33 Movies That Almost Starred Bill Murray

Ali Goldstein/Netflix
Ali Goldstein/Netflix / Ali Goldstein/Netflix

Part of the charm of Bill Murray to fans is the part of him that frustrates filmmakers—namely, his willful inaccessibility to show business. He was known to be picky about his role choices throughout the 1980s and '90s, but that all came to a head in 2000, when Murray replaced his agents with an automated 800 number. To this day, writers and directors wanting to work with Murray are directed to leave a voicemail. If Murray likes the idea, he insists that the script be faxed to him in care of his local office supply store. As you can imagine, he has missed out on plenty of opportunities on this system alone. Or maybe that’s just what he wants the spurned moviemakers to think?

1. STAR WARS (1977)

It has been rumored for a long time that Murray, along with a lot of other young actors, had auditioned to play Han Solo in the original Star Wars. At Comic Con this past summer, he claimed he didn’t know if he was ever up for the part, before joking that he was working out to increase his chances of finally getting the young Han Solo in a rumored Young Han spinoff.

2. ANIMAL HOUSE (1978)

Harold Ramis, who co-wrote Animal House, claimed that "Chevy Chase was supposed to be Otter, Dan Aykroyd was going to be D-Day, and Bill Murray was supposed to be Boon." John Belushi was always going to play Bluto.

3. THE JERK (1979)

Murray was cut out of the classic Steve Martin film. The Washington Post wrote months before the premiere that he was going to appear as a “flamboyantly gay decorator” who designed Martin’s character’s mansion. The day after the movie's debut, Murray revealed on a "Weekend Update" segment of Saturday Night Live that his scene had been cut, before calling the movie a “dog” and saying “there’s something missing” from it.

4. AIRPLANE! (1980)

Murray was being considered for the role of Ted Striker. He read the script and claimed, “This is gonna work, but it’s not for me.” Robert Hays landed the role instead.


Murray was one of several actors considered to play Indiana Jones. Steven Spielberg has repeatedly tried to cast Murray over the years.

6. THE DEAD ZONE (1983)

Stephen King had approval for casting of the movie adaptation of his book, and King’s first choice to play Johnny Smith was Bill Murray. The official reason for Murray not taking the role was “a prior commitment.” Christopher Walken got the part.

7. SPLASH (1984)

P.J. Soles worked with Murray in Stripes. Soles saw Murray accept the script for Splash before flinging it across the room “in disgust."


Albert Brooks didn’t want to star in his 1985 film, Lost in America—he wanted Bill Murray to do that. Murray was interested, but only if Brooks was willing to wait two and a half years for him. Brooks was not.

9. LEGAL EAGLES (1986)

Robert Redford and Debra Winger ended up starring in a film originally meant to star Murray and Dustin Hoffman. When Hoffman changed his mind to make Ishtar, Murray bailed, too.

10. CLUB PARADISE (1986)

Harold Ramis co-wrote and directed the comedy about a Chicago firefighter who retires from his job and starts a resort with a reggae musician (played by legend Jimmy Cliff) on a small Caribbean island. Ramis wrote the script for Murray and John Cleese as the island’s governor. Murray was initially interested, but backed out when he decided that the role was too similar to his part in Meatballs, with Cleese soon doing the same. Robin Williams and Peter O’Toole starred instead.


Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis wanted Murray for Eddie Valiant. They couldn’t contact him, so Bob Haskins was offered the role instead. Allegedly, Murray was so upset over missing out on Roger Rabbit that he screamed—out loud, and in public—when he read that he had been considered for the part.

12. RAIN MAN (1988)

Another Tootsie reunion was thwarted: Screenwriter Barry Morrow said Murray was originally meant to play Charlie Babbitt; Tom Cruise ended up taking that job.

13. BATMAN (1989)

Tim Burton allegedly considered Murray as Batman before going with Michael Keaton. When David Letterman asked Murray about it on an episode of The Late Show, Murray said he had heard that story too, and he would have made an “awesome” Batman.

14. CAPE FEAR (1991)

Steven Spielberg was originally attached to direct the remake of Cape Fear. His first choice for Max Cady was (naturally) Murray. Before Murray could even officially turn Spielberg down (again), Scorsese took over and cast Robert De Niro in the lead.


