The Wall Street Journal has a great piece out this week on how director Ted Melfi got Bill Murray to star in his debut feature film St. Vincent, and it’s just as strange and amazing as you might expect a Murray casting story to be. After getting access to Murray’s famous 1-800 number and leaving messages for months, Melfi says he finally got a response from Murray’s lawyer with a request from Murray for a one-page letter regarding the project. A few weeks later, Melfi was driving and got a call from Murray himself:
“Listen,” Mr. Murray said. “I read your script, and I think it’s great—and who are you? I don’t Google people, so tell me about yourself.” It was going the way dreams go until Mr. Murray suggested they meet right away—in Cannes. Mr. Melfi was working on a project in Los Angeles. Mr. Murray said maybe it wasn’t meant to be. He’d call back later.
After two weeks of Melfi panicking and throwing out his back, that initial call eventually led to the two meeting at LAX, grilled cheese sandwiches, and a long drive together:
They boarded a chauffeured Town Car, then picked up four grilled-cheese sandwiches at In-N-Out Burger. “And we drove for three hours through the Pechanga Indian reservation—go to San Diego and take a left.” Mr. Murray’s house was down a private road at the back of a golf course. “I had to use the bathroom and he goes, ‘Don’t forget to jiggle the handle.’ Then we walk outside, and he says ‘We should do this. Let’s make a movie.’ I said ‘Bill, there’s just one thing I wanna ask you. Do you think you could tell someone other than me that this happened?’”
Unsurprisingly, Melfi told WSJ that “it all fell into place” once Murray signed on for the film with supporting actors Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, and child actor Jaeden Lieberher. Hopefully St. Vincent does well enough in theaters to convince Murray to take more 1-800 pitches, proving that with a little luck and a lot of persistence, anyone who dreams of casting Bill Murray in their first movie actually has a shot.