14 Things You Never Knew About Bill Murray’s Scrooged

The year was 1988, and audiences were set to witness the return to cinema of one of the day’s great comedy stars.

Bill Murray, already a comedy icon thanks to Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Stripes, had been absent from the screen – excepting a couple of cameos – for four years.

Now he was back in Scrooged as Frank Cross, the Ebenezer Scrooge of director Richard Donner’s comical Christmas Carol update.

Bill Murray takes a cab as Frank Cross in Scrooged

Unfortunately for Murray, his comeback movie landed with a thud: critics hated it and the film itself made only $60 million on a $32 million budget.

Some three decades later, things are much changed. Though Murray has thankfully never left the big screen since his 1988 return, his ‘comeback’ film is remembered a whole lot more warmly today.

Bill Murray and David Johansen in Scrooged

Here are 14 things you never knew about Scrooged, a dud that became a cult Christmas classic.

14. The film’s director and Bill Murray hated each other

Bill Murray and director Richard Donner on the set of Scrooged

To put it politely, Bill Murray and Scrooged director Richard Donner did not enjoy their time working together. When Roger Ebert asked Murray if he had any disagreements with Donner, Murray replied: “Only a few. Every single minute of the day…He kept telling me to do things louder, louder, louder. I think he was deaf.”

13. Murray ad-libbed most of his lines

Bill Murray wears festive hat as Frank Cross in Scrooged

Many of Scrooged’s scenes were improvised through the shoot by Murray. Donner said directing his star on this film was “like standing on 42nd Street and Broadway, and the lights are out, and you’re the traffic cop.”

12. Murray rewrote the entire script

Bill Murray as Hunter S Thompson in Where the Buffalo Roam

Already evident from his endless ad-libbing, Bill Murray didn’t think much of the film’s original script – so he literally took it apart: “We tore up the script so badly that we had parts all over the lawn…There was a lot I didn’t like.”

11. Murray had to charm Robert Mitchum into starring

Robert Mitchum as Preston Rhinelander in Scrooged

It wasn’t a given that Hollywood legend Robert Mitchum would sign up to a screwball Christmas comedy like Scrooged, so Richard Donner brought in Bill Murray for a charm offensive: “He came in and we never got a word in edgewise. He’s so wonderful with stories, and we didn’t want to talk. The minute you get around Bill, you’re swooning.”

10. Carol Kane ripped Murray’s lip in one scene

Bill Murray and Carol Kane in Scrooged

The Scrooged set wasn’t just home to disagreements between director and star. During filming of the scene in which Carol Kane’s Ghost of Christmas Present grabs Frank’s lip, Kane tore at Murray’s lip so hard that production had to be shut down while he recovered.

9. John Houseman died a month before the film’s release

John Houseman as himself in Scrooged

Along with Mitchum, another legendary actor agreed to appear in Scrooged. Sadly, John Houseman, a Hollywood veteran who had been an early collaborator of Orson Welles’, died on October 31, 1988 – not one month before Scrooged opened to the public on November 23.

8. Magic wrist watch?

A wrist watch tells the wrong time in Scrooged

Though Scrooged is set over Christmas, in one scene, a close-up of Frank’s wristwatch shows the date as November 23. The film is set on Christmas Eve, though this incorrect date is the day of the film’s theatrical release.

7. Predator connection

Lee Majors poses with a Minigun in Scrooged

Another critical flop that later became a cult classic, the sci-fi action movie Predator was released the year before Scrooged. There’s no connection, other than the Minigun wielded by Lee Majors at the beginning of Scrooged, which is the same one used by Jesse Ventura’s Blain in Predator.

6. Murray came out of retirement to make the film

Bill Murray as Frank Cross in Scrooged

After his passion project, the 1984 period drama The Razor’s Edge, failed both critically and commercially, Murray retreated from the spotlight. For the next four years, he studied philosophy and history at Sorbonne University in Paris and concentrated on being a father. He wasn’t sure whether to continue acting or not, when Scrooged came along and tempted him out of ‘retirement’.

5. The ‘starving musicians’ are actually all music legends

Larry Carlton, David Sanborn, Miles Davis and Paul Shaffer in Scrooged

Those ‘starving musicians’ aren’t nobody street musicians at all. They are legendary session musician Larry Carlton, sax man David Sanborn, jazz icon Miles Davis and David Letterman’s old band leader buddy, Paul Shaffer.

4. The film convinced New York Dolls’ Arthur Kane to attempt suicide

Bassist Arthur Kane of the New York Dolls

Bassist Arthur Kane took the splitting-up of his band the New York Dolls badly. Things got so bad for Kane that, when he found himself watching Scrooged one night and saw the Dolls’ frontman David Johansen had moved on to bag a starring role, he attempted suicide by jumping out of his apartment window. Fortunately, Kane survived.

3. All Bill Murray’s actor brothers make cameos

John Murray as James Cross in Scrooged

Of Murray’s eight siblings, three grew up to be actors. All three – John Murray, Joel Murray and Brian Doyle-Murray – make cameos in Scrooged, with Brian playing Frank’s father Earl and John playing Frank’s brother.

2. There’s a Little Shop of Horrors reference

Bill Murray as Arthur Denton in Little Shop of Horrors

During the film’s finale, as the cast sing Put A Little Love in Your Heart, Frank says: “Feed me, Seymour!” This is Bill Murray making a reference to 1986’s Little Shop of Horrors, in which he cameoed.

1. There’s a whole other version of the film somewhere

Bill Murray drinking beer as Frank Cross in Scrooged

According to Bill Murray, after he rewrote the script then improvised his way through the shoot, he and director Richard Donner were left with more footage than they knew what to do with: “We shot a big, long sloppy movie, so there’s a great deal of material that didn’t even end up in the film.”