As in in years previous, the 15th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival honors a variety of actors and filmmakers as part of their highlighting of global cinema. This year’s opening gala honored legendary comedic actor Bill Murray, who was also in attendance to promote his recent film Rock the Kasbah, which was filmed in Morocco. The ceremony began with a brief speech from director Sofia Coppola, who extolled over Murray’s virtues as an uncanny comedic force and one of her close personal friends, having directed him in her monumental film Lost in Translation and, more recently, a Netflix Christmas special A Very Murray Christmas. The actor then took the stage and gave a heartfelt speech about his gratitude but also his heavy heart, sighting the recent tragedies in Paris and San Bernardino. This led to an empowering message of how the people around the world need to unite in solidarity to lift the hearts of the global population to fight the terror and evil that lurks in the shadows.
Following the opening gala, I was fortunate enough to attend an hour-long press conference where Murray candidly discussed his political views, his experiences in the country of Morocco, his desire to direct a film in the future, and his next collaboration with Wes Anderson. Check out the highlights below.
People think that you made this movie to brush up the American image by appearing to be peace-loving. Is that true?
Bill Murray: No we weren’t trying to do that. I think any real person hates all this fighting, all this war. Although it may or may not be true the American image needs brushing up, I think the American image in my lifetime is much different than it was when I was a child. I think back then, we thought we were the heroes of world wars and we ended the Nazis or whatever we did. We thought we were pretty wonderful. And that these wars since with Vietnam, and maybe even Korea and now the grand confusion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the mess that has occurred in these places that we are a part of, I think many Americans are not completely sure what’s going on. And the fact that we are looked on as bullies as opposed to good-doers is a source of great concern.
We are led to believe that we are trying to help out some situation that only we have enough interest to solve. While we were making our film a year-and-a-half ago, ISIS arose and I said, “Where did they come from?” And this gentleman working on our film, who came from Afghanistan, he said the only place it could come from is the Americans and the Saudis because they are the only ones with that kind of money. It seemed like a crazy thing but crazy things happen. To me, that’s part of the reason why I wanted to see how this film would be received in the Muslim world.
Is it difficult to be proud to be an American and how could that be fixed?
It’s not to difficult to be proud to be American. It’s sort of like, do you have self pride? Not pride, like sinful, but do you have self respect? Do I respect myself as an American? Yes. Do I respect myself? Yes, I do. Do I respect everything I do? No, I’m not proud of everything I do. Do I respect my country? Yes, I do. Do I respect the people? Yes, I do. Do I respect everything my country does? Well, probably not, there’s certainly some mistakes that we make, not just to other countries but to our own country.
Nobody’s perfect and no country is perfect. We have this big economic engine and people with money throw their weight around and there are people with money who are very generous and thoughtful and there are people with money who just want to make more money. We got them there and you got them here. They’re everywhere. People come from other countries to to America to make money. The pursuit of money is a complicated question. There’s a certain amount of grace and good fortune that can go with it, but beyond a certain point you need to learn distribute it.
Do you think it’s possible for this film to use the vehicle of Bill Murray to save the world?
Whoa. There’s a real dangerous self-importance ledge that you put me out on there with that question, so I’ll just step a little bit away from the ledge and say that I’m just like any of us, I’m a vehicle for some sort of idea. What your parents wanted to become, you are sort of representing. There’s no halo up here or gold star here; I just happen to be an actor and have the capability to tell a story. And if this story is something that’s all, I’m just a more skilled storyteller than an average person. Just like you’d want a good plumber to work in your house, this is sort of what I do.
I do it okay. I’m pretty good, I guess. I was the person attached to this story, when a person says it’s a vehicle of myself it’s just because I’ve been doing it for awhile and I tell stories a certain way and I try my best to be as complete a person when I work and be as honest as I can and I’m just trying. I know what a failure I am in so many ways as a human. I don’t presume to be a savior of the world, but that the ideas I communicate might save something.
What was your experience receiving the tribute from the festival and how was your experience watching the people of Morocco watch Ghostbusters on the public square?
You’re kind of mildly embarrassed to get a prize, but it’s kind of fun to get up and talk a little bit. I wanted to show my appreciation for Morocco and the experience we had in Morocco. I love it here. I love the people here. I wanted to say it aloud. Since I was invited here, there was the tragedy in Paris and that great sadness. I wanted to extend my sympathy. I lived in Paris and it really killed to me to watch on television, to see the scars. It’s a scar and horrible wound when you see the TV trucks on the street. It’s a horrible thing, like in Charleston, South Carolina, where we had a horrible event of our own this year. The crushing sadness of violent crime like that, a hate crime, it just kills you.
