Any time it’s announced that Bill Murray will star in a movie, it’s exciting news. Quite apart from the fact that he’s one of the greatest comedic big screen presences of all time, the guy is notoriously hard to sign on to any project. But today after months of circling the role, Murray has officially committed to play Franklin D. Roosevelt in the historical drama Hyde Park On Hudson, a film about King George VI and Queen Elizabeth spending a weekend at FDR’s upstate New York home unsurprisingly called Hyde Park On Hudson. No start date is in place yet as Focus Features plans to seek international buyers for the project at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and given Murray’s official involvement, it shouldn’t be a hard sell. Though this will most likely be a serious role for Murray, the idea of him applying his hangdog deadpan comic charm to the role of the 32nd US president is just too sweet to resist. Hit the jump for further details on this bizarrely awesome casting choice.
Variety reported this morning that the producers of Hyde Park On Hudson have been pursuing Murray to play the role for around a year now, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given that the reclusive comedian doesn’t have an agent, just a phone number for a voice mail account that a select few can call and he only checks occasionally. The odd CGI cat comedy aside, the system has worked quite well for Murray over the past decade as he’s pretty well only appeared in small left-of-center projects made by people willing to put in the legwork to land him.
Based on a BBC radio drama by Richard Nelson of the same name, Hyde Park On Hudson will definitely be a serious role for Murray, who’s actually been doing a few strong laugh-free turns as of late in projects like Jim Jarmush’s The Limits Of Control. The screenplay comes from Nelson as well and will presumably stay close to the radio play’s tale of the King and Queen’s planned weekend of gentle political debate and hot dogs being interrupted by FDR’s infidelity packed personal life. There should be room for awkward laughs there, but expect to see Bill going for drama. The only potential concern is that Murray’s doing the Oscar friendly movie (historical drama: check. Portraying a famous person: check. British accents in the surrounding cast: check) purely to try and land the Academy Award that he should have won for Lost in Translation. But he’s smarter than that and hopefully it won’t be an issue.
Changing Lanes and Notting Hill director Roger Michell will helm the project for producers David Aukin and Kevin Loader. Focus Features will be descending on Cannes hungry for international buyers for the movie along with all slate of other projects including The Wachowski Brothers and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run)’s epic collaboration Cloud Atlas starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. It should be a big festival run for Focus and hopefully it won’t be too long before we get to see Murray step into FDR’s shoes. That casting is just too odd and out of nowhere to not be something special.