Rome Film Fest: Wes Anderson, Frances McDormand Celebrate Bill Murray

Bill Murray

"I show up for Bill because he shows up for me," McDormand said of her 'Moonrise Kingdom' co-star.

Rome Film Fest kicked off with a bang with an award ceremony honoring Bill Murray with its lifetime achievement award Saturday.

The actor slept through a planned press conference earlier in the day, but came out in full spirits for a Close Encounter public talk, led by pal Wes Anderson and Rome director Antonio Monda.

Anderson presented Murray with the honor, and spoke of one of his first memories with the comedian, with whom he has worked now for more than two decades on nine films, including his upcoming The French Dispatch.

Their relationship dates back to Anderson's sophomore film, Rushmore, which Murray signed on to before having met the director, solely based on the script.

"I had the first opportunity of actually shooting a scene with Bill Murray just a few days after we met," explained Anderson, who shot Rushmore at his Houston high school alma mater St. John's School.

"At some point during a short break a group of my old classmates came to see me and while I was greeting them, Bill appeared [in the hedges]. Through these bushes he emerged. I didn't really know him. I said 'Do you want to meet my friends?' He said, 'OK, do you want to meet mine?'" Anderson said.

"He motioned back toward the bushes as a group of 10 to 12 men came scrambling out behind him dressed in business suits. They were the salesmen from a Jaguar car dealership around the corner where Bill had gone in between takes. Somehow he had gone for a test drive and he came back with the entire sales force."

Anderson explained that the group of new friends stayed on set throughout the week. "I think they probably didn't meet their quota of selling Jaguars that week, but I wouldn't be stunned if at least one or two of them made some big change in his life right then, and maybe stopped selling Jaguars and did something else. I know that happens because it happened to me," he said about the effect Murray has had on his life.

Frances McDormand also made a surprise appearance to congratulate Murray. The two met after Anderson cast them as Mr. and Mrs. Bishop in Moonrise Kingdom, and he later answered her text message to play the role of Jack Kennison in the McDormand-produced miniseries Olive Kitteridge.

"I show up for Bill because he shows up for me," said McDormand. "But he can hurt you, literally. He once threw me over his shoulder and cracked my ribs. He didn't mean to. He eventually put me down, but he has never let me down."

Both Anderson and Monda asked Murray if there was one actor or role that made him decide to become an actor.

"Someone I thought who was really great was Paul Scofield, when he played Thomas [More in A Man for All Seasons]. I thought that was some of the greatest acting I'd ever seen. I thought, there was a man who was going through absolutely all the questions of life and death, what he was going to make the meaning of his life about."

"He doubled down on whatever he thought to be the meaning of his purpose on earth," said Murray on being an actor. "And that's accidentally what's happened to me, that I've tried to make that my life, too."

Rome Film Fest continues through Oct. 27. The festival's second lifetime achievement award this year will honor Viola Davis.