Chris Murney has been in show business for over 40 years – finding success on stage & in film, television and voice acting. Along the way he has left his imprint, creating a number of characters that audiences will never forget. The hard-working actor shows no signs of slowing down, even as he watches his children climb the same ladder to success.
Murney got started on stage, taking his show “Tricks” to Broadway and finding stardom in a place that can be tough to find any success. He was awarded the Clarence Derwent Award – given to the best newcomer on Broadway – and hasn’t looked back since. But he didn’t expect the recognition.
“At the time, it was cash in my pocket,” Murney said. “I didn’t even know what it was – it came out of left field and it was a wonderful thing to receive. I was very flattered and honored.”
Following that success on stage, Murney made the transition to film, a change he found difficult. He explained, “It’s a different world. I was learning the craft of filmmaking and found the transition to be very trying.” It was a small part in the classic film “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” that opened new doors for Murney – his first East Coast film, a job he said was “absolutely worth doing.” (No, he has not seen the remake, though we assured him that nobody else has either.)
If “Pelham” was where he learned the craft, 1977’s “Slap Shot” is where he showcased his talents. As the character Hanrahan, Murney’s moment came in the on-ice brawl with co-star Paul Newman – one of the funniest in the film and a total pleasure for Murney.
“It was great fun to do,” Murney admitted. “There were great people involved. Working with Paul was a treat – he was a terrific human being, just a great man. I didn’t realize during filming what the movie would become because I was thankful to have the job – but now, I can see that it was a big influence in my life. George Roy Hill was a genius.”
Chris Murney hit it even bigger in the 1980’s – first with the cult classic “The Last Dragon,” and then with “The Secret of my Succe$s.”
In “Dragon,” Murney took on the role of Eddie Arkadian. The characters were cast perfectly and, as Murney tells it, they had a blast making the movie. “A lot of the lines were ad-libbed as we went along, as you can probably tell. ‘We didn’t order out’ and “We don’t wanna look like a little piggy peed in our eyes’ are a couple that stick out.”
As for why the movie became so popular? Murney doesn’t know. “It’s flattering and fun to have a movie be remembered. We were all just cartoon characters in “The Last Dragon – Eddie was ruthless, but he was a buffoon. If you look at Eddie and Rattigan from ‘Secret,’ both were bad guys, but both were comic.” He continued, “Rattigan was actually an Italian character but when I got the part they said I could rename him – so I decided to go after an old college friend.”
As for the rumors of a remake for “The Last Dragon,” Murney pointed out (with his trademark laugh): “Eddie Arkadian only went to prison!” He elaborated, “But, a lot of original movies were lightning in a bottle – a lot of the things that were said and done were done spontaneously and you can’t duplicate that.”
Murney has also guest starred on numerous TV Shows, but none stick out more than appearances on “One Life to Live” as Buck Miller. “Most fun I had was on the soaps,” he laughed. “I got to dress up in drag twice – once as a nun and once as a Russian babushka. I don’t think the soap world appreciated slapstick, but it was a ton of fun.”
His biggest foray into television was the much-beloved “Remember WENN” – a show he knew had the capability to be a hit.
“’WENN’ was a precursor to Mad Men,” Murney said. I thought it was a great show, well written, with some good showcases for different people, but AMC just didn’t know what to do with it.” He continued, “It was unfairly treated. At the end I just had enough. We were shooting full half-hours on one camera. Not 22 minutes. We were doing this in four days, working 17-18 hour days on 12-hour turnaround. It would wear on you; it was very trying but the writing made it fun. I credit Rupert (Holmes) with a lot of that. He was such a guiding hand behind it all.”
Even if you don’t recognize the movies or shows he has been in, chances are you’ve heard Murney’s voice. For 11 years he was the voice of Chester Cheetah and has also done voice work for CBS, CNN, HBO, Showtime and many more, including Stacker 2 for WWE. When asked what his most cherished voice work has been, Murney doesn’t hesitate. “Ken Burns’ ‘The Civil War’ without a doubt. The story of Elisha Hunt Rhodes – who survived five campaigns during the war – is my favorite campaign, just an incredible experience.”
Today, Murney is most proud of his children – Julia, Caitlin and Patrick – and the work they are doing. “They are all doing well,” he beamed. “They learned the craft on their own; they studied on their own. Julia hasn’t needed my advice in a long time. Patrick will be in a couple of movies coming out and he’s building up his repertoire – he just did Law & Order: SVU and has done stage work so he is working constantly, it’s just a matter of grabbing the brass ring. Caitlin is producing – preferring things behind the camera. She is the only transplant to the West Coast so far.”
Murney also donates his time to charity, participating in numerous golf tournaments with his former “Slap Shot” co-stars as well as Poker for Life. “Anything having to do with spinal cord research or pediatric cancer research I try to get involved, including The Nick Buoniconti Fund and the Lee & Aidan McMahon Foundation.”
As for his own future, Murney enjoys spending time in “bucolic” Upstate New York. He also plans to keep doing voice work but is ready for whatever comes his way. “I’m around; there just aren’t many roles for people of a certain age.” He continued, “I would love to do a series again.”
With his talent and class, it won’t be long before Chris Murney is back in front of the camera – right where we love to see him.