Bill Murray has starred in many classic movies, but there are many other classic movies he could have starred in, too. During a movie’s casting phase, many actors are considered for its different roles. Of course, once a movie’s made and becomes a classic, fans can’t think of anyone else playing the main parts. Being one of the world’s biggest stars, Bill Murray has been considered for many roles, and many classics could have featured the famous wise guy actor.
The problem with Bill Murray is that he’s hard to get ahold of. He doesn’t have an agent or manager, but he does have a phone number producers can call that connects to an answering machine they can leave role offers for, and if he likes the project, he’ll get back to them. Communication between filmmakers and Bill Murray has always been tough and many productions even worry whether or not he’ll even show up on the first day of the shoot. But he eventually does, making Bill Murray an elusive yet in-demand actor – as these turned-down, considered-but-rejected, or missed-the-voicemail roles prove.
10 Bad Santa
Bill Murray was the first choice to play Willie Stokes in Bad Santa and was in final negotiations to play the character, however, when it was time to sign on the dotted line, Murray became unreachable. Director Terry Zwigoff left many messages for him on the infamous answering machine but never heard back.
It would seem that Murray decided to do Lost In Translation instead. Eventually, Billy Bob Thornton was cast in Bad Santa, and it’s hard to imagine Bill Murray being as nasty as he was in the movie. Ultimately, Murray probably made the right choice as his Lost in Translation role earned him an Oscar nomination.
9 Rain Man
Bill Murray has made a career out of playing easily annoyed and sarcastic jerks, so he probably would have fit well as a man struggling to handle Hoffman’s autistic character.
Director Jonathan Demme initially wanted a comedic actor to star opposite Tom Hanks in Philadelphia to make audiences feel comfortable watching an AIDS movie, so he considered Robin Williams and Bill Murray for the part of lawyer Joe Miller.
Denzel Washington ultimately won the role and received critical acclaim, but in a Howard Stern interview years later, Murray remarked that this was a role he would have liked to have played.
7 The Dead Zone
Initially, Stephen King envisioned Bill Murray as psychic Johnny Smith. However, producers went with Christopher Walken, who was perfect for the role.
Today, audiences praise Walken’s performance iconic for its kookiness, and it’s hard to imagine that Bill Murray would have been able to achieve this while still being taken seriously by audiences. However, it might have been an interesting pre-Ghostbusters genre role for Murray.
6 Cape Fear
Originally, Steven Spielberg was going to direct Cape Fear and Martin Scorsese was going to direct Schindler’s List. However, Spielberg would later remark that “he wasn’t in the mood” to make a movie about a deranged killer, so he switched projects with his friend Marty.
When Steven Spielberg was at the helm, Bill Murray was his top choice for the role of disturbed Max Cady. Either audiences may not have taken him seriously as a sadistic killer, or it could have been a career-changing performance and fans may never have viewed the comedic actor the same way again. But ultimately, Martin Scorcese’s frequent collaborator, Robert DeNiro, got the part.
5 Forrest Gump
John Travolta, Sean Penn, and Chevy Chase were all considered for the role of Forrest Gump. John Goodman was also considered because he closely resembled how the source novel describes Gump. Producers considered Bill Murray too, but the part ultimately went to Tom Hanks.
Tom Hanks’ portrayal of the slow-but-kind Forrest Gump is unforgettable, but Murray would later tell Howard Stern he has yet to see the movie.
4 Star Wars
It’s difficult to picture anyone other than Harrison Ford as Han Solo and it’s possible that the role would have come across as entirely different with Murray in it. Perhaps, Solo would have morphed into comic relief or Bill Murray would have turned into an action star and his career could have been completely different. Rumor has it, he was also up for Indiana Jones, as well.
Michael Keaton’s casting as Batman was a big deal because up until then, he was mainly known for comedic roles. The media and public feared that Tim Burton’s Batman would resemble the 1960’s TV show instead of The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel. Burton was looking to turn an average-looking guy into a vigilante, so, he considered Bill Murray for the caped crusader, perhaps for the same reason.
However, Bill Murray as Batman might have been a tough pill to swallow for audiences. While Michael Keaton was mainly known for comedy too, his edgy performance in Clean and Sober demonstrated his abilities that Bill Murray, despite being in the dramatic Razor’s Edge, did not at that time.
2 Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Bill Murray was Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis’ first choice for the Eddie Valiant role, unfortunately, as in the case of other productions, they couldn’t get a hold of him. On the Special Edition DVD’s director commentary, Zemeckis states that he mentioned in a newspaper interview that Murray was the original choice. Apparently, Murray read this interview, and even though he was in a public place, he screamed his lungs out.
In the end, Bob Hoskins would get the Eddie Valiant role in the now considered classic film. Eddie Murphy was also offered the role and would regret not taking it years later on Inside The Actors Studio.
1 The Ice Harvest
After starring together in classics like Stripes and Ghostbusters, Ramis directed Bill Murray in the masterpiece Groundhog Day, but they had a falling out during its production. Many years later, Ramis had a villainous gangster role in mind for Murray in the little-seen, yet underrated Christmas caper The Ice Harvest, starring John Cusack.
Frustratingly, Ramis was unable to reach him, forcing him to go through Murray’s brother Brian Doyle-Murray to ask if he wanted to take the part. Unfortunately, Murray declined the role and Randy Quaid was cast instead. What makes this especially tragic is that Harold Ramis would pass away in 2014 and they would never work together again. However, just before Ramis’ passing, Murray and his old friend ended their feud and made amends. Thankfully, it seems producers were able to get ahold of Murray to appear in 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife.