Bill and Wes’s Excellent Adventure

With the announcement that Bill Murray will star in Wes Anderson's next movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, the pair enters the upper echelon of American director-actor combos.

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Associated Press | Lionel Cironneau

In a new interview with Vulture, Bill Murray let it slip that he is “about to go shoot a movie with Wes Anderson in Germany.” With Murray starring in seven of eight Anderson films, it’s safe to say this is one of Hollywood’s most tight-knit actor-director relationships.

Titled The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson’s new film will include a “psychic medium” who may or may not be Jude Law, who pestered Anderson for a role; Angela Lansbury, who, sixteen years removed from Murder, She Wrote, is “playing a woman of mystery;” and Johnny Depp, who has said that his Ichabod Crane character in Sleepy Hollow was in part inspired by Lansbury. While ensemble casts with quirks mirroring J.D. Salinger characters are one of the draws of Anderson’s films, which include The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeling Limited, it’s the winning combination of Anderson and Murray that people are focusing in on.

Directors often work with the same actors. In terms of sheer numbers, John Ford and John Wayne are the team to beat, with about twenty films together, including Stagecoach and The Searchers. But most of these films are formulaic, which Anderson’s certainly are not, and Wayne plays the same stock character, while Murray is a chameleon in Anderson’s films. Next up would be Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, the duo that has put together perhaps the most impressive resume, with Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. But Anderson and Murray are only one film short of beating their work record. There are a handful of other combos including Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney, and Billy Wilder and Jack Lemon (h/t to the Houston Chronicle and the blog News from the Boston Becks, which both put together a list of additional partnerships).

Murray and Wes certainly produce impressive and critically-acclaimed work together. It’s as if they complete each other. In 1999, while promoting Rushmore, their first film together, Anderson and Murray asked each other questions for Interview. The conversation ranged from hookers to chicken-fried steak, and Anderson revealed that as a kid he once dressed as Venkman, Murray’s character from Ghostbusters, for Halloween. Murray returned the compliment by saying, “I think Rushmore is the first movie I’ve done in a while that’s completely whole.” Fast forward almost fifteen years and their growing respect for each other implies symbiosis. While promoting Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson told The Huffington Post, “As soon as we started working together, I would say something to him and he would respond with something that made me think, ‘Not only does he understand what I’m saying, he seems to like it and has expanded on it.'” Meanwhile, Murray, no stranger to hyperactivity, told Esquire, “Life really does change when you go on one of Wes’s films—you gotta sit back and relax.”

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