Back in April, it was reported that Bill Murray was the subject of an investigation on the set of his upcoming Searchlight Pictures film Being Mortal, directed by Aziz Ansari and starring himself, Ansari, and Seth Rogen. Production immediately halted on the film, based on the 2014 non-fiction book of the same name by Atul Gawande, which was about halfway completed at the time of the incident.
Now, details have emerged as to the exact nature of Murray’s on-set misconduct, which appears to have shelved the film indefinitely. According to the entertainment gossip website Puck, which first reported the news on Monday, Murray is alleged to have straddled and kissed a younger female production assistant while the two were in “close proximity” to a bed on-set, leaving her “horrified.”
“On the set, Murray was particularly friendly with one female production staffer. (I’m withholding her name, although it’s not actress Keke Palmer, as has been speculated.) This much younger woman, Murray felt, had been flirting with him. So at one moment when the two were in close proximity near a bed that was part of the production, Murray started kissing her body and straddling her. It was perhaps an unclear bit of physical comedy, but one that was unannounced. She couldn’t move because he outweighed her, she alleged. Then, he kissed her on the mouth, although when he did so, both Murray and the woman were wearing masks, owing to Covid protocols. Murray later said that he was just being jestful, but the woman interpreted his actions as entirely sexual. She was horrified.”
As a result, both the woman and a second staffer who witnessed the incident filed complaints, and she and Murray proceeded into mediation in an attempt to salvage the film. But despite the fact that Murray reached a $100,000 settlement with the production assistant in exchange for her confidentiality, it appears that Disney, which now owns Searchlight, is choosing not to move forward with it after all.
Speaking to CNBC shortly after news of the halt in production broke, Murray said that the incident had been “quite an education” for him, which was apparently putting it lightly.
“We … I had a difference of opinion with a woman I’m working with. I did something I thought was funny, and it wasn’t taken that way,” Murray said in early May. “But as of now we’re talking, we’re trying to make peace with each other. We are both professionals, we like each others’ work, we like each other, I think. If we can’t really get along and trust each other there’s no point in going further, working together, or making the movie as well.”
Unfortunately, it seems as though Disney did not see things that way.
Exacerbating Murray’s woes, on Tuesday excepts from a new memoir by actress Geena Davis came to light, in which she likewise accused the 72-year-old of inappropriate behavior while filming their 1990 crime comedy, Quick Change.
In a conversation with People, Davis said that she had never spoken publicly about her interactions with Murray, who she says she has not seen or spoken to since they wrapped publicity for the film. In her book, Dying of Politeness: A Memoir, published on Oct. 11, the 66-year-old recalls first being introduced to Murray in a hotel suite, and having him attempt to use a massage device on her back.
“I said no multiple times, but he wouldn’t relent,” Davis writes in her memoir. “I would have had to yell at him and cause a scene if I was to get him to give up trying to force me to do it; the other men in the room did nothing to make it stop. I realized with profound sadness that I didn’t yet have the ability to withstand this onslaught — or to simply walk out.”
In the end, Davis says Murray ‘placed the thing on my back for a total of about two seconds.'”
In another incident, Davis writes that Murray screamed and berated her in front of more than 300 people on the set of the film after she had gotten held up waiting on a wardrobe adjustment.
None of this is improving the likelihood that Being Mortal will ever see the light of day, though Disney has reportedly given Ansari its blessing to shop the film out to other studios, with or without Murray. Perhaps a streaming platform will eventually bite, but in the wake of the #MeToo era, that prospect seems precarious at best.