In 1991, Bill Murray introduced us to the phobia-prone Bob Wiley, diagnosed with “multi-phobic personality characterized by acute separation anxiety and extreme need for family connections.” Bob follows his therapist, Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), on vacation to Marvin’s lakefront home in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire (actually filmed at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia). Bob gets along splendidly with Marvin’s wife and kids but clashes with Marvin, and hijinks ensue. The movie grossed more than $63 million at the box office and became one of Murray’s most popular movies. Here are 10 fun-loving facts about the beloved comedy.
1. YOU CAN VISIT THE INSANE ASYLUM FROM THE MOVIE.
Located in Bedford, Virginia, the Elks National Home was used for the scene where Bob gets dropped off at the asylum and charms the staff. “You have been duped by a textbook narcissist, a brilliant sociopath,” Dr. Marvin tells the doctor. “It’s perfectly natural for a patient to bond with his analyst,” she replies, making it clear that she believes it's Dr. Marvin who could benefit from checking in for a few days. In real life the institution is a retirement home, which was sold in 2014. Every Christmas, the place strings up thousands of lights, making it a popular tourist attraction.
2. A PSYCHIATRIST THINKS BOB’S CHARACTER IS “RIDICULOUS” AND FUNNY.
Dr. Glen Gabbard wrote a book called Psychiatry and the Cinema, about Hollywood’s regularly inaccurate portrayals of mental illness in the movies. “Psychotherapy ain’t showbiz,” Gabbard told the Writers Guild of America. “You could do a documentary about a psychotherapist treating a patient and be completely accurate and the audience would be bored to death, so you have to jazz it up a bit.” Still, he can't help but admire What About Bob?
“It’s ridiculous from a psychiatric standpoint, but I sit there laughing out loud at Bill Murray," admits Gabbard. "Even though I’m passionate about psychiatry portrayals in film, I still enjoy myself at the movies … but if I’m going to write something about the movie, I’d see it again with a critical eye, not the eye that watched it for entertainment value.”
3. BILL MURRAY AND RICHARD DREYFUSS DIDN’T GET ALONG.
In an interview with The A.V. Club, Dreyfuss had this to say about working on the movie: “Funny movie. Terribly unpleasant experience. We didn’t get along, me and Bill Murray. But I’ve got to give it to him: I don’t like him, but he makes me laugh even now. I’m also jealous that he’s a better golfer than I am.”
Director Frank Oz said the on-set tension was the result of everybody having their own viewpoint on how to improve the script. “It was just that everybody felt strongly about how to make the movie better,” Oz told IGN. “That caused friction and a lot of tension, and that's what I remember, but it also caused the movie to be better.” For his part, Murray thought the tension heightened the performances. “Richard Dreyfuss and I didn’t get along on the movie particularly, but it worked for the movie,” Murray told Entertainment Weekly. “I mean, I drove him nuts, and he encouraged me to drive him nuts.”
4. YOU CAN OWN A “DON’T HASSLE ME” T-SHIRT.
Throughout the film, Bob wears a blue T-shirt with the words “Don’t Hassle Me I’m Local” inscribed in bright yellow letters on it. The shirt was recreated and can be purchased on Amazon and Etsy. Also on Amazon, you can purchase a “Baby Steps” shirt.
5. DIRECTOR FRANK OZ WORRIED THAT THEY WERE MAKING A BAD MOVIE.
that Murray was frightened about shooting the movie in New York, and that he himself didn’t know how the movie would turn out. “I was really scared to death that we had a piece of sh*t, because it was so impossible to judge it,” Oz said. “I felt I knew what I was doing, but there was this huge sigh of relief when the movie worked.”
