Davidson College alumnus Chris Murray doesn’t live like your typical Hollywood star. In fact, one might say he lives more like the typical college student.
“I have a room in this guy’s house in L.A.,” the actor explains, “but they have a weird thing where when his boss comes to town, I have to leave. His boss lives in Nicaragua. I just got told last night that his boss is coming, so it looks like I’m leaving on Monday.”
When it’s jokingly suggested that maybe Murray should remind his landlord who it is he’s dealing with, Murray rolls with it.
“Yeah, I should have said, ‘Hey, bro – do you know who you’re kicking out of your apartment? Ryan Fleege from ‘Paranomal Activity’!”
That’s right: Murray, who is 30-something (more on that in a moment), landed the lead role in “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension,” which was released Friday as the sixth and final installment in the horror-movie franchise. The low-budget series has generated more than $800 million for Paramount Pictures.
How many times in your daily life are you truly terrified? It’s the most unknown (emotion) as an actor, real fear.
Chris Murray, a Davidson College alumnus
And it isn’t just his first starring role in a mainstream movie, it’s his first role of any kind in a mainstream movie.
Here are five more things we learned about Murray during a recent interview.
1. He’s trying to keep his age a secret. When you’re a big Hollywood star, your age and birthdate are just a Google search away. But when you’re trying to scrape together a career, like Murray, it’s important to shroud yourself in as much mystery as possible. “I would prefer to not talk about age because I do go after quite a bit younger jobs.” The Kentucky native did say, though, that he went to Davidson from 1997 to 2001, “so you can probably do the math.” Fun fact: A history major, he walked onto the soccer team and played for two seasons under former Davidson soccer coach Charlie Slagle.
2. Murray’s college acting highlights included starring as Alceste in Molière’s “The Misanthrope” at Davidson and ... wait, what was the other one? “I did “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (while studying) in Madrid, but in English. I think I played ... geez, I can’t even remember. Do you know the characters in ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’? I’m blanking right now. I think I played Lysander. No, it was the other guy. Demetrius? I feel like an idiot. Demetrius! I played Demetrius.”
3. Since moving from Charlotte to New York City in 2001, he’s made a decent living. But it’s been a grind. “I’d done a lot of voice-overs and commercials. I always believed that something was going to happen. But there were lots of tears and lots of soul-searching, man. I mean, you can’t imagine (living in) New York City, running out of money, trying to chase your dream, feeling like I’m giving great auditions and nobody’s responding, getting dropped by managers, by agents, picking up the pieces, doubling-down, getting a little more training. It’s a vicious cycle. But if you really believe in yourself, eventually you’re going to wear people out.”
4. When Murray auditioned for “The Ghost Dimension,” he thought he was auditioning for a comedy. “The director (Gregory Plotkin) was stressing, ‘Be funny, be free.’ The project had a dummy name and a dummy script, so I’m doing all this comedy and improvisation. Then I got a call back and there were some horror pages to read. There was just something a little off about it. I said, ‘This isn’t a comedy, is it?’ And the director said, ‘Uhh, no.’ ” Ironically, comedian Dan Gill – who plays Murray’s brother in the film – serves as the scary movie’s comic relief to Murray’s straight man.
5. It’s not easy pretending to be scared. “How many times in your daily life are you truly terrified? It’s the most unknown (emotion) as an actor, real fear. I always did these as-ifs: I would just always imagine that somebody in the closet has a gun pointed at my head. That terrifies me. And for a while there, every day I came to work ... as you get into the second or the third act, you’re playing fear a lot. I’ve got to say, it took a little bit of getting used to. I mean, this was my first horror movie. Which I thought was a comedy.”