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Bill Murray is no stranger to bad behavior on movie sets

Searchlight Pictures suspended production of Murray’s newest film, “Being Mortal,” because somebody filed a complaint against the actor for “inappropriate behavior,” Deadline reported.
"New Worlds: The Cradle Of Civilization" Photocall - The 74th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Bill Murray at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on July 16.Lionel Hahn / Getty Images file

For actor Bill Murray, accusations of bad behavior on and off the set are like the premise of one of his best-known movies, “Groundhog Day” — something that keeps happening over and over again.

The latest example? Murray acknowledged in an interview over the weekend with CNBC that Searchlight Pictures suspended production of his newest flick, “Being Mortal,” after he had a “difference of opinion” with a woman he was working with on the film. 

“I did something I thought was funny and it wasn’t taken that way,” Murray told CNBC’s Becky Quick.

Murray, who is 71, did not identify the woman or go into detail about what he did, but said, “We are talking and we are trying to make peace with each other.” Searchlight Pictures has not identified the woman and told NBC News they could not comment on their investigation. The production company also would not say whether or not Murray would continue to be part of the film that was half-completed when it shut down production last month.

It was the first time Murray weighed in on an incident that torpedoed what is supposed to be the directorial debut of comedian Aziz Ansari, whose own career was derailed in 2018 by allegations of sexual misconduct.

In a statement to NBC News at the time, Ansari described it as “completely consensual.” But faced with a public backlash, Ansari did not return to stand-up comedy until February 2019. Last month sources told Deadline that the complaint filed on the set of Being Mortal was not made against Ansari.

The reports surfacing recently about a complaint investigated on the set of Murray’s film, first reported last month by Deadline and later confirmed by NBC News, was just the latest black eye for a beloved actor and Saturday Night Live alum who rocketed to fame in '80s comic classics like “Ghostbusters” and “Caddyshack,” and who won critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination playing a lonely soul in “Lost in Translation.”

When the #MeToo movement took off and top Hollywood actors and directors found themselves being accused for sexually abusing subordinates and others, Murray warned in a 2018 interview with CNBC: “If people are monstrous, it comes back. Eventually it comes around.”

“People are getting their justice rather quickly,” he said. “They’re getting it fast and there’s a big wave.”

That same year, Murray publicly voiced support for the #MeToo movement.

“It’s not just a show business thing,” he said. “If you walk down the street in New York City behind a woman, you see men walking at them and just devouring them with their eyes ... I think I would stay inside a lot more if I were a woman.”

In 2007, Murray was accused of assault by his now ex-wife, Jennifer Butler Murray, who claimed in divorce papers that the actor allegedly assaulted her in November 2007 and then allegedly told her that she was “lucky he didn’t kill her.” 

His ex also alleged in the divorce papers that the actor abused pot and alcohol and trolled for sexual partners overseas and said she fled with her four sons from the couple’s New York home and relocated to their beach house in South Carolina.

“Bill Murray is deeply saddened by the breakup of his marriage with Jennifer,” the actor’s lawyer, John McDougall, said in response at the time to the allegations in the divorce papers. “He and his wife made loving parents, and they are committed to the best interests of their children.”

Here are some of the reported troubling episodes from Murray’s career:

  • In 2000, Murray clashed with actress Lucy Liu on the set of “Charlie’s Angels,” with Liu claiming Murray hurled “inexcusable and unacceptable” comments at her. “I stood up for myself, and I don’t regret it,” Liu said later. She later said in a Deadline interview that she reconciled with Murray. In a 2009 interview with The Times of London, he addressed the issue. “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.”
  • “Charlie’s Angels” director McG (Joseph McGinty Nichol) claimed Murray head-butted him on the set of the same movie. “Square in the head,” McG told The Guardian newspaper in May 2009. “An inch later and my nose would have been obliterated.” Murray denied the claim in The Times of London interview. “That’s bulls---! That’s complete crap!” he responded. “I don’t know why he made that story up. He has a very active imagination.”
  • Actor Richard Dreyfuss, who co-starred with Murray in the 1991 movie “What About Bob,” said in a 2019 interview that Murray behaved like “an Irish drunken bully” on the set and once threw an ashtray at him. Murray conceded that he and Dreyfuss “didn’t get along on the movie particularly, but it worked for the movie.” “I mean, I drove him nuts, and he encouraged me to drive him nuts,” Murray said.
  • Laura Ziskin, who helped produce “What About Bob?,” said in a 2003 interview that she and Murray frequently clashed on the set and at one point the actor threw her in a lake, albeit playfully. “Bill also threatened to throw me across the parking lot and then broke my sunglasses and threw them across the parking lot,” she said. “I was furious and outraged at the time, but having produced a dozen movies, I can safely say it is not common behavior.” Murray did not comment on these allegations at the time.
  • Murray worked with his friend Harold Ramis on the “Ghostbuster” movies as well as “Caddyshack” and “Meatballs.” But their friendship fell apart while Ramis was directing Murray in “Groundhog Day,” Ramis’ daughter wrote. “Bill was going through a difficult time in his personal life, and he and my dad were not seeing eye to eye on the tone of the film,” Violet Ramis Stiel wrote in “Ghostbuster’s Daughter: Life With My Dad, Harold Ramis,” which was excerpted in 2018 by People magazine. They had a few arguments on set, including one in which my dad uncharacteristically lost his temper, grabbed Bill by the collar, and shoved him up against a wall. Eventually, Bill just completely shut my dad out … for the next twenty‑plus years.” Stiel wrote that her father and Murray reconciled before Ramis died. Murray never commented on the alleged argument with Ramis.
  • In 1978, Murray and Chevy Chase, the SNL castmate he was hired to replace, got into a fistfight when Chase returned to the show as a guest host. “You could understand, you know, there were these two bull mooses going at each other, so the testosterone was surging, and stuff happens,” then SNL castmember Jane Curtin recalled. Murray, in a 2012 interview, said he and Chase were friends again. “It was really a Hollywood fight, a ‘Don’t touch my face!’ kind of thing,” Murray told Empire. “It was an Oedipal thing, a rupture. Because we all felt mad he had left us, and somehow I was the anointed avenging angel who had to speak for everyone. But Chevy and I are friends now. It’s all fine.”