Bill Murray Lost This Iconic Pixar Role Because He Didn’t Check His Voicemail

Bill Murray has a packed resume. From Saturday Night Live to his multiple appearances in Wes Anderson films, the actor has not been at a loss for work over the years. But there was one Pixar movie he missed out on. And in the most Bill Murray thing you could think of, it’s because he didn’t check his voicemail.

Bill Murray in a black suit and black hat in front of a pink background at the Rome Film Fest 2019
Bill Murray | Rocco Spaziani/Archivio Rocco Spaziani/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Bill Murray movies

Murray got his start as a Saturday Night Live cast member from 1977 to 1980. He hosted the show for the first time in 1981 and is one of the few people to host the show five times.

After SNL, he moved on to movies. Some of his classics include Caddyshack, the original Ghostbusters franchise, Groundhog Day, and a slew of Wes Anderson flicks. He snagged an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance in 2003’s Lost in Translation.

The 70-year-old star returned to Ghostbusters when Paul Feig rebooted the franchise in 2016, but he didn’t play his original character, Dr. Peter Venkman. He will return to his original role in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, coming out Nov. 10, 2021.

When it comes voice acting, Murray has lent his pipes to a handful of movies. He voiced Garfield in the live-action adaptations of the famous comic book series in Garfield and Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties. He also voiced Badger in Fantastic Mr. Fox and Baloo in Disney’s The Jungle Book live-action remake.

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How much is Bill Murray worth?

Even though he’s still working, Murray could comfortably retire at this point. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he is worth $180 million. And according to IMDb, he has five projects in the works: Ghostbusters: Afterlife, out this fall, The French Dispatch, out sometime in 2021, The Now, a TV mini-series, The Greatest Beer Run Ever, and Bum’s Rush.

Throughout his career, Murray has built a reputation of being hard to work with. Collaborators like the late Harold Ramis have said he’s worth the trouble because of the comedic gold he can deliver through improvisation. But he did share one anecdote from Groundhog Day that highlights Murray’s aversion to cooperate.

As Ramis told Entertainment Weekly:

“Bill had all these obvious resentments toward the production, so it was very hard for a time to communicate with him. Calls would go unreturned. Production assistants couldn’t find him. So someone said, ‘Bill, you know, things would be easier if you had a personal assistant. Then we wouldn’t have to bother you with all this stuff.’ And he said, ‘Okay.’ So he hired a personal assistant who was profoundly deaf, did not have oral speech, spoke only American sign language, which Bill did not speak, nor did anyone else in the production. But Bill said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to learn sign language.’ And I think it was so inconvenient that in a couple weeks, he gave that up. That’s anti-communication, you know? Let’s not talk.”

Murray also famously does not have an agent or a manager. He chooses his projects on his own and has a 1-800 number for people to call with offers.

Mike and Sully in Pixar's 'Monsters Inc.'
Mike and Sully in Pixar’s ‘Monsters Inc.’ | YouTube

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Bill Murray was supposed to play Sully in ‘Monsters Inc.’

His self-management is what made him lose out on the chance to play Sully in Monsters Inc. Robert Schnakenberg provided details about Murray’s M.O. in 2015’s The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray. As he wrote:

“In 2000, he fired his agents — reportedly for calling him on the phone too often — and replaced them with an automated 800 number. Filmmakers who wish to pitch projects to Murray must leave a message on his voice mailbox, which he rarely checks. When he is interested in a script, Murray demands that it be faxed to him care of his local office supply store.”

Because he’s so hard to reach, Murray has lost out on a lot of roles over the years. Many are listed in Schnakenberg’s book.

Now, one might think that given his pickiness, Murray didn’t feel like he was missing out on these parts. But that apparently wasn’t the case for Monsters Inc. The star had auditioned for the role before it went to John Goodman. And the director chose him for the part! In fact, he was their first choice.

“But when studio executives tried to contact him to offer the part, he was nowhere to be found,” Schnakenberg wrote. “Calls to the actor’s vaunted 800 number went unanswered.”

Monsters Inc. director Peter Doctor told The Washington Post, “We took that to mean no.”

The same thing happened with Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Iron Man, Bad Santa, and more. This is your sign to check your voicemail.