There was a lot to feel last night, and it was very sweet of Sofia to come and for her father to be there. They are certainly great filmmakers, and she’s my good friend. I wanted to see how the film was received in the audience and I got my trophy and then we went to the Medina. And it was just as I hoped: it was hilarious. It was funny just as a performer and you are waving to a bunch of people and they are all laughing, screaming, and shouting. It was a lot of fun to hear the Ghostbusters music and feel the excitement. If you are a kid, you get to go out to the movies at night with your parents and enjoy the experience. It was exciting and fun and it felt like I brought something to the Medina.
You mentioned your strength as a storyteller and you’ve worked with so many great directors, have you ever considered stepping behind the camera and directing yourself?
Well I did co-direct one film called Quick Change with a man named Howard Franklin. At the time we wrote what we thought was a very funny movie and we couldn’t get anyone we wanted to direct the movie and we thought, “Well, between the two of us we probably know enough to direct a movie.” I like it. There’s some great actors in it; I’m very proud of the casting we did. We found a lot of great actors before they became who they are today. We had Jason Robards, who, at the point, was just gorgeous. He could read a line that would make you go put yourself in a freezer, he was that good. Tony Shaloub and Stanley Tucci, Randy Quaid, Gina Davis, all the parts had great actors, so we’re very proud of that movie.
We’ve got one we might do again. I can’t tell you today because we’re skulking around. There’s a movie I’d like to make with Mitch Glazer; we’ve already worked on it some. I think it’s about time. I thought I would direct movies all the time when that happened because I did like the experience and I liked working with the actors and I can talk to them okay and I’ve got a visual eye and I can write a little bit.
Do you feel afraid of the world we are living in because of terrorism?
There were people who were afraid to come here, to come along for the ride. I can understand that thought process — like, it came into my head. My friend said, “We just made a movie about a girl that wasn’t afraid to sing. Are we going to be afraid to go to Morocco where our history was?” We loved it and it loved us back. You can respect the power of the ocean when you swim in it, but you can’t fear it because you’re not in the ocean, you’re not alive. You’re imagining, and not creative imagination. Fear is negative imagination.
Do I feel that these events have been terrible? San Bernardino, Paris, New York? Yes, they are dreadful. But I couldn’t live a life of fear like that. I just can’t. If I’m going go, I’m going to go with my stones and go on living and not going to be afraid of it. And here we are. We’re doing okay. We’re in a beautiful place with good people. I’m glad I came. As soon as I got a thousand yards from the airport and I saw the Moroccan walls and people, I was so happy and glad I came. It’s like in Ghostbusters: what comes to destroy the city of New York? The Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. It’s a metaphor because, if you really attack your fears, it turns out to be marshmallows.
What do you think about the new Ghostbusters?
There will be a new Ghostbusters movie and it’s a female cast. I love this idea, I think its a fantastic idea. I think it solves the problem of, “How do you make another one because the movie company really wanted to make another one, because good grief it’s a franchise and a popular, successful one.” That’s how they work nowadays: they like to recreate Star Wars or Die Hard or whatever the franchise is. They make money and they roll them out. People like the characters like Rocky.
Those girls are funny, they are really funny. I went and worked on the job for a day with them, and they are funny. They are really funny. You get those four girls on a screen and its going to be funny. It’s a good thing. I felt like I had to go see it. I was reluctant at first — I never wanted to make another one — but when it was the girls I thought, “Okay, I like all these girls. I’ve worked with Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig a little bit.” It’s an empowering thing and girls just want to have fun and they are really having fun.
Do you have any plans to work with Wes Anderson again?
Yes, I’m playing a dog in his new film. He is doing a stop-motion animated film, like Fantastic Mr. Fox, and it’s based on a Japanese story and I’m playing a dog.
How do you relate to the Rock the Kasbah?
The film is a very graphic representation of my state, what I am as a person. I found the more success you have in life the more life gives you challenges, so although I may be more of a person than I was 25 years ago, in that regard that may be easier because I am more complete than I was then, because it is always very challenging. I’m not sure I’m defending the film because defending the film seems like ‘no you’re wrong, it is really great. I’m supporting the film; you don’t make a film to be famous. You don’t make a film to get rich. You make a film because you want people to see it. I can do my best but I can’t make you like it. You just want people to see it. When I first saw the script, did I feel like it was something I would get excited about? It seemed like it was an idealistic sort of film, you don’t what to preach, you want to tell a story that has some optimism. The tricky part was to tell it but ground it in some sort of reality. Show the foibles of this guy he’s just a lug who got into this situation and does something he thought he couldn’t do.