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

  1. says

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  2. JD says

    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.

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