“St. Vincent” star Bill Murray joined co-stars Naomi Watts and Jaeden Lieberher, and first-time feature director Theodore Melfi at the film’s New York City premiere on October 6, and the veteran comic actor playfully poked fun at the rookie filmmaker, explaining that the best thing about working with first-timers is that “you can push them around, because they don’t know anything really – Naomi, you’ve bullied more directors than I have.”
Murray added, “I guess the best thing about it was that he wasn’t ruined yet … but now he’s worked with Harvey Weinstein.”
Murray plays the title character, a hard-drinking misanthrope who befriends a boy (Lieberher) who moves in next door. We’ve seen this kind of bad-influence mentor comedy before, for better (“About a Boy”) and for worse (“Big Daddy”), but “Vincent” falls decidedly on the better end of the spectrum, earning positive reviews at the Toronto Film Festival (read Paul Sheehan‘s report here) and garnering Best Actor Oscar buzz for Murray, who previously earned a nomination in 2003 for “Lost in Translation.” He could especially appeal to awards voters for dramatic developments in the film’s second half, which feel earned instead of overly sentimental.
Murray collaborated with Melfi on the script, arguing that it would be a missed opportunity not to take part in the creative process. And the actor’s input was welcome according to Melfi: “Everything [Murray] said was so right. It made the script so much funnier and smarter and better … everything he said I just did.”
“You can do that with these rookies,” replied Murray. “You can just push them all over the place.”
Murray admired his co-stars Watts and Melissa McCarthy, both of whom play change-of-pace roles: Watts in a broad turn as a brash Eastern European prostitute, and McCarthy in a more subdued performance as Lieberher’s mother. “Melissa and Naomi were kind of switching their usual roles,” said Murray. “Melissa is usually the comedienne, and Naomi is usually the one whose husband has a terrible disease or something.”
As for Lieberher, his character learns how to fight and gamble from Murray’s irascible Vincent, but what did the young actor, also making his feature debut, learn from his seasoned co-stars? He fires back, “I learned a lot of bad things, it’s hard to think of the good things.”
Murray is an underdog in the Oscar race, getting 100/1 odds (click here to see more Best Actor stats), but he ranks a solid third in the Golden Globes race for Best Musical/Comedy Actor with 11/2 odds, right behind Michael Keaton (“Birdman“) and Ralph Fiennes (“The Grand Budapest Hotel“). The film opens in New York on October 10, followed by a wide release on October 24. Can he gain momentum in the awards race in the coming months? Predict the Golden Globes below, then click here to make your Oscar predictions.