The uncomfortable dynamic between a therapist (Richard Dreyfuss) and the titular high-maintenance patient (Bill Murray) who crashes the former’s family vacation made for enjoyable cringe comedy in the 1991 favorite What About Bob?, which turns 30 today.
There wasn’t much to laugh about when it came to the real-life relationship between the two stars, however, according to Dreyfuss.
“He was an Irish drunken bully,” Dreyfuss told Yahoo Entertainment during a 2019 Role Recall interview (watch full interview above, with What About Bob? starting at 5:40) while alleging abuse suffered at the hands of his famed costar on the set of the Frank Oz-directed film.
“I didn't talk about it for years,” the Jaws and Mr. Holland’s Opus actor confessed. “Bill just got drunk at dinner. … He came back from dinner [one night] and I said, ‘Read this [script tweak], I think it's really funny.’ And he put his face next to me, nose-to-nose. And he screamed at the top of his lungs, ‘Everyone hates you! You are tolerated!’
“There was no time to react, because he leaned back and he took a modern glass-blown ashtray. He threw it at my face from [only a couple feet away]. And it weighed about three quarters of a pound. And he missed me. He tried to hit me. I got up and left.”
The contentious behind-the-scenes relationship between Dreyfuss and Murray has been well-documented over the years, with some wondering if Murray’s tactics were meant, in part, to antagonize his costar to bolster the awkwardness onscreen.
“I really try to make the other actor look good whenever I can,” Murray told Howard Stern in 2014. “In this particular film, annoying Dreyfuss, which I kind of got to enjoy I’ve got to confess — but I didn’t try to annoy him off the screen.”
Dreyfuss was not the only one on set Murray allegedly bullied.
Murray threw producer Laura Ziskin into a lake after one argument, which was described as playful. But “Bill also threatened to throw me across the parking lot and then broke my sunglasses and threw them across the parking lot,” Ziskin said in 2003. “I was furious and outraged at the time, but having produced a dozen movies, I can safely say it is not common behavior.”
Dreyfuss’s attitude toward Murray has softenend in the years since our Role Recall interview, however.
Speaking to Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz in 2020, Dreyfuss said that he’s ready to forgive Murray.
“I haven’t done it with Bill,” he said. “And I will. We’ve never crossed paths. And one day I will write him a note and say, ‘As far as I'm concerned, it's over.’”
What About Bob? is streaming on Amazon Prime.
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