A complaint of “inappropriate behavior” by actor Bill Murray has led Searchlight Pictures to suspend production of “Being Mortal,” a film written and directed by Aziz Ansari, according to a person who worked on production.
Searchlight sent a letter to the cast and crew on Wednesday stating that the suspension was over a complaint, but gave little further details.
“We were notified of a complaint late last week, and we immediately looked into it,” the letter reads, a copy of which was obtained by DailyExpertNews. “After examining the circumstances, it has been decided that production cannot continue at the moment.”
The letter did not disclose the nature of the complaint or who it concerned, but the person working on the production, who spoke on condition of anonymity as details of the case are kept confidential, said the film was closed down due to what was described by Murray only as “inappropriate behaviour”.
The episode that gave rise to the complaint occurred on Friday and resulted in a shutdown that day, the person said. Production went through an investigation Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, which resulted in the determination that work on the film could not resume for the time being.
The suspension was reported by Deadline on Thursday. Disney, the company that owns Searchlight, and an attorney who has represented Murray, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.
Known for his understated, almost deadpan style, Murray joined “Saturday Night Live” in 1977 and went on to star in comedies like “Caddyshack” and “Ghostbusters.” He has become a fixture in indie film, appearing in several Wes Anderson films and in Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation”.
Gradually he became something of a crumpled cultural touchstone, with his face depicted on art prints, T-shirts and prayer candles and inked as tattoos on the arms and legs of fans. He also popped up in unexpected real-life moments: reading poetry to construction workers, competing in a kickball game on Roosevelt Island, and even photobombing a couple’s engagement photo shoot in South Carolina.
It has been widely reported that while filming the 2000 movie “Charlie’s Angels,” Murray clashed with actress Lucy Liu, who told The Los Angeles Times that he had “started uttering some sort of insults to her,” adding that “some of the language was unforgivable and unacceptable.”
Murray is the protagonist in the Searchlight production, which also stars Seth Rogen and Keke Palmer. It is based on Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, a non-fiction book by Atul Gawande with accounts of his experiences as a physician and an exploration of how doctors and patients cope with terminal illness.
Ansari will star in both the film and directing. He also produces it with Youree Henley.
Production on the film began in Los Angeles in late March and was slated to feature a 30-day shoot. It is unclear whether Murray will remain in the film or be replaced, according to the person familiar with the production.
“We are all truly grateful to all of you for all that you have put into this project,” reads the letter sent by Searchlight. “Please know that we will be working with Aziz and Youree in the coming days to see if we can move forward at the right time.”