Steve Carell replaced Bill Murray in Asteroid City, Wes Anderson says

COVID is the simple reason Bill Murray isn’t in Asteroid City, writer-director Wes Anderson says.

The news that Murray would not be in Asteroid City — despite Murray’s consecutive appearances in the last nine Anderson films — sparked speculation about whether Murray’s on-set behavior on another film had hurt his relationship with one of his longest collaborators. The simple answer is no.

Also Read: Asteroid City Cinematographer Robert Yeoman on Why He and Wes Anderson Never Settle

“Bill was supposed to be in the movie [Asteroid City]. It’s not a great thing to say, ‘Well this person was supposed to play this part.’ Once someone gets a part, you’re supposed to say, ‘Well, this is their part.’ But in this case, because there was some confusion about what happened with Bill: He was supposed to play the motel manager who Steve Carell plays, and Bill got COVID four days before he was supposed to start shooting,” Anderson said in an inteverview with IndieWire.

“He was in Ireland and in the case of our movie, we had schedules of so many people that are all puzzled around. The people who Bill was supposed to play scenes with were going to be gone by the time he cleared the COVID protocols and stuff. And in fact, he was quite sick.”

Anderson added that “Steve Carell came in quite suddenly” to take the role, adding, “I loved having him.”

Murray, who anchored Anderson’s 2020 film The French Dispatch, has appeared in every Anderson film since 1998’s, in which he co-starred with Jason Schwartzman, one of the stars of Asteroid City. The film also stars Scarlett Johansson, with whom Murray starred in 2003’s Lost in Translation.

Wes Anderson Stands by Bill Murray

Anderson told IndieWire that Murray “was such a great supporter of me from the very beginning,” adding, “I don’t want to speak about somebody else’s experience, but he’s really part of my family. You know, he’s my daughter’s godfather. In fact, he actually baptized her. He’s the one who splashed the water.”

When the Asteroid City cast was announced last July, the absence of Bill Murray was an especially big surprise because Murray had appeared with Anderson and several actors in the Asteroid City cast during a remote Q&A from Spain in 2021 at the 59th New York Film Festival. 

The Asteroid City trailer

But in April of 2022, Searchlight Pictures halted production on the Aziz Ansari film Being Mortal after a complaint was lodged against Murray accusing him of inappropriate behavior on set. Production on the film never resumed, but Murray addressed the situation during an appearance on CNBC.

“I did something I thought was funny, and it wasn’t taken that way,” Murray said. “The company, the movie studio, wanted to do the right thing, so they wanted to check it all out, investigate it, and so they stopped the production. But as of now, we’re talking and we’re trying to make peace with each other. I think that’s where the real issue is, between our peace. We’re both professionals. We like each other’s work. We like each other, I think, and if you can’t really get along and trust each other, there’s no point in going further working together or making a movie as well.”

Asteroid City, which tells the story of a fictional American desert town circa 1955 and its Junior Stargazer convention, has a cast that will delight the other kind of star gazers: It includes Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan, Grace Edwards, Aristou Meehan, Sophia Lillis, Ethan Lee, Jeff Goldblum, Rita Wilson and more.

Asteroid City is now in theaters, from Focus Features.

Main image: Steve Carell, who replaced Bill Murray in the Wes Anderson film Asteroid City.