The Shady Side Of Bill Murray

Bill Murray is a true iconoclast in the annals of comedy. The "Saturday Night Live" alum, best known for mega-hit comedies such as "Ghostbusters" and "Groundhog Day," famously has no agent to represent him; instead, producers and directors hoping to lure him to their projects must leave a message on an 800 number. That system has generally worked well for him, but there have been exceptions — like the time he signed on for "Garfield" under the mistaken impression that director Joel Cohen was Joel Coen, co-director of such acclaimed hits as "Fargo," and "No Country for Old Men." Meanwhile, apocryphal stories about him abound, ranging from crashing weddings (typically to the delight of the bride and groom) to popping into strangers' house parties — so many, in fact, that a documentary was made chronicling some of the wildest encounters fans have claimed to have had with him.

Combined with his indelible screen performances, those stories have led to Murray becoming more or less universally beloved for the better part of a career that began in the 1970s. In recent years, however, tales of Murray charming fans with surprise appearances have given way to very different stories, alleging some pretty heinous behavior. In fact, a closer look reveals that some of those stories have been hiding in plain sight for decades, and are only now resurfacing as more serious allegations continue to surround him.

To find out more, keep on reading for a deep dive into the shady side of Bill Murray.

The following article includes allegations of addiction, domestic abuse and sexual assault.

His infamous SNL fistfight with Chevy Chase

Among the most legendary stories about Bill Murray's fiery temper dates back to his first season on "Saturday Night Live." As longtime fans may recall, he joined the show in its second season, filling the spot after original Not Ready for Prime Time Player Chevy Chase exited to chase a movie career. 

Chase's "SNL" co-stars felt resentful about his exit; when Chase returned to the show as host, Murray took it upon himself to settle the score. "I got in a fight with Chevy the night he came back to host. That was because I was the new guy, and it was sort of like my job to do that," Murray said in an interview for the book "Live from New York," via Vanity Fair. According to "Animal House" director John Landis, who witnessed the fight, Chase and Murray were yelling at each other, with the two nearly coming to blows after Murray dismissed Chase as a "medium talent." 

Years later, Murray recalled the fight during an interview with Empire. "It was really a Hollywood fight, a 'Don't touch my face!' kind of thing," he said. "So it was kind of a non-event ... Because we all felt mad he had left us, and somehow I was the anointed avenging angel, who had to speak for everyone." Both men buried the hatchet a few years later while co-starring in "Caddyshack." "But Chevy and I are friends now," Murray added. "It's all fine."

His ex-wife accused him of domestic violence

Bill Murray has been married twice. He and his first wife, Margaret Kelly, eloped in 1981, and divorced in 1996. He married costume designer Jennifer Butler in 1997; she filed for divorce in 2008. As Associated Press reported at the time (via the Los Angeles Times), Butler's divorce filing was bursting with ugly allegations. These included her accusations that Murray was addicted to marijuana, alcohol, and sex, and that he would leave without telling her, and that during his travels he would be routinely unfaithful, engaging in "sexual liaisons." Butler also accused Murray of physical abuse, including one altercation in which she claimed that he hit her in the face. According to Butler, Murray then said she was "lucky he didn't kill her." 

Butler claimed Murray had threatened her in a voice message he left for her, which their young children had heard. Meanwhile, Butler felt she was under enough risk that she also requested a restraining order at the same time she filed for divorce.

The divorce did not drag on, and was finalized just a few weeks later. Murray reportedly paid Butler a lump sum of $7 million in the settlement, and Murray has never publicly responded to his ex-wife's allegations of physical abuse. At the time of the divorce filing, Murray's attorney, John McDougall, was quoted as saying, "We cannot comment on the facts of the case" (via People).

