What About Bob?

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What About Bob?
What About Bob (1991).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Oz
Screenplay byTom Schulman
Story byAlvin Sargent
Laura Ziskin
Produced byLaura Ziskin
CinematographyMichael Ballhaus
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Music byMiles Goodman
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
May 17, 1991
Running time
99 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$39 million[2]
Box office$63.7 million[3]

What About Bob? is a 1991 American black comedy film directed by Frank Oz and starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss.[4] Murray plays Bob Wiley, a mentally unstable patient who follows his egotistical psychotherapist Dr. Leo Marvin (Dreyfuss) on vacation. When Bob befriends the other members of Leo's family, the patient's problems push the doctor over the edge.

The film received positive reviews and was a box office success. This film is number 43 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".[5]


In New York City, Bob Wiley has great work ethic and is a nice-guy in his community. However he suffers from multiple phobias which makes it difficult for him to leave his apartment. Despite regular therapy, he makes little progress and his anxiety compels him to seek constant reassurance from his therapists.

Exhausted by Bob's high-maintenance care needs and invasions of personal boundaries, his current therapist refers him to the egotistical Dr. Leo Marvin, who believes his recently published book Baby Steps will make him a household name. Bob feels good about their initial session, but Dr. Marvin dismisses Bob in a rush, as he is due for a month-long family vacation. Unable to cope, Bob contacts Leo via his telephone exchange and tries to find out where he is, but Leo dismisses him. Then Bob pays a prostitute to impersonate Leo's sister Lily so Bob can get by the switchboard operator and call him, but Leo tells Bob he cannot trust him if he pulls any more stunts like that. He then disguises himself as a homicide detective telling the switchboard operator that Bob committed suicide and tracks Leo to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. Leo is annoyed, but sees Bob's desperation and tells him to "take a vacation" from his problems. Bob seems to have made a breakthrough, but the next morning, he tells Leo that he will also be vacationing at Lake Winnipesaukee as a guest of the Guttmans, who hold a grudge against Leo for purchasing the lakeside home they had been saving for years to buy.

Leo rejects Bob's attempts at friendship as he believes patients are beneath him, but Bob bonds with Leo's family and relates to the problems of Leo's kids, Anna and Sigmund "Siggy", in contrast with their father's clinical approach. Bob begins to enjoy life, going sailing with Anna and helping Sigmund dive, which Leo had been unsuccessfully trying for years. After Leo aggressively pushes Bob into the lake, Leo's wife Fay forces him to apologize, which he begrudgingly does. She then invites Bob to dinner and he accepts, believing Leo's hostility against him are either accidental or part of his therapy. After dinner, a thunderstorm forces Bob to spend the night. Before sleeping, Bob, being germaphobic up to this point, throws away the tissues that he carried with him everywhere when making contact with various objects, showing that he is slowly making therapeutic progress. Leo wants Bob out of the house early the next morning before Good Morning America arrives to interview him about Baby Steps. The TV crew, oblivious to Leo's reluctance, suggest having Bob on the show as well. Leo humiliates himself during the interview, while Bob is relaxed and speaks highly of Leo and the book, inadvertently stealing the spotlight.

Leo attempts to have Bob institutionalized, but Bob is soon released after befriending the hospital staff and telling them therapy jokes, demonstrating his sanity and showing that he has made real therapeutic progress due to his time with Dr. Marvin's family. Forced to retrieve Bob, Leo abandons him in the middle of nowhere, but Bob quickly gets a ride back to Leo's house while various mishaps delay Leo. Returning after nightfall, Leo is surprised by the birthday party Fay has secretly planned for him and is delighted to see his beloved sister Lily. When Bob appears and puts his arm around Lily, Leo becomes enraged and attacks him. Bob still remains oblivious to Leo's behavior until Fay explains Leo's hatred for Bob, to which Bob finally understands and agrees to leave.

