got his foothold in American comedy on "Saturday Night Live" and went on to star in films "Meatballs," "Caddyshack," "Stripes," "Ghostbusters" and "Groundhog Day" in offbeat roles that earned him a following of hard-core fans.
Murray later moved toward more dramatic roles, usually inflected with his trademark humor, like the fading actor in "Lost in Translation." In "St. Vincent," Murray plays a cantankerous retiree with a few vices who becomes the unlikely mentor to a 12-year-old neighbor.
Film industry worker John Reed, 28, attended both "Stripes" and "Groundhog Day" and was hoping to get into "Ghostbusters" too, making him eligible to win a ticket to "St Vincent". But he said it was the classics that mattered most to him.
"To be honest I only just learned of St Vincent last night, I saw a trailer for it," he said. "It looked really good. Bill Murray just doing what he does, shooting from the hip."
(Reporting by Mary Milliken and Alastair Sharp; editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, Grant McCool and Diane Craft)