Isle of Dogs: Bill Murray Talks His Painful History with Man’s Best Friend

At an Isle of Dogs press conference, Bill Murray explains how playing a dog requires feeling over thinking and his own history with canines.

When Bill Murray enters a room, folks notice. Appearing fashionably late for the beginning of an Isle of Dogs press conference, the legendary actor can stroll into a gilded ballroom wearing a golf visor on his head and a discreetly clever, Wes Anderson-esque touch on the lapel of his jacket—the crossed keys insignia from Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel—and immediately start enjoying his give-and-take with the press. Sometimes sardonic and succinct in his answers, the actor knows how to play with a crowd. For example, when he’s asked whether his onscreen animated dog, Boss, is really a little league mascot, or is merely a dog who thinks he’s a mascot, Murray can reply with a shrug, “I don’t want to break any of your dreams.”

Nevertheless, he can sometimes become quite thoughtful and pensive in his answers, especially when it is about his own relationship with man’s best friend. This is exactly what occurred when Murray was asked about his relationship with dogs, and whether that influenced how he thought about playing a canine.

“Well I don’t think your relationship with dogs is a thinking thing, it’s an emotional thing,” Murray said with genuine consideration. “So you sort of have to get yourself together to correctly perceive those emotions, to feel them, those feelings, to get completely connected.”

He also revealed how a surprising tragedy nearly took his current dog from him, Timber Murray.

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“I’ve had some very emotional moments with my own dogs,” Murray said. “My current dog was attacked and left for dead by coyotes. He survived, and he’s the one I chose from his mother’s litter. I thought he was the smartest one, and he was; he’s also the best companion, a very good companion, easy to be with. All my friends say, ‘Your dog is so chill,’ but he’s way beyond chill. Chill is like entry level to what Timber Murray is.”

For Murray it is relating to his apparently Zen-like dog that made portraying one of his fellow furry brethren such a pleasing experience for the actor, as well as his co-stars. “I think we all had to think about how to say how I feel about dogs… It wasn’t thinking, they had to get to an emotional sort of catapult.”

Audiences will be able to see where that catapult lands when Isle of Dogs opens on March 23.