How Bill Murray came to cover Bob Dylan for 'St. Vincent'

How Bill Murray came to cover Bob Dylan's 'Shelter from the Storm' in his new movie, 'St. Vincent.'

Yes, we know: Nobody sings Dylan like Dylan, but in his new movie, "St. Vincent," Bill Murray performs a pretty wonderful version of "Shelter From the Storm" over the closing credits.

You can watch a version of Murray's work with this video, though the full performance, which cuts between two takes, runs through the entirety of the movie's closing credits. It should all but guarantee that no one will leave this film before the lights go up.

When we spoke earlier to "St. Vincent" writer-director Ted Melfi, he revealed that he had originally planned to end the movie with an elaborate shot involving special effects but then came to think that it was too much of a manipulative "Hollywood" moment. So he asked Murray: What if you just went out to the backyard and sang a song?

"It was 'Shelter From the Storm' from the start," Melfi says. "I love it. It's Harvey Weinstein's [whose company is releasing the movie] favorite song. I tell Bill, and he says, 'Well, that's one of my favorite songs of all time.' So it's kismet."

Melfi's instructions to Murray were simple: Do nothing. The camera won't move. The only bit of business Melfi gave Murray was to pull out a pack of cigarettes that his character, Vincent, had been hiding in a flower pot (he's not supposed to be smoking) and then, when his girlfriend smells the smoke, put them back and switch to an electronic cigarette.

"By the end of the take, half the crew was crying," Melfi says. "They were just so moved by him doing nothing."

Melfi did a second and final take, shooting Murray from an overhead angle. Murray knew the lyrics, but playing the ramshackle Vincent, singing in sync wasn't really an option.

"He’s just a mess the whole way, and I guess that’s what the film’s about, how we’re all just kind of a mess, a beautiful mess," Melfi says. "And Bill is a beautiful mess, and [his character] Vin’s a beautiful mess, and I’m a beautiful mess and everybody around is. How messy you get defines who you are and what your life is."

"St. Vincent" opens in limited release today.

Twitter: @glennwhipp

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
68°