In late April, when Bill Murray was interviewed by CNBC during a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder’s meeting, he spoke cryptically about an impropriety of his that caused production to be suspended on Aziz Ansari’s feature-film debut directorial effort, Being Mortal. Now a report published by Puck on October 10 offers significantly more detail on what took place during the shoot, and why shooting has yet to resume.
According to the Puck piece, Murray straddled a younger woman who was part of the production, kissing her body and mouth, albeit with a mask on due to COVID-19 shooting protocols. The woman in question, who Puck said is not actor Keke Palmer as was once rumored, claimed that she could not move because Murray was pressing his body weight onto her, and “interpreted his actions as entirely sexual.”
She and another member of the crew lodged complaints, and eventually Disney subsidiary Searchlight Pictures halted production. Per a Puck source close to Murray, the actor felt guilty, and entered into mediation with the staff member and her attorney. Both parties wanted to see Being Mortal completed, and came to an agreement where Murray would pay her $100,000 and she would sign an NDA and agree not to pursue legal action against the makers of the film.
However production has not recommenced, and Puck writer Eriq Gardner hypothesizes that this is due to Disney being much less willing to tolerate controversy than Searchlight’s previous owner, Fox. The entertainment giant has given Ansari permission to seek a new buyer for the movie, but the report says that no one has shown serious interest.
In his CNBC interview, Murray said, “I had a difference of opinion with a woman I’m working with,” and characterized the issue as him attempting to make a joke that was not received as such. The Academy Award-nominated actor is known for his on-set antics, which several co-stars have expressed made them uncomfortable, including Geena Davis in an October People interview. Davis told the magazine that while shooting Quick Change in 1989, Murray (who also co-directed the film) “insisted” on touching her with a massage tool, despite her repeatedly telling him not to do so. (Lucy Liu and Richard Dreyfuss have also spoken out about poor behavior in their shoots with Murray.)
Being Mortal is apparently “half-shot,” and features Murray, Palmer, and Seth Rogen in prominent roles. Its script was written by Ansari and draws from Atul Gawande’s book of the same name, which The New York Times called “a personal meditation on how we can better live with age-related frailty, serious illness and approaching death.”
Murray is slated to appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which will mark his first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which of course, is also owned by Disney.