‘Very Murray Christmas’ Team Talks Song Selection, George Clooney Joke

4 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘I didn’t want to do another movie with Bill MurrayPhoenix and Bill Murray unite their disparate musical talents – namely, synth-rock elegance and hammy vocal hilarity – for their cover of “Alone on Christmas Day,” a bittersweet Beach Boys holiday tune written in 1979, but never formally released. Acclaimed director Sofia Coppola tells our reporter why she’s collaborated with the star actor on a new Christmas show, and why working with Miley Cyrus was a far more pleasant experience than she expected Miley Cyrus.

I don’t know what other Christmas-celebrating TV critics want from Santa, but somewhere after “world peace” and “quick loss of unsightly belly fat,” I’m hoping the Netflix special “A Very Murray Christmas” will turn out to be a back-door pilot for new variety series hosted by Bill Murray.As you prepare to confront your mammoth of a holiday gift list, you really only have to ask yourself one question: “WWBMD?” (That is, “What would Bill Murray do?”) Obviously, Bill Murray does not need to buy gifts, as Bill Murray’s presence is the greatest gift of all.

The track also features Jason Schwartzman and the New York Dolls’ David Johansen, who has a previous seasonal link with Murray, after appearing with him in Scrooged in 1988. Obviously, I’m not talking a weekly, live, audience-participatory, prank-heavy, give-away-laden “extravaganza” like Neil Patrick Harris’ “The Best Time Ever” (which, if there is a god, no one will try to emulate). The next best thing, therefore, is to simply bless friends, family and awkward “are-we-friendly-enough-to-exchange-gifts” acquaintances with images of his face. The track, filled with fat synth-bass and sleigh bells, finds Phoenix singer Thomas Mars crooning about the sadness that undercuts the holiday season. In truth, it’s far more of a Phoenix song than a Murray one – his appearances are brief, and he doesn’t attempt to replicate Beach Boys harmonies, sadly.

Also occasional, as in “when the mood strikes him.” I mean, what’s the point of all these streaming services if they can’t vary the definition of “series” a little more than they have? Thankfully, the good people of the Internet have carved out a niche and filled it with kitschy Bill Murray paraphernalia perfect for every unique personality on your list. The track is available to purchase digitally and as a limited edition seven-inch through independent music retailers (via Glassnote Records), with all proceeds benefitting UNICEF.

The list of names sounds like what you might come out with if you threw a shepherd’s crook into the Golden Globe Awards, but this motley crew of stars have something in common. The track was originally recorded for a potential Beach Boys Christmas LP but ultimately scrapped, though a demo version has been available in bootleg form for years.

Instead, he is left with an room filled only with seat-assigning placards (Pope Francis next to Iggy Azalea) and two slightly demented producers played by Amy Poehler and Julie White. After Phoenix asked Love if they could cover “Christmas” for Murray’s holiday special, the Beach Boys veteran decided to revise the track, re-writing the lyrics and recruiting Michael Lloyd to produce and build a new arrangement. “I know what it’s like to be away from loved ones during the holidays,” Love told Rolling Stone. “With all the cheer that’s around, you can still feel pretty melancholy. No matter where you are that time of year, we’re with you.” 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings.

Michael Cera plays a young man making a hilarious pitch to be Murray’s agent (he famously does not have one), Chris Rock is wrangled into a touchingly ragged version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” until the power goes out. “Force majeure,” Poehler’s producer cries as she scuttles off (possibly the first time that phrase has been uttered in a holiday special), leaving Murray to wander the dim recesses of the hotel mixing it up with waitresses, mending love affairs, eating the defrosting food and offering folks, including Jenny Lewis, Maya Rudolph and the Pogues, an opportunity to sing songs singed as much by torch as Yule log. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock’s Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop’s Yeezus will rise again.

There’s a dream sequence, of course, in which Cyrus and Clooney show up and the show gets shinier, funnier (Murray and Clooney goof off in fine Bing and Deano-style before singing “Santa Wants Some Lovin'”) and, with a lovely rendition of “Silent Night” by Cyrus, briefly solemn. Directed by Coppola and infused at every turn with Murray’s plaintive deadpan and fine melancholy tenor, it’s prickly and sweet, familiar yet abruptly non sequitur and gently, surprisingly modern.

We only shot it in a few days, so people could come for a day if they wanted to become part of it. “George (Clooney) is friends with Bill Murray and we knew he would look good in a tux. She sang Silent Night and put her heart into it.” Working with comedians and pop stars is certainly a step to the left of Coppola’s comfort zone, but still… such is her cred that if she asks, they will most certainly come. “(Bill and I) have become friends over the years, but I never wanted to do another movie because there was too much pressure and people felt too attached,” reflects Coppola. “It felt outside of our regular world to do something fun.” Though fans of Coppola’s are doubtless thrilled that she has reunited with her Lost In Translation star Murray, it is still an unexpected career turn for the director. She shrugged off the shackles of her family name (her dad is Francis Ford Coppola) with considerable élan, striking out with her own singular directorial style.

Marrying fellow director Spike Jonze in 1999, the power couple became the acme of Los Angelean cool, not to mention the great white hope for indie cinema. Adding insult to injury, Coppola reportedly walked off the set of the live-action remake of the much-loved story The Little Mermaid earlier this year, citing creative differences with Universal and Working Title.

Wearing a crisp shirt, sweater and skinny jeans, it’s a minimalist style that works neatly in her adopted home of Paris, but is at odds with her maximalist moviemaking. “I don’t want to say too much,” she offers. “I was working on that and then just felt I couldn’t make something on it the way that I want to work, with the big budget and certain parameters…” On reflection, it stands to reason that Coppola would use a platform like Netflix for her latest venture. The digital company is renowned for giving directors and filmmakers a chance to work out a vision at their own pace. “Movies take so long that it was fun to pull something together like this in a fun spirit,” Coppola says. “I do feel there’s a lot more creativity in TV than in the big-budget film world,” she adds. “Things got a lot harder than it was 10 years ago.

What’s more, she says she is always on the lookout for an interesting tale to turn into movie magic. “I’m working on something based on a story a friend told me,” she reveals. “It’s a mystery (to me) what stories I connect with.

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