Leo breaks into a general store, stealing a shotgun and 20 pounds of explosives and kidnaps Bob at gunpoint. Leo leads him deep into the woods and ties him up with the explosives, calling it "death therapy", and returns to the house, gleefully preparing his cover story. Believing the explosives are props as a metaphor for his problems, Bob applies Leo's "Baby Steps" approach and manages to free himself of his restraints and remaining fears; he reunites with the Marvins and praises Leo for curing him. Leo asks Bob where the explosives are and Bob says they are in the family's vacation house, which promptly explodes into flames, much to the Guttmans' delight. Petrified, Leo is rendered catatonic and institutionalized while having his medical license revoked for attempted murder.

Some time later, Bob marries Leo's sister, and upon their pronouncement as husband and wife, the still-catatonic Leo finally regains his senses and screams, "No!", but the sentiment is lost in the family's excitement at his recovery, and Leo is forced to accept Bob as his new brother-in-law. Text at the end reveals that Bob went back to school and became a psychologist, then wrote a best-selling book titled Death Therapy, for which Leo is suing him for the rights.



Before Frank Oz was hired to direct, Garry Marshall was considered, and Woody Allen was approached to play Dr. Marvin. Allen was also considered to direct and possibly co-write the script with Tom Schulman.[6] However, because Allen had always generated his own projects rather than getting handed an existing property to make his own, Oz was hired to direct.[7] Allen also declined the role of Dr. Marvin, thus Richard Dreyfuss was ultimately cast.[8] Patrick Stewart was also considered for the role.[9] Early in development, Robin Williams was attached to the project.[6]


What About Bob? was filmed in and around the town of Moneta, Virginia, located on Smith Mountain Lake.[10]

For the scene in which Bob accidentally blows the house up, producers used a 3/4-sized model replica of the actual house that they detonated on a nearby lot.[10]

The scenes of Bob arriving in town on the bus with his goldfish were filmed in downtown Moneta, which was repainted for the movie. The local institute where Leo tries to commit Bob is actually the local Elks National Home for retirees in the nearby town of Bedford, Virginia.[11]

Scenes were also shot in New York City. According to Oz, Murray was "really frightened" about filming in the city.[12]

Murray confirmed that he improvised a lot in the film.[13]

Production difficulties[edit]

Oz has confirmed in interviews that there was conflict on the set during the making of the film.[12][14] In addition, both Murray and Dreyfuss have stated in separate interviews that they did not get along with each other during filming:

It's entertaining—everybody knows somebody like that Bob guy. [Richard Dreyfuss and I] didn't get along on the movie particularly, but it worked for the movie. I mean, I drove him nuts, and he encouraged me to drive him nuts.[15]

— Bill Murray, March 19, 1993 interview with Entertainment Weekly

How about it? Funny movie. Terribly unpleasant experience. We didn't get along, me and Bill Murray. But I've got to give it to him: I don't like him, but he makes me laugh even now. I'm also jealous that he's a better golfer than I am. It's a funny movie. No one ever comes up to you and says, "I identify with the patient". They always say, "I have patients like that. I identify with your character". No one ever says that they're willing to identify with the other character.[16]

— Richard Dreyfuss, October 8, 2009 interview with The A.V. Club

Oz himself also verified that there was a feud between Murray and Dreyfuss:

I was just trying to get the best out of both of them. Richard is a very structured person. And I'm not that structured. And Billy is very unstructured. So you have that opposite going also. And as a matter of fact, I just wrote Richard a letter, after all these years, because I was looking at that movie, and I realized how brilliant Richard's work was. But yes, they didn't get along. And in my perverse directorial intent, I was very pleased [laughs]. They're not supposed to get along. It's not that I was simpatico with Bill, but I leaned more towards the ideas that Bill had. But I am so grateful to Richard for his performance.[17]

— Frank Oz, January 28, 2021 interview with Rolling Stone

In subsequent interviews, Dreyfuss reiterated what he said of his experience working with Murray,[18][19] notably when he appeared at Fan Expo Canada in 2017.[20] Dreyfuss further alleged in 2019 that at one point during the production, Murray screamed at him while intoxicated, telling him "Everyone hates you! You are tolerated!" and then threw an ashtray at him.[21] When Murray appeared on The Howard Stern Show in 2014, Howard Stern asked him if he intended to irritate Dreyfuss. Murray responded: "I really try to make the other actor look good whenever I can (...) In this particular film, annoying Dreyfuss, which I kind of got to enjoy I gotta confess—but I didn't try to annoy him off the screen."[22] Although neither of them have crossed paths since the release of the film, Dreyfuss confirmed in a 2020 interview that he has forgiven Murray.[23]