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Accusations from co-star Geena Davis from the set of Quick Change

Bill Murray co-starred with Geena Davis in the 1990 comedy "Quick Change." While viewers laughed at their onscreen antics, there was allegedly nothing funny about what had been taking place behind the scenes while filming the movie. In her 2022 book, "Dying of Politeness: A Memoir," Davis wrote that when she met with Murray about the script in a hotel room, he became insistent on using a portable massager on her. "I said no multiple times, but he wouldn't relent," Davis wrote, as excerpted by People

She also recalled an incident, while shooting on location, when she was directed by a costumer to stay where she was. "Seconds later, Bill Murray — in a full clown costume, by the way — slams into the trailer with rage coming out of his eyeballs and starts screaming at me and swearing at me, 'Get the f*** out there! What the f*** are you doing? Move! Move!'" Davis said during an appearance on the "On With Kara Swisher" podcast (via New York Magazine), recalling how he continued screaming at her while a crowd of bystanders watched.

Speaking about her experience with Murray for Vanity Fair, Davis said that until then, she'd shared the public's view of Murray as a lovable funnyman. "But once I had that experience, on day one of the movie, then everything about him after that was completely colored by knowing what lurks within," she recalled.

Claims of 'seething hatred' toward cast during SNL hosting return

After being a cast member in the second through fifth seasons of "Saturday Night Live," Bill Murray returned to the show as host five times. 

During one of those hosting stints in the 1990s, Murray didn't exactly win over the show's actors. Rob Schneider, a member of the cast at the time, has gone on record about Murray's alleged dislike of him and his fellow co-stars. 

"He wasn't very nice to us," Schneider said of Murray while appearing on SiriusXM's "The Jim Norton & Sam Roberts Show," as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. "He hated us on 'Saturday Night Live' when he hosted. Absolutely hated us. I mean, seething." According to Schneider, Murray was particularly displeased with Chris Farley. "He hated Chris Farley with a passion," Schneider recalled. "Like he was just seething looking at him," Schneider added, noting that Murray also seemed to loathe Adam Sandler. Murray allegedly didn't try to hide his disdain for his "SNL" successors, expressing his feelings with a contemptuous glare. "It was just naked rage," Schneider said of Murray's attitude toward the cast.

Bill Murray made Seth Green cry during an SNL sketch

These days, Seth Green is known for playing Scott Evil in the "Austin Powers" movies, as well as his own hit Adult Swim series, "Robot Chicken." Long before that, Green was a child actor who once appeared in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch alongside Bill Murray during one of the latter's hosting returns.

Appearing on the "Good Mythical Morning" YouTube talk show, Green recalled being just nine years old at the time. He was hanging out in the green room when Murray entered. "He saw me sitting on the arm of this chair and made a big fuss about me being in his seat," Green said. "And I was like, 'That is absurd. I am sitting on the arm of this couch. There are several lengths of this sofa. Kindly eff off.' And he was like, 'That's my chair.'"

Murray remained insistent in his desire to sit in the precise spot where Green had parked himself. "He picked me up by my ankles," Green said. "Held me upside down ... He dangled me over a trash can and he was like, 'The trash goes in the trash can.' And I was screaming, and I swung my arms, flailed wildly ..." Murray proceeded to drop Green right in the can, which then fell over. "I was horrified," Green recalled. "I ran away, hid under the table in my dressing room and just cried."

Allegations he was a violent 'drunken bully' toward What About Bob? co-star Richard Dreyfuss

Bill Murray starred alongside Richard Dreyfuss in 1991's "What About Bob?" In the comedy, Dreyfuss plays a psychiatrist who becomes so exasperated by Murray's annoying patient that he erupts in an apoplectic fit of rage. 

According to Dreyfuss, what played out on screen was the polar opposite of what took place behind the scenes. Interviewed by Yahoo! Entertainment, Dreyfuss recalled Murray drunkenly accosting him about an adjustment he wanted to make in the script. "He was an Irish drunken bully, is what he was," Dreyfuss said. "And he put his face next to me, nose-to-nose. And he screamed at the top of his lungs, 'Everyone hates you! You are tolerated!'" Dreyfuss alleged that Murray then picked up a heavy glass ashtray and flung it at him, but missed. "He tried to hit me," Dreyfuss added. "I got up and left." In an interview with "CBS Sunday Morning," Dreyfuss noted that he hadn't encountered Murray since they worked together, but held no grudge. "And one day I will write him a note and say, 'As far as I'm concerned, it's over,'" he declared.

For his part, Murray conceded that there was tension between the two while filming. "[Richard Dreyfuss and I] didn't get along on the movie particularly, but it worked for the movie," Murray told Entertainment Weekly in 1993. "I mean, I drove him nuts, and he encouraged me to drive him nuts."

