‘What About Bob?’: A Lesson in Unintentional Method Acting

by Kali Tuttle
What About Bob

For the casual What About Bob? viewer, you would think that Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss were simply really good at acting. After all, that is their job. Surely they couldn’t hate each other that much, could they?


Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray hated each other as much off-screen as they did on-screen during the production of What About Bob?, according to multiple sourcesWhat About Bob? is actually a perfect example of method acting, not unlike Christian Bale starving himself for The Machinist or Hilary Swank living life as a man for Boys Don’t Cry. Only, in this case, it was just a feud between two actors acting like children.

That Little Push

Let’s get this straight: even if Murray and Dreyfuss had gotten along during filming, the movie still would’ve been worthy to be on my go-to list. The two have proved themselves capable actors throughout their extensive filmographies.

Yet, that extra sense of realism in the feud between Bob and Dr. Marvin helps What About Bob? take off. It’s easy to act like you hate someone on screen when you hate them in real life too. The animosity is never forced and the tense interactions between the two main characters are genuine.

Now, I would not suggest doing this for every movie that requires some level of animosity. It’s called acting for a reason — you pretend, you don’t have to actually be your character in real life. (I realize I’ve offended every proponent of method acting out there, but it’s true.) But, sometimes, a little authenticity goes a long way.


Is it possible that the rumors of Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray hating each other during filming were exaggerated? Possibly. But then again, both actors have a long history of being particularly hard to deal with. Bill Murray has been known to have quite the anger issue; multiple actors have told stories about his outbursts. Richard Dreyfuss may be less notorious for his off-screen antics, but he’s still butt heads with many of his costars on various films.

I have no trouble believing that these two hotheads had a hard time getting along during this movie. I also do not doubt that this friction between the two is what made What About Bob? so great. The venom in every conversation is palpable because it’s actually there rather than just acted out.

As mentioned above, I wouldn’t recommend this for every movie that requires two characters to hate each other. I think it’s a poor acting practice and shows a lack of actual acting skills. However, I will admit that it makes What About Bob? all the more believable. But heavens, that must have been an insufferable set.

Richard Dreyfuss

Fun fact: I hate Richard Dreyfuss. I’ve never met him in person, but I am not a fan. In the movies I’ve seen him in, even when he’s the protagonist, he has been an insufferable person with the whiniest voice and horrid personality.

I know I’m not the only one either. There are multiple stories about how he was hard to work with and was actually more of a predator than just a nice guy. Honestly, I think his portrayal of an obsessed music teacher in Mr. Holland’s Opus is pretty fitting, including the creepy relationship with one of his students. In short, I think he’s a scummy guy and I genuinely hate him in every one of his performances.

Because of that, he makes What About Bob? that much more entertaining. It’s easier to root for Bob because Dr. Marvin is such a dick.

Bill Murray Is…Himself

I generally like Bill Murray in most of his filmography. He’s pretty funny, which makes up for some of his more annoying quirks like his conceitedness. Also, like Dreyfuss, I find that Murray has a whiny voice. Not necessarily relevant, but I think it’s important that you all know how irritating I find whiny voices.

Again, it makes Bob’s performance all that more entertaining. It makes him seem more unhinged and it’s hilarious. Nothing seems particular out of character for Murray himself. I could see him doing a lot of things that Bob does in the movie in real life. He just seems like a pretty unhinged character in real life too.

Bob’s more childish traits seem perfectly at home in the hothead Murray. A man known to have fits of rage onset over minor details is the perfect choice for a slightly crazy character.

Is This Just a Documentary?

What About Bob? could classify as a documentary, honestly. It’s a study of what happens when you put two very strong personalities against each other. Not just strong personalities, but particularly unlikable personalities. It’s like watching a crotchety old married couple who hate each other but are too old and tired to divorce.

This combination of rude and annoying is surprisingly funny, especially when you factor in the normality of the rest of the supporting cast. Performances from Julie Hagerty, Kathryn Erbe, and Charlie Korsmo are perfect for What About Bob? Of course, like any human, they have their own personalities and quirks, but for the most part, they play the role of the straight man in this comedy quite well (an essential role in any comedy).

You know when people in real life are fighting and someone sarcastically says, “Get the popcorn”? This is your chance to actually do this. Get the popcorn and watch the madness unfold.

Follow MovieBabble on Twitter @MovieBabble_ and Follow Kali @tuttle_kali.

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acsahlst May 24, 2021 - 7:54 pm

I hated this movie. I was a kid when I saw it, but I found it insufferable and mean-spirited.

Kali Tuttle May 27, 2021 - 8:47 pm

I can totally relate to that. It’s not one that everybody is going to love

Nick Kush May 24, 2021 - 7:34 pm

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