Bill Murray, Garfield, and Destiny


My entire philosophy of life—my entire belief as to how the universe works—can be summed up by the Lorenzo Music/Bill Murray paradox.

Lorenzo Music famously voiced the cartoon character Garfield since 1982. He was so successful in the role that in 1986 he was given another plum voice acting part—that of Peter Venkman in the official cartoon adaptation of the movie Ghostbusters.


Music seemed to have nailed the sardonic essence of Venkman. But apparently Bill Murray didn’t think so—and allegedly Murray had Music fired. The given reason? That Music didn’t sound enough like Murray, and instead sounded too much like Garfield.

Lorenzo Music goes on to voice Garfield until his death in 2001. In 2004, Garfield the movie comes out. Music, so well-known for this role, would have been the perfect choice to voice the main character. But he was sadly no longer available. So who did the producers find to best approximate the voice of Garfield?

Bill Murray.

Bill Murray, who got Lorenzo Music fired for making Peter Venkman sound too much like Garfield.

This is the Music/Murray paradox, which, in a metaphysical sense, relates to the inherent interconnectedness of all things.


I believe that what truly annoyed Murray about Music’s portrayal of Venkman was not that it didn’t sound like him—but rather, it sounded too much like him. Which is to say, Bill Murray sounded like Garfield.

This is why when casting for a replacement voice for Garfield, Murray was chosen.

The more Murray tried to get away from the idea that he sounded like Garfield…the closer that eventually brought him to actually providing the voice of Garfield.

So a corollary to the Music/Murray paradox is that the harder you try to deny the interconnectedness of all things, the deeper you’re drawn into it.


Perhaps—if you want to get really esoteric about it—on some deep intuitive level Murray knew back in the 1980s that he would eventually provide the voice for a meh CGI movie adaptation of a beloved comic strip. He sensed his eventual destiny…and instinctively pushed it away from him by bashing Music’s work. Which only made him more enmeshed in the larger karmic loop, which had to find fulfillment in him literally “becoming” Garfield.

And what would Garfield represent to Murray? Well, the movie itself was a mediocre cash-grab, with Murray being just another first-rate aging actor who essentially sells himself out for a mega-paycheck. While Murray has certainly made his share of great movies as he’s gotten older, it’s no denying that movies like Garfield are an embarrassment to an otherwise great career.


As Murray ages, he is in danger of becoming a self-parody…a pudgy wise-cracking “cartoon” of his former self. Basically, a literal Garfield-type persona. The “Murray Zombie” in the movie Zombieland—who specifically mentions the Garfield movie—is another allusion to this anxiety regarding self-parody, and the devolution of the once-vital younger self. (A side-topic would be the later-Murray’s tendency to play dead people, not only in Zombieland but possibly in Darjeeling Limited and also the corpse in an episode of Parks and Recreation. He even revealed himself to be “Grim Reaper” Steve Bannon in a recent Saturday Night Live).

This also brings to mind that quote from The Dark Knight—about either dying a hero or living long enough to play the villain. Certainly, the 2004 Garfield, while a bit trite and cloying, was not a “villain.” But we can extend the idea-behind-the-quote to mean that in life, we may live out many different roles…especially, paradoxically, those opposite from what we originally wanted to be. We find ourselves in those roles we’ve spent a lifetime to avoid.

from critter hunter…to critter friend…to critter

And maybe that’s the point of life…to try these different personas out. Maybe we’re meant to be a little bit of everything. Maybe it’s because we are all so interconnected, in a quantum sense, that we are all ultimately One anyhow. And so these weird bits of synchronicity periodically follow us around to remind us of that fact—a fact which we are constantly distracted from, as we go about our lives in this tunnel-vision view of reality in which we appear discrete and separate from everyone else.

One comment

  1. Excellent post. Lorenzo Music was such a gift. While best known for his Garfield role, the guy popped up in a lot of the 90s Disney cartoons as well.


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