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Bill Murray Finds Directing First Film a Slow-Motion Act

BILL MURRAY has done many things in television and the movies - romanced Gilda Radner on ``Saturday Night Live,'' found deliverance on a mountaintop, and battled Christmas ghosts and ectoplasmic slime - but until his current movie, ``Quick Change,'' he had never put on clown makeup and big feet. ``The big feet give you an attitude, all right,'' Murray told me during an interview at a West Hollywood hotel. His character in ``Quick Change,'' a New York City planner named ``Grimm,'' dons a clown costume to hold up a bank.

``The makeup, the bald cap, the white-face melt under the studio lights,'' says Murray, ``so after every take you go stand under these big air conditioner blowers; and you sit there and feel the makeup freezing up on your face. Then back to another take, and it all melts again.''

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``Quick Change,'' which also stars Randy Quaid, Geena Davis, and Jason Robards, marks Murray's directing debut (a credit he shares with script writer Howard Franklin). The film has gotten largely favorable reviews - the Los Angeles Times called the Murray-Franklin directing debut ``auspicious'' - but the project has demanded most of Murray's time for two years.

It has has been ``a brutal exercise in details, details,'' he says. ``A lot of really dull work. Not big stuff like securing locations and signing contracts, but about 1,500 questions every hour. ... It gets so you meet people on the street or at home and you look at them and say, `Shouldn't those shoe laces be worked up inside the tongues?' ... ''

I ask him what part of the directing process he enjoyed the most.

``Well, it was not the extra control, that's sure,'' he says. ``As a star, you can have a certain amount of control over a movie anyway. As a director, you get a little more, but what you have to do to get just that extra power is insane. It's crazy. That's why so many movie stars direct just one time.

``But I tell you what I did really like - the editing and the mixing.

Still Murray says, ``there's such a sense of incompleteness about a movie: You feel it as an actor delivering funny lines, and you feel it especially as a director: You tell the joke in June of 1988, and you have to wait two years to get the laugh. It's 1990, and I'm still waiting for the laugh.''

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