As TIFF 2014 celebrates Bill Murray day in Toronto to honour the comic legend, director of his TIFF debut of St. Vincent says getting him for the role was a challenge.

Along with the debut of his film St. Vincent, TIFF and fans celebrate “Bill Murray Day” with free screenings of his films Stripes, Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox ahead of his premiere of St. Vincent. In good form, Murray will treat fans with a special a question and answer session following the screenings.

Murray’s new film, St. Vincent, which is hailing praise amongst critics, is the feature film debut of director Theodore Melfi, and tells the story of solitary, cash-strapped war veteran, Vincent (Murray) who has a healthy appetite for booze and women. When the vacant house next door suddenly becomes occupied by a single mother, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), Vincent is at first annoyed before plotting to support his dwindling retirement fund by offering his services as babysitter to Maggie’s twelve-year-old son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Upon Maggie’s eventual, reluctant agreement, Oliver sets out to receive a gross miseducation which evolves into an unlikely and tender friendship between the two individuals.

So how do you get a huge star like Murray in your first major film debut? It’s not that easy, admits Melfi, who had to go to great lengths to nab the star.

“You know what the truth is? You don’t find Bill Murray. Bill ­Murray finds you,” Melfi told Entertainment Weekly. “He finds everything he’s supposed to be involved in by not chasing anything. If it’s supposed to happen, the person will hound him until it happens or he’ll run into them at a bar or restaurant. He has a zen-like protocol in regard to what he does and doesn’t do.”

Melfi went on to describes his experience of trying to get in touch with Murray or his people to talk to him about the movie which included calling a 1-800-number, sending multiple copies of the script to various addresses, a botched meeting and finally getting a verbal agreement in the parking lot of an In-N-Out Burger.

Co-star Melissa McCarthy, a lifelong fan of Murray’s, also recalled having a fangirl moment upon first meeting the comedy legend. “I kept thinking, ‘Please don’t freak out. Please don’t say something dumb’,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “Then he stormed into the hair and make-up trailer, made a beeline for me, and was turning me, spinning me. Lifting an arm, putting an arm down. He said, ‘Well, you’re taller than I thought, but you’re still pretty short.’ Literally, he looked me over like a car. It was crazy and I loved it. It made all my nerves go away. That’s a great way to meet Bill Murray.”


St. Vincent. also stars Naomi Watts, Terrence Howard and Chris O’Dowd and premieres on 5 September.





—Sarah Khan


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