SXSW Doc Hunts Down the Truth Behind Those Bizarre Bill Murray Encounters

Tommy Avallone investigates the phenomenon in The Bill Murray Stories


SXSW Doc Hunts Down the Truth Behind Those Bizarre Bill Murray Encounters

Bill Murray is notoriously hard to find. Legend has it he has no publicist, and only a secret 1-800 number. Despite this elusiveness, he has a habit of popping up in public and making strangers' days, be it by stepping into an engagement photo, crashing karaoke house parties, or going behind the bar to serve tequila shots (at Austin's own Shangri-La no less). Filmmaker Tommy Avallone (I Am Santa Claus) investigates the phenomenon in the new documentary The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man. It's a journey to separate out the implausible truth from the equally unlikely urban legends, like one Austin story that he could never verify. Avallone said, "There was this rumor that he went up behind someone on a Vespa and covered their eyes and said, 'No one will ever believe you.' We never found a name to search out; it was always a buddy of a buddy. That's the great thing, some of these are true, others are tall tales."

Austin Chronicle: What led you to want to explore these Bill Murray encounters?

Tommy Avallone: First off, I'm a huge Bill Murray fan and I always found these stories interesting. Why would he do that? I'm happy he does, but there's gotta be something there.

AC: What's it like shooting a documentary on such an elusive subject?

TA: It was all part of the game. If he was easy to get there, would there be a movie?

AC: What was your favorite story?

TA: Him randomly showing up at some college kid's dorm. He just started doing the dishes and I thought, "This is ridiculous." It's nothing super special, but it always made me laugh.

AC: Were there any common threads throughout the encounters?

TA: In the simplest way, it just made people's days. Then when people had the time to rethink it and told the story over and over, sometimes they realize there's something more to it. But mainly he makes people happy.

AC: What would increase your chances of meeting Bill?

TA: The best thing is to not even think about it. He's just looking for real interactions with real people and real conversations. He's not gonna want to talk about Ghostbusters, he's interested in other people's stories. The people in these encounters, they're not being fans.

AC: What could we do to be more like Bill?

TA: The idea is just to be open and not try to close things off. It's that "yes, and ..." approach to life. I'd maybe take an improv class and use some of those philosophies. Just be open and willing to explore life.

AC: You had your own Bill Murray experience. Without spoiling too much, what did you take away from it?

TA: There's other documentaries about people who search out subjects – we didn't want to do that. It's not a search for Bill. The way this came together was very organic, and it was the only way to make it.

AC: So, why do you think he does it?

TA: Someone once said to me that Bill's got this unique pass in life. You may want to go into a strange bar in a strange town and just talk to people. Or walk into someone's party and actually learn about people and have a good time. He gets away with it, but if you or me just randomly walked into someone's house, they'd probably ask a couple questions.


The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man

DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHT

Saturday, March 10, 9:15pm, Alamo South Lamar
Monday, March 12, 4pm, Vimeo Theater
Thursday, March 15, 6:30pm, Stateside

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
John Krasinski and Emily Blunt on Their New Horror <i>A Quiet Place</i>
Visiting A Quiet Place
The filmmaking power couple on fighting monsters and real intimacy

Richard Whittaker, April 6, 2018

SXSW Film Review: <i>Upgrade</i>
Review: Upgrade
Cyberpunk action thriller has a few hidden features

Richard Whittaker, March 19, 2018

More by Dan Gentile
<i>Hearts Beat Loud</i> When Nick Offerman’s Around
Hearts Beat Loud When Nick Offerman’s Around
Parks and Rec star talks Austin, breakdancing, and the state of humanity

June 22, 2018

I Tried Death Wish Coffee and Lived
I Tried Death Wish Coffee and Lived
Dangerous levels of caffeine and self-confidence ensued

June 8, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

SXSW, Bill Murray, SXSW Film 2018, The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man, Tommy Avallone

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle