Bill Murray Always Had A Problem With The Way Scrooged Was Filmed

The 1988 Christmas fantasy film "Scrooged" takes us on a wild and dark ride with Frank Cross, a mean-spirited, anti-Christmas TV executive who oversees a live production of — guess what? — "A Christmas Carol," the classic Charles Dickens novella that the movie itself is based on. "Scrooged" itself is, in some ways, one of those overlooked holiday movies. If one were to ask its star, Bill Murray, why that is, he might single out the way the movie was shot as the reason it hasn't caught on with a larger audience.

A real-life Scrooge, Frank (Murray) loudly berates his subordinates — and when I say loudly, I mean loudly. He forces a single mother (who has to run her mute son to the doctor) to work overtime, fires a guy who dares to critique his random and absurdly violent commercial that has absolutely nothing to do with "A Christmas Carol," and steals a cab from an elderly woman. And that's just in the first 16 minutes (!) of the movie.

The screaming continues almost incessantly for the next hour and 20 minutes. Even the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future can't get Frank to bring it down a notch. When he comes around and learns his lessons of thankfulness, gratefulness, and selflessness, he gets even louder; this time with joy. Frank's concluding monologue is so wild, it's incredible. But if you happen to find his constant screaming unbearable, you wouldn't be alone. Murray, too, found it quite unnecessary.

'He kept telling me to do things louder, louder, louder'

Per, in a 1990 interview with the late Chicago Sun Times film critic, Bill Murray indicated that he wasn't a fan of all the shouting his character does throughout "Scrooged" — a behavior he said was ordered by the movie's director, the late Richard Donner ("Superman," "The Goonies," and "Lethal Weapon"). When Ebert asked if Murray had any disagreements with Donner, the "Ghostbusters" star replied, "Only a few," before he explained:

"Every single minute of the day. That could have been a really, really great movie. The script was so good. There's maybe one take in the final cut movie that is mine. We made it so fast, it was like doing a movie live. He kept telling me to do things louder, louder, louder. I think he was deaf."

I do wonder what the Frank Cross character would have looked like if Murray was able to take a more subtle approach, maybe something similar to what Steve Martin did in the Thanksgiving classic "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." Frank Cross and Martin's Neal Page are alike in some ways. Both are uptight big city professionals who prioritize their career over family, and if you're not bowing down to be a service to them, then you're simply an inconvenience. But Neal doesn't have to go around screaming at everyone to show us he's a snob; it's all in his body language, mannerisms, and sly remarks. When he does finally blow his gasket on the rental car agent, it's hysterical.

Still, Murray would probably defend "Scrooged" from a subpar review today.

'It wasn't that bad'

Despite his differences with Richard Donner, Bill Murray didn't dismiss "Scrooged" as a terrible movie. "It wasn't that bad," he told Roger Ebert. "It had some good stuff in it." There are some good things in the movie. For one, the pace runs smoothly, with each of the three Christmas Ghosts showing up right at the appropriate beats to move us along to the next sequence. The supporting characters played by Karen Allen, Alfre Woodard, and Bobcat Goldthwait are also effectively used to highlight the negative outcomes of Frank's mean-spiritedness and obsession with work. 

Murray can credit himself for why the script, as he said, "was so good." Though he didn't receive a writing credit, he had a hand in developing the script. Before filming "Scrooged," Murray tore the initial script to shreds and helped screenwriters Mitch Glazer and Michael O'Donoghue develop a new draft. It's too bad that filming the movie didn't turn out the way he envisioned. But I'm not sure if Donner is entirely to blame. "Superman," "The Goonies," and "Lethal Weapon" are all great movies.

I'm betting that if Murray had his way, he would have played Frank similar to how he played Phil Connors in the 1993 fantasy comedy "Groundhog Day." Phil is another self-absorbed a**hole, but without the over-the-top antics.