He threw producer Laura Ziskin into a lake and smashed her sunglasses

Richard Dreyfuss wasn't the only person involved with "What About Bob?" who reportedly raised the ire of Bill Murray. The film's producer, Laura Ziskin, also accused Murray of bullying behavior. 

According to a 2003 Los Angeles Times piece about inappropriate behavior on film sets, Ziskin — who died in 2011 — got into a disagreement with Murray. Their argument grew so heated, she claimed, that Murray tossed her into a lake, fully clothed. While Ziskin characterized Murray throwing her into the lake as "playful," she insisted their fight was anything but. "Bill also threatened to throw me across the parking lot and then broke my sunglasses and threw them across the parking lot," she told the Times. "I was furious and outraged at the time, but having produced a dozen movies, I can safely say it is not common behavior."

The film's director, Frank Oz, didn't emerge unscathed. "It was incredibly difficult, incredibly full of tension," he told Ain't It Cool News of filming "What About Bob?" The way he remembered it, he told IGN, the problems that emerged were due to creative differences, and it wasn't just Murray who was at fault. "The memories of that are that there was a lot of tension on the set, because everybody had their own viewpoint on how to make the movie better," Oz recalled.

Lucy Liu claims Bill Murray would 'hurl insults' at her on the set of Charlie's Angels

Another of Bill Murray's memorable roles was Bosley in the 2000 action film "Charlie's Angels," the handler to a trio of female crime fighters played by Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu.

The latter did not get along with Murray while making the film. As she explained during a 2021 appearance in the Los Angeles Times' "Asian Enough" podcast, as reported by TheWrap, Liu was involved with a script rewrite that took place while Murray was away with set. He was not happy about it, and expressed his anger toward Liu while shooting the rewritten scene. "As we're doing the scene, Bill starts to sort of hurl insults, and I won't get into the specifics, but it kept going on and on," Liu said. "Some of the language was inexcusable and unacceptable, and I was not going to just sit there and take it. So, yes, I stood up for myself, and I don't regret it."

Murray seemingly alluded to his bad blood with Liu, back in 2009 during an interview with The Times. Without mentioning Liu's name specifically, Murray felt he was well within his rights to dole out abuse to those he deemed to deserve it. "Look, I will dismiss you completely if you are unprofessional and working with me," he said. "When our relationship is professional, and you're not getting that done, forget it."

The time he allegedly head-butted a director

It's clear that Bill Murray was not a happy camper during the making of "Charlie's Angels," but Lucy Liu wasn't the only person on the set to feel his sting. That other person would be the film's director, McG.

Speaking with The Guardian, McG boasted about physical altercations with actors. "I don't think there's been a film I've made where there hasn't been some kind of physical fight. I mean, I've been headbutted by an A-list star. Square in the head. An inch later and my nose would have been obliterated," he said. Asked if he wanted to reveal the name of said A-lister, he initially demurred before instantly changing his mind. "Nah, I probably shouldn't," he said. "But it was Bill Murray. Y'know, it's a passionate industry." Murray, however, denied McG's head-butt story. "That's bulls**t! That's complete crap," Murray told The Times. "I don't know why he made that story up. He has a very active imagination."

While one of them is clearly fibbing, a Bill Murray head-butt wouldn't seem to be completely off-brand. "The beauty of Bill is if he sees something he doesn't like, he will rip into that person," Peter Farrelly, who co-directed Murray in "Kingpin," told Entertainment Weekly. "I have seen him go off on people, but I've never seen him go off on someone who didn't deserve it." In any case, it's probably no coincidence that Bill Murray didn't return for the sequel.

A bitter feud with Harold Ramis that lasted for decades

Bill Murray and Harold Ramis had known each other since meeting at Chicago's Second City back in the late 1960s. They went on to co-star in "Stripes," "Ghostbusters," and its sequel. Murray also starred in two Ramis-directed films, "Caddyshack" and "Groundhog Day."

