Bill Murray Says Ember Is Your 21st Century Survival Guide

Illustration for article titled Bill Murray Says Ember Is Your 21st Century Survival Guide

The subterranean city of Ember houses the last survivors of the human race, living off dwindling food supplies and grappling with a failing power generator in the new movie City Of Ember. Could there possibly be some kind of allegory here? We seized the chance to ask castmembers Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan and Tim Robbins if they think the movie is commenting on our current situation, when they sat down with the press recently. They also told us about eating from cans and learning to live in total darkness. Minor spoilers below.How much research did you do for the movie? Tim Robbins: I dug a hole, and I went inside of it. A very deep hole. A very deep hole. And then I covered myself. And, yeah, I had a little light. And then I waited till the light was extinguished, and then I had it all right there. [Laughs] Sorry, I went for the humor. Saoirse Ronan: I don't know. It's kind of one of those characters; I don't think you can really research somebody who is buried underground, who lives underground. And, obviously, nobody here would have experienced that. So I think it was one of those characters where you just have to do it in the moment. And as long as I had [The Director] Gil [Kenan] there, I was fine, you know? And he was, like, my research guide, if that makes sense. Bill Murray: I did a little research. I found that the book was a book that kids in America read in school now. They read it in middle school. And when I told my sons I was going to be in The City of Ember, they said, "Oh! You're going to be the Mayor?" And I hadn't even read the script or the movie yet. And I thought, "They already know what's being spoken about, and I don't." So when I read it, I read it from their point of view. I tried to think of what they made of what this guy was, what this mayor was [in] the book and the script. And I think to the degree that a mayor can be a father figure who can disappoint you. I'm a father figure, and I've probably disappointed on occasion. I thought, when you're most disappointed is when you talk the talk and you don't live up to it. And that's pretty much what this guy did. So I felt as long as I was really, really successful in talking the talk, that the disappointment would be there, just like a gasp. The mayor seems to be eating every other time we see him. And primarily we saw him slurping on a lot of (really big) sardines from cans. Did you have to suck down all that food? Did you enjoy it? Murray: I'm not really a sardine guy. I do like caviar. I do. And I like eggplant. And I can eat copious amounts of caviar and a fair amount of eggplant. This was the most sardines I've ever eaten in my entire life. And I associate sardines with being these little things. These were [makes a face stretches out his hand] serious sardines, this big. Ronan: They were! Murray: These were. Robbins: You don't get a stunt eater? Murray: I got no stunt pay whatsoever. It was a lot. It was a lot of sardines, more than I've ever had. It got kind of funny. Did you perceive a correlation or metaphor in the film to our current situation now? Murray: Tim could you take this one? Robbins: No I already took that one [Laughs]. Murray: Well you certainly feel it. It came up today: is this movie like what we are living through now? Is it intentionally written to be like what we're going through now? To be fair, you don't want to accuse a writer to be intentionally mirror-like or being metaphorical about your current situation. But I think what it is, is the same combination of problems happened in that world, that happened in our world. Whatever your intention is, you're still going to encounter a lot of the same difficulties. So whether you say it's a movie about preserving our environmental resources — well no, not necessarily. I think it's about a person who finds a way to survive in spite of all that's around them. They find their personal will and kind follow their will and their spirit to emerge from a difficult situation. And on on the way to that, you encounter this ecological consideration that we have: "How am I going to live my life? Am I going to live my life like this? Is behaving as an eco-creature going to help me serve my spirit? I think it was inevitably coincidental, but I don't think it was intentional. When you go on this search, seeking your own personal answers, you're going to encounter those things.


I'm still waiting for him to guide us through the horde of 21st century ghosts...