Aziz Ansari is currently shopping his feature directorial debut Being Mortal to buyers with the blessing of Searchlight Pictures and its parent company, Disney.
The half-finished feature was forced to shut down production in the wake of an allegation against Bill Murray, who starred alongside Seth Rogen and Keke Palmer.
The nature of that allegation had remained unclear until Monday when Puck News reported that Murray began kissing and straddling a young female production staffer who he had been friendly with during the shoot and mistakenly believed had been flirting with him. Murray claimed he was just kidding around, but the female staffer didn’t find it very funny, and was reportedly “horrified.”
She lodged an official complaint that was backed up by a witness who filed their own complaint, and those two reports made their way to top Disney executives, who moved quickly to halt production citing “inappropriate behavior” on the part the film’s 72-year-old star.
Murray reportedly felt “miserable” about the “miscommunication,” according to Puck, even more so because it cost hundreds of people their jobs, though he subsequently told CNBC that “I did something I thought was funny, and it wasn’t taken that way… The world’s different than it was when I was a little kid.”
Murray surely wasn’t laughing when he wrote the female staffer a check for over $100,000 as part of a settlement that prevents her from making any statements about the incident or any legal claims against Disney, Searchlight, or the film’s producers.
Murray reportedly hoped that would be enough to get Disney to resume production, but instead, the studio gave Ansari permission to shop the project in its unfinished form, as it’s unlikely to be completed by Searchlight (even for Hulu) given that the film (about end-of-life care) was never going to make a lot of money in the first place.
Puck notes that “there could be a fresh arbitration ahead,” as “Searchlight can’t just walk away from its contractual obligations,” so stay tuned to see whether Being Mortal will live to see another day, though it doesn’t look too good right now.