6. WOODY ALLEN ALMOST STARRED IN THE FILM. AND COULD HAVE WRITTEN AND DIRECTED IT, TOO.
A 1989 Los Angeles Times article stated that Murray and Allen would team up as “the comedy team of the ’90s,” with Allen playing the role of Dr. Marvin. The article went on to state that Garry Marshall had been attached as director, but there was a possibility that Allen might star, direct, and co-write the movie. Of course Murray stayed attached, but Frank Oz helmed the movie, and Tom Schulman wrote the screenplay, with some story contributions from producer Laura Ziskin and Oscar-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People, The Amazing Spider-Man).
7. RICHARD DREYFUSS SUED DISNEY OVER THE FILM.
In 2015, Dreyfuss filed a lawsuit against Disney, the film’s distributor, because the studio won’t allow Dreyfuss to hire an auditor of his choice to look into the company’s bookkeeping to see if he’s owed more money. “Motion picture and television companies detest having to pay net and gross profit participants and have consistently and historically withheld significant amounts of profits from participants,” Deadline explained. “This is why profit participation auditors in the motion picture and television industries exist; these auditors oftentimes find monies due to profit participants.” The article further states, “there is a three-year waiting list to do an audit on Disney properties.” Translation: Baby steps, Dr. Marvin.
8. BOB’S HYPOCHONDRIAC CONDITIONS ARE BASED ON REAL DISORDERS.
The website Behave.net analyzed Bob’s supposed medical symptoms and diagnosed them. When Bob covers his hand with a handkerchief, the site says he probably has bacillophobia, a fear of germs. Because he has myriad symptoms, including dizzy spells, nausea, cold sweats, and blurred vision, he may also have somatization disorder. Bob’s declaration that, “If I fake it, then I don’t have it” could be evidence of factitious disorder. “I worry about diseases,” Bob says, leading the site to also believe that he has pathophobia, the fear of diseases.
9. CHARLIE KORSMO IS NOW A LAWYER.
Charlie Korsmo played Marvin’s son, Siggy (short for Sigmund), in the movie and had quite a career as a child actor (Dick Tracy, Can’t Hardly Wait) before receiving a B.S. in physics from MIT and then obtaining a J.D. from Yale Law School. He’s now an associate professor of law at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law, where he teaches courses in corporate law, corporate finance, and torts. According to his staff bio, he worked for the EPA and was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation by President Obama. But the bio fails to mention his prior career as a precocious actor who starred in movies with Murray and Warren Beatty.
“I feel I need to overcome some preconceptions when people find out I was a child actor,” Korsmo told Cleveland.com. “If I had just gotten a poetry degree from Swarthmore or something, they would have thought I got in because I was in the movies. You can’t fake a physics degree … The movie I hear the most about these days is What About Bob? That seems to be one that people still voluntarily watch.” Maybe Dreyfuss should hit up Korsmo for some legal advice?
10. IT’S NOT POSSIBLE FOR YOUR BLADDER TO EXPLODE. UNLESS YOU JUMP INTO A LAKE. MAYBE.
One of Bob’s ailments is, “What if I'm looking for a bathroom, I can't find one, and my bladder explodes?” But is this possible? According to a Tumblr page for biomedical ephemera, “Your urethral sphincters make it physically impossible to build up urine in your bladder to the point of rupture. The kidneys and ureters cannot produce enough pressure to burst the bladder. When there is an obstruction, the kidneys fail first. In the case of trying to hold it, the body would protect the kidneys by reacting violently, forcing urethral sphincters to fail and causing the person to wet themselves.”
Yet according to an article from 2013, a man’s bladder exploded “during a drinking challenge between friends.” A group of people decided to conduct a “pee holding challenge” while drinking, and a man held his bladder for so long that it exploded, causing urine to leak into his abdominal cavity. The man, apparently, lived.
Then there’s the 2015 story about a man who got drunk and jumped into a lake, which caused his bladder to burst. “When he jumped into the lake, a hole was torn through his bladder wall and led to urine leaking into his abdomen,” reads the article. So the lesson here is when drinking, don’t hold it in—or jump into a lake.