One of my favorite moments with Bill Murray on the cross-country elephant movie, Larger Than Life, was during an afternoon when we had been shooting at a farmhouse about 20 miles outside of Denver, Colorado. Bill had wrapped up somewhat early for the day so we were leaving the set to head back to our hotels while the rest of the crew continued shooting what was needed to complete the day's scenes before they lost the sunlight.
In places that didn't have a lot of street traffic (such as this) Bill liked to drive, since -- if we got pulled over for speeding -- officers tended not to give him a ticket. So, with Bill in the driver's seat heading away from the farmhouse up a bumpy dirt farm-road driveway, we encountered a family walking towards the set. There was a youngish mother and father with three kids of varying ages in tow.
They stepped out of the way of the truck as it neared them and Bill slowed, then stopped next to them to say 'hi' and "What are you guys up to?" They smiled with instant recognition and the father replied, "Oh, we just figured we'd walk on over here to check out the hoopla." and then Bill tossed something back like, "Oh, we sent the Hoopla home right after lunch. There's an elephant back there though if you want to see that."
He took his time chatting briefly with each of them and as he got to talking with their eldest teen-age son, he noticed the paperback of Hamlet he was holding at his side. "A little light reading there?," he asked.
The kid held the book up and looked at it, as if to remind himself of the title. "Yeah, Hamlet," he replied. "We gotta memorize the soliloquy and do it in class tomorrow."
Bill beckoned, "Let's hear it. C'mon."
The kid started out, ''Um... 'To be or not to be, that is the question'… um… that's all I know right now."
Bill goaded him, "Oh, come on! You know more than that."
"Um…, 'Whether tis nobler in the mind'…," and then the kid got stuck.
And that's when Bill picked it up. "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…," and he kept going and going and going.
He recited the whole thing from memory as the teen and his family and I listened with eyes widening and mouths gaping. I was honestly awed. That moment, right there sitting in the truck next to him I realized, "Wow… Bill is a real ACTOR!" (Keep in mind, this was LONG before he appeared in Rushmore, or Lost in Translation, or *ahem* Hamlet.)
Bill finished the soliloquy and then looked back to the kid and said, "See? It's easy. You can do it." and the kid complimented him with a, "Huh... pretty good." Then, after a few more moments of exchanging pleasantries, we were on our way and the Colorado family continued on towards the set.
I didn't say much on the drive home that afternoon, mostly because I was lost in thought -- playing out in my mind what would happen next. I just KNEW that this kid would go home that night -- having heard Bill's delivery of Hamlet's soliloquy -- and commit the speech to memory in the same pattern, and then the next day in class he'd get up in front of the class and just nail it.
That was ten years ago... and while I'm sure Bill still knows all the words that follow "To be or not to be", I'd like to think that that young man does too.