Director Jonathan Demme was rumored to have initially been interested in Murray for Joe Miller, the role that eventually went to Denzel Washington. In 2014, Murray confirmed to Howard Stern that he was considered, and said in retrospect, he would have liked to have been in it.


Murray didn’t enjoy filming 1988’s Scrooged, so he turned down playing Scott Calvin/Santa Claus to avoid another holiday-themed production. Tim Allen got the part. Presumably, with his new Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas, the Scrooged wounds have healed.

17. FORREST GUMP (1994)

Murray admitted to having conversations with Zemeckis about playing the lead. "I think I had the original book and all that sort of stuff," he told Howard Stern. He also said he has never seen the movie.

18. TOY STORY (1995)

For Buzz Lightyear, Billy Crystal was sought out first. Murray and Jim Carrey were also considered before Tim Allen took the part.

19. BOTTLE ROCKET (1996)

Wes Anderson attempted to get Murray to appear as Mr. Henry in his debut feature. Murray’s agents couldn’t find their client, who was traveling around in a Winnebago at the time. James Caan played Mr. Henry instead, but Anderson and Murray have worked together several times in the years since.


Director Milos Forman sent the script to Tom Hanks and Bill Murray first. Forman said “fortunately” they both turned it down, because Woody Harrelson did such an amazing job in the title role.

21. BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)

After Warren Beatty passed, Paul Thomas Anderson and casting director Christine Sheaks considered Murray, Sydney Pollack, Albert Brooks, and Harvey Keitel for the role of Jack Horner. Murray and Brooks were offered the role. Burt Reynolds eventually agreed to it.

22. MONSTERS, INC. (2001)

James P. "Sully" Sullivan was almost voiced by Murray. Calls to his 800 number went unanswered, and director Peter Docter considered that a “no.”

23. SHREK (2001)

In 1991 Steven Spielberg bought the rights to the book. He wanted Steve Martin as Donkey and you-know-who as Shrek. During the 10 years it took to bring Shrek to the big screen, Murray lost interest.

24. BAD SANTA (2003)

Murray was in “final negotiations” to play the lead in Bad Santa. Writer-director Terry Zwigoff claimed Murray made a verbal agreement to do it, and then stopped taking Zwigoff’s calls. Billy Bob Thornton took over.


The 800 number was blamed (again) for Murray missing out on Willy Wonka in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic.


Noah Baumbach blamed the 800 number as well for not getting a chance to reach Murray to play Bernard Berkman. Jeff Daniels got the part.

27. THE ICE HARVEST (2005)

Director Harold Ramis thought Murray would work well as Pete, Oliver Platt's role. Ramis’ production staff, as The New Yorker recounted, thought this was wishful thinking, as Ramis and Murray’s lack of communication since the end of Groundhog Day was known by many. Ramis managed to convince Brian Doyle-Murray, Bill’s brother, to offer Bill the part on Ramis’ behalf. Murray passed.


Murray turned down playing Frank Ginsberg. Steve Carell didn’t.


Murray said no to portraying David Seville. Jason Lee stepped in.

30. IRON MAN (2008)

Robert Downey Jr. said Murray was wanted for a part in Iron Man, but nobody could find him.

31. HOW DO YOU KNOW (2010)

James L. Brooks’ first choice for Charles Madison was Murray. Murray went as far as showing up for the first rehearsals before dropping out. Jack Nicholson took over.


In 2008, Murray said he wanted to star in and direct a remake of the French film Grosse Fatigue, about an actor whose doppelgänger wreaked havoc on his life. He would play both the actor and his double. Murray claimed Disney told him the adapted screenplay was the best script they had read in five years, before changing their mind two days later about proceeding.


More people have read rumors through the years about Ghostbusters III than have seen Ghostbusters II. Murray has publicly stated he didn’t like two of Dan Aykroyd’s drafts of potential scripts for the third movie. Murray said one version, which featured a dead Peter Venkman haunting the other three Ghostbusters, was “kind of funny, but not well executed.” He said another draft was “crazy bizarre and too crazy to comprehend.” An all-female Ghostbusters group will star in a third installment/reboot of the movie franchise next summer.