Monday, March 3, 2014

i am not making it up

So... the feud.

The Wrap, 25 February 2014, tells us that Harold Ramis' and Bill Murray's "masterwork, 'Groundhog Day' is a sly and subversive romantic comedy that justly earned inclusion in the United States National Film Registry and is considered a modern classic."

But we know all that.

It continues: "It also split the longtime friends and film partners apart."

They had known each other for decades, had worked together at Second City and the National Lampoon Radio Hour. Ramis co-wrote Meatballs which starred Murray, directed Caddyshack which may not have starred Murray but certainly allowed him to leave an indelible mark on anyone who watched the film, and they co-starred in Stripes together. Ramis' top-grossing film as a director and writer was Ghostbusters, in which they both starred. Then they returned to those roles five years later in Ghostbusters II. And, their final collaboration was Groundhog Day.

On the set, the general dispute was over the tone of the film. But, it was more than that. Tad Friend explains in The New Yorker, 19 April 2004:

Offscreen, Ramis and Bill Murray were trapped in a cycle of personal strains. Murray's marriage was breaking up, and he was behaving erratically--the whirling, unpredictable personality that Dan Aykroyd calls 'the Murricane.' Ramis sent [Danny] Rubin to New York to work with Murray on the script, because he was tired of taking his star's 2 a.m. calls. Rubin says that when Ramis phones him to check in, Murray would shake his head and mouth the words 'I'm not here.' 'They were like two brothers who weren't getting along,' Rubin says. 'And they were pretty far apart on what the movie was about--Bill wanted it to be more philosophical, and Harold kept reminding him it was a comedy.'

'At times, Bill was just really irrationally mean and unavailable; he was constantly late on set,' Ramis says. 'What I'd want to say to him is just what we tell our children: "You don't have to throw tantrums to get what you want. Just say what you want."'

After the film wrapped, Murray stopped speaking to Ramis. Some of the pair's friends believe that Murray resents how large a role Ramis had in creating the Murray persona. Michael Shamberg, a Hollywood producer who has known Ramis since college and who used to let Murray sleep on his couch, says, 'Bill owes everything to Harold, and he probably has a thimbleful of gratitude.'

Except for brief exchanges at a wake and a bar mitzvah, the two men haven't talked in eleven years [as of 2004]. 'It's a huge hole in my life,' Ramis says, 'but there are so many pride issues about reaching out. Bill would give you his kidney if you needed it, but he wouldn't necessarily return your phone calls.'

In early March, Ramis prevailed on Brian Doyle-Murray to ask his brother if he would take part in 'The Ice Harvest.' Brian reported that Bill said no, thanks. When Ramis asked if Bill said anything more, anything personal, Brian said that his brother hadn't mentioned Ramis at all.

At around the same time, I [Tad Friend] reached Murray, after several attempts, and told him that I was writing about Ramis and would love to talk to him. 'Really?' Murray said. It was hard to tell what he meant by that 'really.' He suggested that I call back in a week. When I did, he said, 'I've thought about it, and I really don't have anything to say.'

In an interview with AV Club, 19 June 2009, Ramis says that he and Murray "have no social relationship whatsoever." But, he "admired and respected" Murray's exploration of his "more adult, serious side of himself" in films like Rushmore and Lost in Translation. Still, he says, "I just had so little social contact with him that I don't have any perspective on anything he does, thinks, or feels, and he gives no clues."

There's a story that seems almost unconfirmable despite being all over the internet; supposedly as the feud was getting going and Murray was being troublesome on the set (or maybe it was after production was over, it's hard to tell), he hired a new personal assistant who was a deaf-mute "just to piss people off." While this sort of thing might fit with Ramis calling him "irrationally mean" above, it also seems unique enough that someone would have asked Ramis specifically about it. I also suspect that any deaf-mute available for hire would probably actually be pretty damn good at communicating with people by other means. Hell, such an assistant would probably help things along better than a hearing, speaking assistant. It makes for a nice story, though... well, not nice but certainly something worthy of being passed on. I'm even perpetuating it right now when I don't have good reason to believe it to be true.

Anyway, the feud...

World Entertainment News Network, a newswire service, reported, 27 February 2014 that Bill Murray ended the feud finally, visiting Harold Ramis on his deathbed. The story doesn't seem to have been picked up by any big media outlet--I found it on Fox 16 out of Little Rock and ABC 4 out of Salt Lake City--which makes it a little suspect to me. Well, that and it cites the National Enquirer as a source. It makes for a nice little story, though. Brian Doyle-Murray acting as peacemaker, telling Bill "he needed to put aside his differences and see his pal one last time before he was gone." Supposedly, "Bill and Harold talked about Chicago and the Cubs (the city's baseball team)--they'd both been lifelong fans. After that, Harold was finally at peace... and so was Bill." It's a bit too simple.

No, the feud never ended. Ramis and Murray never made up.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to find anyone with whom I have ever feuded and earn or offer forgiveness.

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