Bill Murray Dropped Out of Wes Anderson’s ‘Asteroid City’ Due to COVID

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Bill Murray’s mysterious absence from Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” didn’t go unnoticed this week after Focus Features boarded the project and revealed new details about the film.

The actor — an Anderson regular who elevated movies such as “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” — was one of the first to be attached to the Spain-shot film, which went into production last September. On Wednesday, however, Murray was conspicuously missing from the pic’s heaving cast, which includes Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Carell, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton and Adrien Brody, among many others.

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A source close to the production tells Variety that Murray contracted COVID-19 shortly before the movie began shooting last September, and the project was forced to recast his role. He’s not believed to have shot any scenes before dropping out.

It’s understood that “Morning Show” star Carell replaced Murray in the film.

Speculation has been rife that Murray was potentially sidelined after it emerged that Searchlight Pictures halted production on Aziz Ansari’s “Being Mortal” this past April after a complaint of inappropriate behavior was made against the 71-year-old actor. Sources indicate, however, that the allegations don’t have anything to do with Murray’s absence from “Asteroid City.”

Back in April, Murray was quick to offer up his version of events, telling CNBC that he “had a difference of opinion with a woman I’m working with.”

“I did something I thought was funny and it wasn’t taken that way,” Murray told CNBC. “The movie studio wanted to do the right thing, so they wanted to check it all out and investigate it and so they stopped the production.

“As of now we’re talking and we’re trying to make peace with each other,” Murray continued. “We’re both professionals. We like each other’s work — we like each other, I think. If we can’t get along and trust each other, there’s no point in going further working together or making a movie… It’s been quite an education for me. I’ve been doing not much else but thinking about her for the last week or two.”

The exact nature of the complaint against Murray was never disclosed.

Searchlight Pictures released the last three Anderson movies, but parted ways with the filmmaker for “Asteroid City,” which is with Focus Features for domestic and parent company Universal Pictures for international. Focus Features boarded the pic in post-production.

Co-written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, the film is described as a “poetic meditation on the meaning of life.” Set in a fictional American desert town circa 1955 and its Junior Stargazer convention, the film brings together students and parents from across the country for scholarly competition, rest and recreation, comedy, drama, romance and more.

“Asteroid City” is produced by Anderson and longtime collaborators Steven Rales, founder of production company Indian Paintbrush, and Jeremy Dawson.

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