Producer Laura Ziskin recalled having a disagreement with Murray that resulted in his tossing her into a lake.[24][25][26][27] Ziskin confirmed in 2003: "Bill also threatened to throw me across the parking lot and then broke my sunglasses and threw them across the parking lot. I was furious and outraged at the time, but having produced a dozen movies, I can safely say it is not common behavior".[24][26][28]

In April 2022, following the suspension of the Being Mortal production, Dreyfuss's son Ben tweeted a recollection about Murray's on-set behavior towards his father and Ziskin: "Bill Murray had a meltdown during [What About Bob?] because he wanted an extra day off and Laura said no and he ripped her glasses off her face and my dad complained about his behavior and Bill Murray threw an ashtray at him." Ben also added, "Everyone walked off the production and flew back to L.A. and it only resumed after Disney hired some bodyguards to physically separate my dad and Bill Murray in between takes."[29][30]

Profits lawsuit[edit]

In April 2015, Richard Dreyfuss sued The Walt Disney Company over the film's profits. Dreyfuss has claimed that Disney refused to hire his chosen auditor, Robinson and Co. Christine Turner Wagner, widow of Turner & Hooch (1989) producer Raymond Wagner, was also involved with the lawsuit.[31][32][33][34][35][36]


What About Bob? was a financial success. Made on a $39 million budget,[2] it grossed $64 million domestically during its original theatrical run,[3] Buena Vista's highest-grossing live action film of the year.[37]

Critical response[edit]

Critical reaction was also favorable. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "Certified Fresh" 82% rating based on reviews from 44 critics with an average rating of 6.50/10. The site's consensus reads: "Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss' chemistry helps make the most of a familiar yet durable premise, elevating What About Bob? into the upper ranks of '90s comedies".[38]

When the television program Siskel and Ebert reviewed the film, Roger Ebert gave the film a "thumbs up" rating praising the different performances of Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss onscreen together as well as most of the film's humor. He said it was Bill Murray's best movie since Ghostbusters in 1984. Gene Siskel gave it a "thumbs down" rating and felt Murray gave a very funny and enjoyable performance in the film, but was rather upset by the Dreyfuss character and his angry and arrogant behaviors. He felt it would have been funnier if Dreyfuss had not given such an angry performance in the film and said that Dreyfuss ultimately ruined the film for him.[39]

Leonard Maltin also gave the film a favorable review: in Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide he gives the film three stars out of a possible four, saying it's "a very funny outing with Murray and Dreyfuss approaching the relationship of the road runner and the coyote". Maltin faulted the film only for its ending, which he found very abrupt and silly.[40]

