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Toronto rolls out red carpet for 'Bill Murray Day'

By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - If there was ever a good reason to skip school, it might just be "Bill Murray Day."

The Toronto International Film Festival declared Friday "Bill Murray Day," and called on fans of the quirky comedic actor to dress up as his beloved characters in a costume contest to see screenings of films "Stripes," "Groundhog Day" and "Ghostbusters."

For two public sector workers and a barista dressed up as the three main characters from "Ghostbusters", the decision was a no-brainer.

The trio were first in line for a free screening of the classic comedy, decked out in authentic-looking jumpsuits and proton packs that unfortunately do not shoot anti-apparition projectiles.

"We're not at that stage with the technology. Maybe one day," said 25-year-old Solange Houle, the barista.

Organizers announced late Thursday that the famously elusive Murray would turn up for own day, much of which he spent in his hotel room receiving updates on the unusually sticky weather.

In an expansive conversation with Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, Murray skipped effortlessly between anecdotes from his early days working with the likes of John Belushi, Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase and Dan Akroyd, to philosophical musings on the importance of relaxation.

While filming Ghostbusters "I knew then that I was going to be rich and famous," he dead-panned, wearing red pants, a blue plaid shirt and trapper hat. "And be able to wear red clothes and not give a damn," he continued.

Asked by a fan from Vancouver what it was like to be Bill Murray, he asked the audience to answer it for themselves.

"It feels good to be you, doesn't it?" he asked. "If you don't feel like you have to rush off and be somewhere, that's just a wonderful sense of wellbeing that begins to circulate up and down your spine."

His attitude draws fans like movie critic Mark Bell.

"Every single time you hear a story about Bill Murray it's about all these crazy things he does," he said. "How does he pull it off?"

Just last week, Murray switched seats with a saxophone-playing taxi driver who never had time to practice.

"It made for a beautiful night," he said.

Scores of enthusiastic fans, many too young to catch "Ghostbusters" when it hit big screens 30 years ago, packed a downtown Toronto theater for a free screening of what host and film programmer Jesse Wente dubbed "the greatest supernatural comedy ever made."

The 63-year-old actor from the Chicago suburb of Wilmette got his foothold in American comedy on "Saturday Night Live" and went on to star in films "Meatballs," "Caddyshack," "Stripes," "Ghostbusters" and "Groundhog Day" in offbeat roles that earned him a following of hard-core fans.

Murray later moved toward more dramatic roles, usually inflected with his trademark humor, like the fading actor in "Lost in Translation." In "St. Vincent," Murray plays a cantankerous retiree with a few vices who becomes the unlikely mentor to a 12-year-old neighbor.

(Additional reporting by Mary Milliken; editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, Grant McCool, Diane Craft and David Gregorio)

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