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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 February, 2004, 12:20 GMT
Bill Murray maps out acting success
Peter Bowes
By Peter Bowes
BBC correspondent in Los Angeles

Actor Bill Murray, has gone from strength to strength with his latest movie, Lost In Translation.

Bill Murray in Lost in Translation
Murray has already won a Golden Globe award for his performance
Bill Murray is very particular about choosing his movie projects.

Most of the time, the actor admits it is a huge effort simply to pick up a new script.

Like most Hollywood stars at the peaks of their careers, Murray is inundated by offers of work.

"I've said no so many times that certain people just don't bother - which is good," he says.

"It's a lot of work to read a crummy script."

"A lot of people say they've written something with me in mind - and it turns out that a lot of the lines are my lines from old movies," he explains.

Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola
The actor praised Sofia Coppola's writing and directing
But Murray, who has made a career out of playing eccentric, oddball characters, has a knack for making wise choices.

In Groundhog Day, he found a niche as the confused TV weatherman stuck in time.

Lost In Translation has proven to be another such movie, in which Murray feels totally at ease.

"This is the only time that anyone's ever written something that I was so eager to do, that I wanted to do, and that was so well executed - there's nothing wrong in the script and it's executed even more perfectly that the script," he says.

In the film, Murray plays Bob Harris, an American film star visiting Japan to make whisky commercials.

Lonely and jetlagged in an anonymous Tokyo hotel, he meets fellow American traveller, Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson. She is equally lonely - despite being on a trip with her husband, a photographer on assignment.

Bill Murray in Lost in Translation
I wanted to make a movie like this - I guess I'm a hopeless romantic
Bill Murray
They are both fish out of water in a land where they do not understand the language and where solace comes in late-night conversations about love and marriage.

"I wanted to make a movie like this," Murray says. "I guess I'm a hopeless romantic."

But Lost In Translation is far from being a conventional romantic comedy. If it were, Murray would have binned the script along with the rest of his rejects.

"I find most of the romantic movies that I go to see are kind of soppy," he explains.

"They kind of gnaw at a creative solution to a problem rather than seeing the romance of struggle.

"I think there's something romantic about struggle in a relationship and usually the happy endings are... we just roll our eyes and walk out.

"That's because most of us don't have those kind of endings in our lives so it sort of becomes unreal in the last few minutes of a romantic movie."

Loneliness

Lost In Translation, directed by Sofia Coppola, does not fall into the trap of being a cheap summer romance flick. There is no quick courtship followed by a hotel room romp.

Instead, the film delves into the sad life of a man in a rut. It also reflects the sense of utter loneliness experienced by the long-distance business traveller.

"When you go to a foreign country there is a major shock of consciousness that comes on you when you really see that, oh God it's just me now," Murray says.

"No neighbours, no friends, no phone calls - just room service."

Offbeat

There are parallels in the film's theme with the real life of a well-known movie or TV star. Murray has managed to avoid some of the trappings of Hollywood fame - his image is somewhat offbeat - but being a familiar face has its downside.

"Anonymity is a great thing," says Murray, who enjoyed the experience in Japan.

He adds: "I had a physical exam the other day from a doctor who had no idea what I did for a living and he was just this funny guy from Utah and he was just the corniest guy in the world.

"He was so nice and I thought, 'I could be friends with this guy - he doesn't give a damn about anything I do at all.' It was kind of fun."


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