Bill Murray Interview For ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’
Academy Award nominees Bill Murray and Laura Linney star in a historical tale that uniquely explores the all-too-human side of one of history’s iconic leaders. Blending literate wit and drama, ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’ is directed by Roger Michell from a screenplay by Richard Nelson. In June 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (played by Mr. Murray) readies to host the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) for a weekend at the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park on Hudson, in upstate New York – marking the first-ever visit of a reigning British monarch to America. As Britain faces imminent war with Germany, the royals are desperately looking to FDR for US support.
But international affairs must be juggled with the complexities of FDR’s domestic establishment, as his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams), mother Sara (Elizabeth Wilson), and secretary Missy (Elizabeth Marvel) will all play a part in making the royal weekend an unforgettable one. Seen through the eyes of Daisy (Ms. Linney), Franklin’s neighbor and intimate, the weekend will produce not only a special relationship between the two nations, but, for Daisy – and through her, for us all – a deeper understanding of the mysteries of love and friendship. Look out for ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’ from December 7th in the US and Febuary 1st, 2013 in the UK.
I can imagine playing a historical figure, especially one this eminent, has its own unique set of challenges and responsibilities?
Bill Murray: Yeah. It’s not like Dr. Peter Venkman of the ‘Ghostbusters,’ his history was pretty much a thumbnail sketch. But the history of these people, the Roosevelt’s, it’s deep and well documented. There’s a lot to swallow and a lot to digest. You have a lot of responsibility so you feel like you’ve got to get as much of a picture of them as you can. Roosevelt is the most formidable character I’ve ever been asked to play, and this story that I hadn’t known about showed his personal side. There was a humanity to Richard Nelson’s script. After I read the script, I called up Roger Michell and we had more conversations on the phone. He then said, “I’ll come visit you in America,” and we went to the beach and kept talking about what we could do with this story.
In capturing his physicality, mannerisms and voice, what was the preparation process like for you playing Franklin D. Roosevelt?
Bill Murray: The physical things were important. I also listened to his voice a lot, to his speech. In terms of upbringing, this was a man who grew up in New York City, in Hyde Park, and on Campobello – off both the US and Canada. He’d travel to England; he went to school in Groton, Connecticut. So there were a lot of different vocal influences in his tones, yet his voice was very distinct. You’ve got to be able to have a twinkle in your eye to get people to do what you want. He knew you had to be willing to give and take. He made people believe in him.
How was it playing that charming side, I can imagine that was enjoyable?
Bill Murray: Oh yeah. He was a very charming person who had the ability to charm people, not just to charm legislators, but to charm people. He got elected as the President of the United States four times, you know (laughs)? That’s a pretty extraordinary thing. So he was able to convince people that he was legit, that he was on a level – he made people believe in him. He got amazing things done. You’ve got to have a twinkle in your eye to get people to do what you want to do.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt had a fascinating relationship, they were both incredibly fearless individuals?
Bill Murray: I feel that at the heart of FDR and Eleanor’s relationship was the education which formed them. He was taught to be fearless, and Eleanor had that famous quote; “Do one thing every day that scares you.” At the dinner table, growing up, they were told that they had to accomplish something. They weren’t a traditional husband and wife. They both knew that they were about something else, that they could better achieve what they each had to do by staying with each other and working with each other.
As the first president to use radio as a force, Roosevelt would give these very conversational addresses from home, at the dinner table with the mikes moved in after the family had eaten. He’d talk to America as if he was a father speaking at the head of the table. He would make a decision, and it would change the existences of millions of people. In a leadership role, he had to walk a very fine line of involvement and detachment in what was happening overseas, as well as trying to rebuild the American economy from the Depression. He had to balance fiscal responsibility and military responsibility. He knew when the time was to compromise, and he knew when the time was to be strong.
And he refused to be limited by his affliction….
Bill Murray: Yes. My sister had polio, so I grew up with her wearing a brace. She’s had some of what they call post-polio effects that you have much later in life. It was extraordinary how FDR’s will overpowered that. You never saw self-pity from the man. He was very straightforward about how there were not to be pictures of him being carried around on his crutches, or in his wheelchair. There was an understanding; in exchange for that, he would present an openness and have regular press conferences, which Herbert Hoover had not. Roosevelt rebuilt his upper body. He rebuilt his abdominal muscles, which had been lost, and got back movement in part of his upper thighs and the tops of his legs.
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