It's been two decades since Bill Murray filmed scenes from Wes Anderson's Rushmore in Houston and the actor says the city has changed for the better.
"It's so much prettier than I remember it," he said Monday, sitting in the lobby of Hotel ZaZa. "The buildings are beautiful, there's beautiful architecture. Many more things to see. Many more places to eat."
Murray's return to the Bayou City comes ahead of his Monday night performance at Jones Hall. He's currently touring with "New Worlds: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler and Friends," a unique mix of classical music, singing, dancing and American literature.
"I do almost nothing but show up relatively on time. That's what I contribute to this whole thing," Murray joked.
The idea got its start several years ago when he ended up sitting next to famed cellist Jan Vogler on a flight from Berlin, Vogler's hometown, to New York City. Vogler's cello, sititng in its own first-class seat, prompted a few questions from Murray.
"The cello was sitting at the window, I was sitting next to my cello and across the aisle was Bill," remembered Vogler. "So we started a conversation on the plane and formed a friendship."
Over the next few years, Vogler would attend some of Murray's performances and vice versa until the actor says Vogler came up with "New Worlds." It was Vogler who put the music together and assembled the band, while Murray focused on what literature to perform.
#BillMurray is in #Houston tonight to perform his show "New Worlds" at @JonesHallHOU -- and he's happy to be back! Gotta watch the video to find out why. #KHOU11 #JonesHall #HoustonSymphony #NewWorlds pic.twitter.com/3eYFbvuxkO
"The first time we did it, we only did about 45 minutes at New York Yacht Club, which was intimidating," said Murray, adding that the show has evolved considerably since they first started working on it. "We're having a grand time. It's really a lot of fun and people like the show a lot."
Murray, who sang in Jungle Book and Garfield, said his favorite song in the show is "Genie with the Light Brown Hair."
"It's a challenge each night to go out and say, 'OK, I'm going to try to make them see this how the guy who wrote this song was feeling when he wrote it," Murray said.
The die-hard Chicago Cubs fan had to mention the Astros and their World Series win. "God bless Houston. I was happy for them. I know Jim Crane and they looked great all year," Murray said. "It's hard to win two years in a row because the celebration doesn't stop."
The tour has taken Murray and Vogler all over the world, but they told reporters that they're grateful for their stop in Houston so they can get some vitamin D.
He's a die-hard #ChicagoCubs fan, but actor #BillMurray says he was happy the @astros won the #WorldSeries. So will they be able to do it again? "It's hard to win two years in a row because the celebration doesn't stop," said Murray.#Astros #HoustonAstros #MLB #KHOU11 pic.twitter.com/KOfkOpSY9I
"This is the first sunlight we've seen for more than 20 minutes. We're walking around in a daze like we've been drugged in the sun. There's been no sun anywhere. This is really nice," said Murray, laughing as he added, "I'm going to go hit some balls as soon as I'm done with you guys."
His course of choice? Hermann Park. "I've heard good things about the guy over there," said Murray with a smile.
You can buy tickets to "New Worlds" by clicking here.