Lou Cedrone from The Baltimore Sun criticized the film: "It is too predictable and deals with a situation that is more irritating than amusing".[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What About Bob?". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Andreeva, Nellie (January 25, 2017). "'What About Bob?' Female Reboot Gets Comedy Pilot Order At NBC". Deadline. Retrieved May 22, 2019. was a critical and boxoffice success
  3. ^ a b "What About Bob? (1991)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  4. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (October 26, 1985). "What About Bob?". Chicago Reader. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  5. ^ "Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies of All Time". Boston.com. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Leonard Klady (June 25, 1989). "Two for the Road". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 11, 2011.
  7. ^ Evans, Bradford (May 19, 2011). "The Lost Roles of Woody Allen". Splitsider. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  8. ^ "Review: 'What About Bob?'". Variety. December 31, 1990. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  9. ^ "What About Bob?". Tcm.com. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  10. ^ a b "Then & Now: The Lake House from 'What About Bob?'". Hookedonhouses.net. January 30, 2011. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  11. ^ Causey, Anne Patterson; Blackwell, Mary Alice (2005). Virginia's Blue Ridge. Globe Pequot. ISBN 9780762734603.
  12. ^ a b "Capone With Frank Oz About Death at a Funeral, What Went Wrong On Stepford, And (Of Course) Yoda!!". Ain't It Cool News. August 7, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  13. ^ Koltnow, Barry (May 21, 1991). "Murray Became the Annoying Man". Deseret News. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  14. ^ Plume, Kenneth (February 10, 2000). "Interview with Frank Oz". IGN. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  15. ^ Meyers, Kate (March 19, 1993). "A Bill Murray filmography". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  16. ^ Rabin, Nathan (October 8, 2009). "Richard Dreyfuss". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  17. ^ Hiatt, Brian (January 28, 2021). "A Conversation With Frank Oz: 'In & Of Itself,' His Greatest Film Moments, Baby Yoda, and More". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  18. ^ Sharon Kennedy Wynne (July 11, 2018). "Jawing with Richard Dreyfuss about his movies, feuds and why he's coming to SharkCon in Tampa". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  19. ^ Barber, Richard (4 August 2017). "Richard Dreyfuss: 'Bill Murray is a pig..but although I loathe him, he makes me laugh'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 27 November 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  20. ^ Furdyk, Brent (June 26, 2019). "Richard Dreyfuss Recalls 'What About Bob?' Co-Star Bill Murray As A 'Irish Drunken Bully' Who Threw An Ashtray At His Head". Entertainment Tonight Canada. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  21. ^ Polowy, Kevin (June 26, 2019). "Role Recall: Richard Dreyfuss on doubting 'Jaws,' coping with an abusive Bill Murray on 'What About Bob?' and more". Yahoo!. Retrieved June 27, 2019.
  22. ^ Stern, Howard (host); Quivers, Robin (co-host); Murray, Bill (guest) (October 8, 2014). "Bill Murray". The Howard Stern Show. Howard 100.
  23. ^ "Richard Dreyfuss on facing down sharks, aliens, and his own demons". CBS News. February 23, 2020. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Horn, John; Goldstein, Patrick (October 3, 2003). "Film sets loose, but barbarian behavior rare, insiders say". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  25. ^ Labrecque, Jeff (August 27, 2013). "Bill Murray: Curious case of Hollywood's white whale". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  26. ^ a b Brownfield, Paul (February 29, 2004). "What about Bill? (Page 2 of 4)". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 27, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  27. ^ Horn, John; Goldstein, Patrick (October 5, 2003). "Even on loose sets, barbarian behavior rare". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  28. ^ Horn, John; Goldstein, Patrick (October 5, 2003). "Even on loose sets, barbarian behavior rare (Page 2 of 2)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  29. ^ Polowy, Kevin (April 22, 2022). "Bill Murray's history of on-set misbehavior resurfaces after latest movie is shut down". Yahoo! Entertainment. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  30. ^ Gariano, Francesca; Dasrath, Diana (April 24, 2022). "Allegations made against Bill Murray and his caustic on-set behavior resurface on social media". TODAY.com. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  31. ^ Johnson, Ted (April 9, 2015). "Richard Dreyfuss Sues Disney Over 'What About Bob?' Profits". Variety. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  32. ^ Gardner, Eriq (April 9, 2015). "Richard Dreyfuss Sues Disney Over 'What About Bob?'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  33. ^ Patten, Dominic (April 9, 2015). "Disney Slammed By Richard Dreyfuss Over 'What About Bob?' Profits". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  34. ^ McCown, Alex (April 10, 2015). "Richard Dreyfuss is suing Disney over the profits for What About Bob?". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  35. ^ Shoard, Catherine (April 10, 2015). "Richard Dreyfuss Sues Disney over What About Bob? 24 years after Release". The Guardian. London. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  36. ^ "Richard Dreyfuss sues Disney over What About Bob?". BBC News. April 10, 2015. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  37. ^ Putzer, Gerald (January 6, 1992). "'Terminator 2' Takes Ring In $200 Million Year". Variety. p. 5.
  38. ^ "What About Bob?". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 7, 2022.
  39. ^ Gene, Siskel; Ebert, Roger (June 1, 1991). "Soapdish/What About Bob?/Hudson Hawk/Only the Lonely". At the Movies. Season 5. Episode 38.
  40. ^ Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide ISBN 0-451-21265-7
  41. ^ Cedrone, Lou (May 17, 1991). "'What About Bob?' It's awful, that's what". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

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