Bill Murray

"I'm a nut," admits Bill Murray. "But I'm not just a nut." It might seem a slightly odd way to define oneself, but in the case of this much-loved New York funnyman the description seems to fit perfectly. The charmingly bedraggled comic has carved out a niche playing world-weary, wise-cracking anti-heroes, but has also proved he's capable of much more. In Mad Dog And Glory he turned in a remarkable performance as a heartless gangster, while the more recent Lost In Translation has confirmed his reputation as a character actor.

Some may say he is not blessed with leading man looks, but Bill might be more inclined to think he's not burdened by them. Always anxious to avoid following formulas or becoming predictable, the actor is largely uninterested in Hollywood's definition of success.

But there's no questioning that he has enjoyed moments of box office glory, too; most notably when 1984's Ghostbusters stormed cinema charts all over the world. The film was the latest of a series of collaborations with Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis, who helped him make his first forays into cinema with comedies Caddyshack and Meatballs.

It was in television, however, that the wry performer first made his name. Having worked with Dan Ackroyd and the legendary John Belushi on the National Lampoon Radio Hour, he became a regular member of the Saturday Night Live team in 1975.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bill had never been a stand-up comic. His talent for comedy acting was outstanding nonetheless, and offers of movie work soon started coming in. In the years since he has delivered some of the big screen's most hilarious characters, including the maniacal tycoon in Scrooged, a pain-loving dental patient in Little Shop Of Horrors and a hopeless neurotic in What About Bob.

There is also a more serious side to the performer, however. After his first attempt at writing a screenplay 1984's Razor's Edge was met with a frosty critical reception, the actor turned his back on Tinseltown to study philosophy and history at the Sorbonne. A passion for learning was matched by a love of sport, and the die-hard New York Mets fan owns one minor baseball league team and part-owns three more.

But his greatest affection is reserved for his family. Born in Wilmette, Illinois, on September 21, 1950, Bill is the fifth of nine children, and went on to have five of his own. The actor's dedication to his loved-ones was underlined when he won the Golden Globe award for best actor. Working on a new film in Italy at the time, but determined to share his special moment with his family, the performer chartered a private plane so he could pick up his wife in New York en route to the LA ceremony, before jetting back to Europe the following day. The trip reportedly cost $180,000, but Bill was adamant that Jennifer be at his side for the prize giving.

Although he was clearly honoured to receive the gong, awards are not what motivates Bill. The droll performer insists Tinseltown glory is overrated - though he does appreciate the competitive rates of pay. "I always want to say to people who want to be rich and famous: 'try being rich first'," he explains. "See if that doesn't cover most of it. There's not much downside to being rich, other than paying taxes and having your relatives ask you for money. But when you become famous, you end up with a 24-hour job."

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