It was during filming of the latter that their decades-long friendship began to fray, with Murray and Ramis clashing over the creative direction of the film. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Ramis revealed that Murray was also battling studio execs at the time. When they suggested he hire a personal assistant who could ease communication with the studio, Ramis told the magazine that Murray hired a deaf person who communicated entirely in American Sign Language — Murray promised that he'd try to learn. 

Meanwhile, the tensions between the director and the star finally came to a head when Ramis became so enraged he angrily slammed Murray against a wall. By the time filming ended on "Groundhog Day," so had the Murray-Ramis friendship. They didn't speak for more than 20 years after that.

Ramis fell ill and died in 2014. Shortly before his passing, Murray made a surprise visit — accompanied by a police escort, no less — to bury the hatchet. According to Ramis' daughter, her father could no longer speak by that point, but the two were able to set aside their differences.

He publicly snubbed co-star Angelica Huston

While Bill Murray has publicly feuded with some of his directors, he appears to get along swimmingly with Wes Anderson, who first directed Murray in his 1998 film "Rushmore." Since then, Murray has appeared in nearly all of Anderson's films, and took the starring role in 2004's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." Also starring in the film was Anjelica Huston, playing the wife of Murray's character. 

"He was a s**t to me on 'Life Aquatic,'" Huston told Vulture, recalling the less-than-hospitable treatment she claimed to have received from Murray, while filming on location in the Italian Riviera. "The first week I was there, we were all in this little hotel, and he invited the entire cast to go and have dinner, except me. And everyone came down for dinner, a little dog-faced about my not being invited, and they were all like, 'Oh, you know, we don't really want to go. That was worse than anything," she admitted.

However, Huston was quick to point out that when she ran into Murray subsequently, he told her that he missed her. She bluntly fired back, "You're full of s**t. You didn't miss me." That retort, she explained, seemed to confuse him. In her subsequent meetings with Murray, Huston confirmed his behavior toward her had improved markedly. "He showed up at my husband's funeral," Huston said. "He couldn't have been nicer that day. He showed up. A lot of people didn't."

Solange Knowles hints that Bill Murray tugged on her hair after asking if it was a wig

Solange Knowles, younger sister of Beyoncé, made her "Saturday Night Live" debut in 2016, as musical guest. As it happened, Bill Murray made a surprise cameo in that very same episode. One of the two songs that Knowles performed was her single "Don't Touch My Hair." Despite that musical warning, and knowing Murray's penchant for breaking the rules, what Murray did do when he encountered Knowles backstage, immediately after completing her performance?

"Your yearly reminder that i saw Bill Murray put both his hands into Solange's scalp after asking her three times if her hair was a wig or not," television writer and producer Judnick Mayard tweeted. Mayard followed up with another tweet, throwing some extra shade at Murray. "'Don't Touch My Hair' is not about Bill Murray. She had just finished performing that song on 'SNL' when he did it," she wrote. "That's the audacity of whiteness."

Is the story true? While no other eyewitnesses have come forward to confirm it happened, it seems it is; Knowles seemingly verified its veracity when she liked both of Mayard's tweets. 

An entire film was shut down due to Bill Murray's alleged inappropriate behavior

In 2022, Bill Murray was working on the film "Being Mortal," the directorial debut of "Parks and Recreation" alum Aziz Ansari. However, Deadline reported that production on the film came to a screeching halt due to a complaint about Murray's inappropriate behavior. At first, reports indicated production had paused, but it was later revealed that the movie shut down altogether. "After reviewing the circumstances, it has been decided that production cannot continue at this time," Searchlight Pictures, the studio producing the project, wrote in a letter sent to members of the movie's cast and crew, reported Page Six

As Puck subsequently reported, an unidentified female co-worker — who was reportedly far younger than Murray — claimed he straddled her and kissed her, while both were wearing face masks. He reportedly paid her a $100,000 settlement in exchange for her confidentiality about what took place. 

In a subsequent interview with CNBC, Murray brushed off the fracas as a "difference of opinion" between creative people. "I did something I thought was funny and it wasn't taken that way," he explained. According to Murray, the repercussions from his actions represented an opportunity for him to learn, and do better in the future. "It's been quite an education for me," Murray admitted. "I think it's a sad dog that can't learn anymore," he added. "I don't want to be that sad dog and I have no intention of it."