‘Bah Humbug!’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About Bill Murray’s ‘Scrooged’

Including the comedian who got K.O.ed and the TV trailer that almost crossed the line
‘Bah Humbug!’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About Bill Murray’s ‘Scrooged’

The movie that brought Bill Murray back to the big screen after a relatively long four-year sabbatical following Ghostbusters saw him playing TV exec/certified ass monkey Frank Cross, who steals cabs from old ladies and yells a lot. Despite being parodied to deathScrooged was still able to find new comedic gold to mine from Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic. And it might just be the movie this side of Pink Flamingos that left Roger Ebert most unsettled. “It was obviously intended as a comedy, but there is little comic about it, and indeed the movie’s overriding emotions seem to be pain and anger,” the film critic famously wrote. “This entire production seems to be in dire need of visits from the ghosts of Christmas.”

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However, it turns out that there’s a reason for the film’s bitter yet asinine tone, and it all has to do with the generation for which it was written. So, let’s unwrap more about the making of Scrooged and learn how that fake TV trailer was almost even more disturbing…

When Murray Knocked Out Bobcat Goldthwait

Actor and comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, who plays the fantastically named Eliot Loudermilk, once told Yahoo! Entertainment about how Murray accidentally injured him on set. “I remember there was an ad-libbed scene where he twirled me around and then lets me go,” Goldthwait relayed. “I go flying. But when I went flying, my head hit the back of the elevator, and I passed out briefly! When I came to, I thought, ‘I’ve got to let them know I’m okay,’ but they were already walking away from me going, ‘That’s the one, Bill — you killed it.’ And meanwhile, I’m like, ‘Number 12 on the call sheet is fine, everyone. Don’t worry about me.’”

All That Screaming Wasn’t Murray’s Idea

And he wants you to know it. “He kept telling me to do things louder, louder, louder. I think he was deaf,” Murray told Ebert about working with director Richard Donner.

On the Tone of ‘Scrooged’

“We’ve tried to be direct, honest and sincere in showing how Christmas has gone wrong (commercially) and what its true spirit is,” Murray explained to the Chicago Tribune. “But you can’t just say, ‘This is what’s right and what’s wrong with Christmas,’ and you can’t tell it from Dickens’ point of view — I would never have played a traditional Scrooge. You’ve got to approach it from the point of view of the generation of the moment, and today’s generation (of the late ‘80s) is very cynical.”

Not the Easiest Working Conditions

Former Saturday Night Live head writer Michael O’Donoghue and Murray were constantly at odds over the script. “We tore up the script so badly that we had parts all over the lawn,” Murray once said. “There was a lot I didn’t like. To remake the story, we took the romantic element and built that up a little more. The family scenes (which featured real-life siblings Joel and Brian Doyle Murray) were kind of off, so we worked on that.”

Karen Allen, who plays Claire in the movie, told Vulture how Murray and O’Donoghue’s script problems once caused the crew to battle it out with the elements. “We were in New York City during the winter, so it was bitter cold,” she explained. “And, because the days were so short, we were on set really early in the morning. Like we were in our trailers at 5 a.m., at 5:30 a.m., Bill said, ‘I don’t know about the way this script is written.’ Then Dick Donner comes into the trailer and says, ‘What’s going on, Bill?’ Bill goes, ‘Well, I don’t really think that… I don’t know what this scene is about.’ And while we’re talking in the trailer, the crew’s standing outside, turning blue.”

Murray’s Unscripted Fall

It turns out none of this was planned.

A Difficult Screenwriter

Of course, O’Donoghue was a notoriously difficult person to work with on any set. Carol Kane, who plays the Ghost of Christmas Present, once called him “the most arrogant man who ever lived,” and Donner was only hired because the original director, Sydney Pollack, left after O’Donoghue verbally harassed him, calling him things like a “Vegas stripper” and a “logic Nazi.” 

The ‘Scrooge’ TV Trailer Was Originally Way Darker

While the TV trailer promoting Scrooge for Frank Cross’ television network is filled with dark and terrible images, Murray said that the sequence was, originally, even darker. Along with the acid rain burning people’s faces off, there would’ve been a shot of a kid committing suicide, a youth shooting up drugs and a hospital ward full of HIV patients. “It was really rough, but not much rougher than today’s horror movies or even the nightly news, and I thought there was a place for it in the film,” Murray told the Chicago Tribune.

Carol Kane Wanted the Dance to Be Perfect

“I worked really, really hard for several weeks to learn this dance since I knew there would be a real ballerina to double me,” Kane explained to Vulture, referring to “The Ballbreaker Suite.” “So I wanted to make it pretty, right? And I kind of got to the point with my ballet teacher where I was proud of myself and thought I did the dance okay – like they could use parts of it what I did. I was careful: I’d never done a ballet dance before, but I was on point and everything. We were at the dance studio, and Michael Riva, the film’s art director, came to watch me dance. But this dance number: my whole heart was in it, and I was trying as best I could. But when I started doing it, Michael started laughing hysterically. Believe me when I tell you, on my heart, I just wanted the dance to be beautiful. But Michael just couldn’t stop laughing because while I was trying so hard, I was also bad at it.” 

Kane further added that Riva went to Donner and suggested they get rid of the double and have Kane dance her terrible dance because it would make her character that much more interesting

The Entire Cast Got Fired (To Celebrate Christmas)

Goldthwait told Yahoo! Entertainment how Donner “fired everybody a couple of days before Christmas under the guise that he was going to hire us all back. So he made sure that we got that holiday. He said, ‘You’re fired,’ and everybody cheered. He’s kind of an awesome guy.”

A Lot of Cut Footage

“We shot a big, long sloppy movie, so there’s a great deal of material that didn’t even end up in the film,” Murray once shared in an issue of Starlog. “It just didn’t work.”

Harder Than ‘Ghostbusters’

Scrooged was harder (than Ghostbusters) because I was by myself, really,” Murray continued. “Even though there are a number of people in the movie, they only had cameos. They would stroll in for a day or two and split. I was there every day, and it was like flunking grade school again and again.”

On Making ‘A Christmas Carol’ a Comedy

“It’s a thin line,” Donner once told the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. “But you have two of the most irreverent writers in the world. You have the most irreverent humorist since W.C. Fields. And you say, ‘Let’s go!’ There’s a thin line you walk, but the line is broken, hopefully, in the end of the picture when you see a man evolve out of a situation.”

Improvising for the Audition

“For the most part, we just did improvisations in an office,” Allen told Coming Soon about auditioning for Claire. “I think Dick Donner was there. We kind of played around. I think Bill was just looking for somebody that he could be fun and easy with, and I think it probably came down to the fact that we felt really comfortable with each other.”

Ad-Libbing the Ending

Not only did Murray improvise most of that closing speech at the end of the film, but he also went rogue during the singing number. For instance, the Little Shop of Horrors reference was not in the script. “Directing Billy is like being a cop at Times Square when all the lights go out,” Donner once said. “You just have to let him go and worry about cutting (his role) in the editing room. He’s also much more of an actor than people, including me, have given him credit for.”


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