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COVID Made Bill Murray Miss Filming Asteroid City, But He's Still Part of Wes Anderson's New Film

Bill Murray is a Wes Anderson favorite, but for Asteroid City things got a little weird.

By Matthew Jackson
(L-R) Bill Murray and Director Wes Anderson

If you've seen Wes Anderson's latest acclaimed film, Asteroid City, you might have noticed something was missing: Bill Murray, a mainstay of Anderson's stock company of favorite actors who's been in every film the director's made since Rushmore in 1998.

At this point, a Wes Anderson movie without Bill Murray just feels odd, so why didn't the legendary comedian and performer make it into the director's latest? Well, the short answer is he got sick and couldn't work. The long answer is he's actually part of the story, if you know where to look. 

How Bill Murray Is Involved in Wes Anderson's Asteroid City 

Speaking to The New Yorker, Anderson explained that he'd cast Murray as usual in the new film, which would have marked their 10th collaboration, and expected Murray to show up for the shoot in Spain to play a hotel manager. Then Murray contracted COVID-19 while on vacation in Ireland, just days before Anderson was set to start shooting. 

RELATED: Watch Three New Clips From Wes Anderson's Asteroid City

“The movie was a jigsaw puzzle of actors’ schedules, so we couldn’t wait,” Anderson said. “We were extremely lucky that Steve Carell said yes — and was perfect in the part.”

Asteroid City (2023) Poster

So, Carell stepped in to play the hotel manager, but Murray wasn't completely absent from the production. Once he recovered from his illness, the actor showed up on the Asteroid City set just to hang out and, according to Anderson, be "good for morale." That left the director searching for some other way to incorporate Murray into the film. Eventually, he devised a character for Murray, making him the head of an aeronautics company and also the actor who's playing the aeronautics tycoon in the film's movie-within-a-movie framework. 

But that still left one more problem: How to fit Murray into the film. Ultimately, Anderson couldn't find a place for his friend and collaborator in the final theatrical cut of Asteroid City, but he did manage to use him. Over at The New Yorker, you can check out a fake promotional trailer Anderson shot for the film-within-a-film, in which Murray presents the project to the audience with help from Jason Schwartzman. So, in a way, Murray is part of Asteroid City, even if he didn't make it to the big screen, because you just can't keep him out of a Wes Anderson project.

RELATED: How Wes Anderson Created His Aliens and Ray Guns For Asteroid City

Set in the fictional desert town of the same name, Asteroid City follows a group of people ranging from parents to amateur stargazers to government officials as they gather for an astronomy convention, only to find visitors from the stars might be among them. In a metafictional twist, the film's primary story is actually presented as a televised play, with interstitial sections documenting the behind-the-scenes creation of the play. That's where Murray's character comes in, as an actor playing a character in the production, and the whole conceit gives Anderson the chance to say more about creativity and filmmaking while still delivering the film's primary tale of a small town in strange circumstances.

Also starring Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Hope Davis, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan, Jeff Goldblum, Asteroid City is now playing in theaters. Get tickets at Fandango.