Personal detailsName: Bill Murray
Born: 21 September 1950 (Age: 64)
Where: Wilmette, Illinois, USA
Height: 6' 0"
Awards: Won BAFTA and Golden Globe, 1 Oscar Nomination
All about this star
Surely there has never been a greater springboard to fame than Saturday Night Live. In the years since its 1975 inception it has produced a welter of household names. There was the initial burst with Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner and John Belushi. These were closely followed by Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Belushi, then Martin Short, Dana Carvey and Mike Myers. More recently there were Chris Farley, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell. Spinal Tap stars Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean all made a brief showing, as did Joan Cusack, Randy Quaid and Robert Downey Jr. There were a host of others famed in America yet not brought to world attention by cinematic success.
So intensely creative was the show that its participants generally considered it to be the best job in television, unmatchable in the job satisfaction achieved. When their stints were over, most would seek a similar buzz in Hollywood. Some were successful there, yet very few outgrew their comedic roots to become "serious" actors. Murphy and James Belushi found some joy in roustabout action flicks, but this was short-lived. Cusack, Quaid and Downey were primarily actors anyway. Aykroyd was Oscar-nominated for a straight role in Driving Miss Daisy, but never came close to carrying a straight picture. Sandler would make efforts, but his progress was slow.
Really, only one Saturday Night Live alumnus would rise to filmic prominence, maintain a high profile and attain renown as an actor. This was Bill Murray. Having hit big with gonzo comedies, then moved through increasingly sophisticated projects till receiving widespread respect for the likes of Rushmore and Lost In Translation, he has enjoyed major cinema hits in four separate decades, in the meantime transforming himself from a youth icon to, well, an icon for everyone.
He was born William James Murray on the 21st of September, 1950, in Wilmette, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, just north of the city on the banks of Lake Michigan. He was the fifth of nine kids (only one a girl - she became a nun) born to Irish Catholic couple Edward and Lucille. Edward was a lumber salesman and a keen golfer, having once caddied for former US Open champion Chick Evans, and been both groundskeeper and member of the Indian Hill golf club at Winnetka, just north of Wilmette. His experience and encouragement in this area would serve several of his sons well.
Given the constant flow of children, the Murray household was not an easy place to grow up, Bill later commenting "Our house was a wreck, a constant claustrophobic mess". The kids were forced to battle for space and their parents' attention. They'd all do impressions of their long-suffering mother in order to win laughs from each other and from their father. Edward was known to his friends as a funny guy, but he was hard to impress. Bill recalls once doing a James Cagney impression on the dinner table, falling off and cracking his head hard on the table's metal foot. It hurt badly but, looking up to see his father in stitches, he found himself laughing and crying at the same time.
Attending grade school at St Joseph's, Bill was a voracious reader. Up to the age of 14, he would devour books of all kinds, from The Way Things Work to Walt Whitman. Unfortunately for his teachers, though, he was an irrepressible character, keener to entertain his peers than concentrate on the lesson in hand. This would lead to him being kicked out of both the Boy Scouts and Little League (this was a shame as he always loved baseball, particularly the Cubs, and today owns a share in at least half a dozen Minor League teams). He fared little better at Loyola Academy, an all-boys Jesuit high school in Wilmette. His English teacher, Father Reuter, would describe him as "brilliant but a terrible student". Ordinarily, Reuter would make unruly pupils sit at the front of the class as an example, but had to place Bill at the back lest he begin to perform for his classmates once again. One of Murray's Loyola peers was William Petersen, later the star of Manhunter and TV hit CSI. The school would also produce Chris O'Donnell.
To help pay for his tuition at Loyola, Bill would, like his older brothers Ed and Brian, work as a caddy at Indian Hills. On his arrival, he was known as "the new Murray". By working all summer he could pay for his schooling and have a little left over for himself. One of his biggest and most enduring hits would be based on the Indian Hills experience, Caddyshack being written by Brian, drawing on Ed's stories (in 2001, the Murray brothers would open a restaurant called Caddyshack, the first of a chain). Indeed, Brian would provide Bill with many of his early breakthroughs, being the first of the family to step into professional comedy. Bill would follow him into Chicago's Second City troupe, then on to New York. A successful actor and comedian, Brian (known as Brian Doyle-Murray, having taken his grandmother's maiden name) would appear in myriad productions. There'd be Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld, he'd play Jack Ruby in Oliver Stone's JFK, and provide the voice of the Flying Dutchman in SpongeBob SquarePants show. And this would not be the sum total of the Murrays' screen success. Brother John would appear in Burt Reynolds' Starting Over and Bogdanovich's They All Laughed while, years later, brother Joel would turn up in TV hit Dharma And Greg.
Bill's waywardness would continue to blight his education.