SXSW Doc Hunts Down the Truth Behind Those Bizarre Bill Murray Encounters
Tommy Avallone investigates the phenomenon in The Bill Murray Stories
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 SPOTLIGHTSaturday, March 10, 9:15pm, Alamo South Lamar
Monday, March 12, 4pm, Vimeo Theater
Thursday, March 15, 6:30pm, Stateside