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Garfield: Why Did Bill Murray Voice the Orange Cat in the Movies?

Bill MurrayDid it ever seem a little strange to you that Bill Murray ended up as the voice of Garfield in the 2004 big-screen adaptation? Voiced by the late Lorenzo Music, the lazy and loveable kitty has been very popular in TV specials and TV series, most notably Garfield and Friends. Garfield: The Movie was savaged by many critics but did earn nearly $200 million.

In an interview with GQ, Murray reveals that his role came about in part because he confused co-writer Joel Cohen with Coen brother Joel Coen. Here’s an excerpt…

Well, how about Garfield? Can you explain that to me? Did you just do it for the dough?
No! I didn’t make that for the dough! Well, not completely. I thought it would be kind of fun, because doing a voice is challenging, and I’d never done that. Plus, I looked at the script, and it said, “So-and-so and Joel Coen.” And I thought: Christ, well, I love those Coens! They’re funny. So I sorta read a few pages of it and thought, Yeah, I’d like to do that. I had these agents at the time, and I said, “What do they give you to do one of these things?” And they said, “Oh, they give you $50,000.” So I said, “Okay, well, I don’t even leave the ******* driveway for that kind of money.”

And it’s not like you’re helping out an indie director by playing Garfield.
Exactly. He’s in 3,000 newspapers every day; he’s not hurtin’. Then this studio guy calls me up out of nowhere, and I had a nice conversation with him. No bull****, no schmooze, none of that stuff. We just talked for a long time about the movie. And my agents called on Monday and said, “Well, they came back with another offer, and it was nowhere near $50,000.” And I said, “That’s more befitting of the work I expect to do!” So they went off and shot the movie, and I forgot all about it. Finally, I went out to L.A. to record my lines. And usually when you’re looping a movie, if it takes two days, that’s a lot. I don’t know if I should even tell this story, because it’s kind of mean. [beat] What the hell? It’s interesting. So I worked all day and kept going, “That’s the line? Well, I can’t say that.” And you sit there and go, What can I say that will make this funny? And make it make sense? And I worked. I was exhausted, soaked with sweat, and the lines got worse and worse. And I said, “Okay, you better show me the rest of the movie, so we can see what we’re dealing with.” So I sat down and watched the whole thing, and I kept saying, “Who the hell cut this thing? Who did this? What the **** was Coen thinking?” And then they explained it to me: It wasn’t written by that Joel Coen.

And the pieces fall into place.
[shakes head sadly] At least they had whats-her-name. The mind reader, pretty girl, really curvy girl, body’s one in a million? What’s her name? Help me. You know who I mean.

Jennifer Love Hewitt?
Right! At least they had her in good-looking clothes. Best thing about the movie. But that’s all ugly. That’s inappropriate. That’s just… [laughs] That’s why, when they say, “Any regrets?” at the end of Zombieland, I say, “Well, maybe Garfield.”

Murray doesn’t say why he then returned for the 2006 sequel, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, but perhaps he was locked into a multi-picture deal.

What do you think? Did you like the Garfield movies?


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

jordan 13 July 5, 2013 at 10:25 am

Today marks the two year anniversary that my girlfriend and I have been together. cute some may say as soon as they hear (in this case read) this but there more to it than just that. Timms, the 4th squad leader of Mortar Plt, Weapons Co, recalls lying in the sand, gingerly following a suspicious wire back to a hidden pressure plate beneath him. The pressure plate should have conducted an electrical current through the wire, triggering a nearby bomb, but fortunately, the pressure plate malfunctioned. jordan 13


dude May 2, 2011 at 7:44 am

chuck spear your high, bill murray is a legend and his career will never fade.


chuck spear March 28, 2011 at 10:14 am

bill murray should be happy to get any work at this point in his fading career! he hasn’t been funny in decades!


JD July 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm

So, Bill Murray voiced a character previously done by Lorenzo Music. Also intersting is that Lorenzo Music voiced a character previously done by Bill Murray – Peter Venkman in “The Real Ghostbusters” animated series.


admin July 25, 2010 at 5:01 pm

@JD: Very true. I’m sure Murray never expected it to go the other way!


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