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How Matthew Broderick Wound Up Playing Nightmare Matthew Broderick in ‘Only Murders’


There are two mystery players in each season of Only Murders in the Building—who’s the killer, and who’s the celebrity playing an exaggerated version of themselves? The Arconia’s penthouse apartment was occupied by Sting in season one and Amy Schumer in season two. Season 3’s seventh episode, titled “CoBro,” brings the arrival of Matthew Broderick as a heightened, hysterical version of Matthew Broderick.

The actor is hired as a replacement for Steve Martin’s Charles Haden Savage in Oliver Putnam’s (Martin Short) ill-fated stage musical, Death Rattle Dazzle. Optimistic that days spent creatively clashing with his leading man are over, Oliver tells Broderick at his audition, “I’ve had sex dreams about this moment.” Charles is less effusive. “This is not the first time Matthew has swooped in and stolen a role from me,” he quips. To which Broderick replies, “For the millionth time, you would not have been a good Ferris Bueller. You were 41.”

Oliver agrees to collaborate with Broderick on his role, but underestimates just how much of a method actor he’s catering to. “When I did War Games, I taught myself to write code. For my role in Election, I started teaching high school and dating students,” Broderick says without an ounce of irony. His increasingly complex suggestions lead to constant rehearsals and rewrites.

Mel Brooks, the 97-year-old creator of The Producers, one of Broderick’s most famous projects, confirms the actor’s difficult demeanor: “You didn’t tell him that you were open to his ideas in any way did you?” he asks. “Oh Oliver, you’re fucked.” Broderick is promptly fired, but not before Oliver tears into his incessant process.

Commitments to Broadway’s Pictures From Home and The Gilded Age season two made Nathan Lane, who won a guest-acting Emmy for his role as Teddy Dimas on the series, unavailable for the mini Producers reunion. But it was Broderick’s Broadway bonafides that made him a perfect fit for the new episodes. Given the focus on Oliver’s fictional musical in the show, the series tapped composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman) to compose songs alongside veteran songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Some Like It Hot, Hairspray). Other numbers are penned by A Strange Loop’s Michael R. Jackson and Waitress creator Sara Bareilles. Series casting director Tiffany Canfield, who has cast musicals for the stage (Rock of Ages) and screen (The Little Mermaid, In the Heights), tells Vanity Fair that the season’s Broadway setting “led to the idea that it would be hilarious if Matthew Broderick played himself in this,” adding, “Obviously, he’s a huge theater star in the same style of Nathan Lane and Linda Emond, multi-Tony winner, playing our producer. So he just felt like part of the family.”

Broderick has played versions of himself before—on episodes of The Jim Gaffigan Show, Louie, and in 2015’s Trainwreck—but Only Murders’ version of Broderick comes off as pompous and without a shred of self-awareness. As such, the show’s casting directors were hesitant about approaching the real-life actor for the part.

“It’s always kind of scary to make that call to any actor to play themselves,” says Canfield, particularly when “it might be a non-flattering portrayal of yourself.” But the pedigree that comes with a show that’s been nominated for 28 Emmys helps. Plus, Broderick was in good company alongside new cast members Paul Rudd as a pretentious movie star-turned murder victim and Meryl Streep as an actress who never made it big. “The writers have done such a good job of creating hilarious versions of Amy and Sting, and the previous seasons speak for themselves,” Canfield says. “So I feel like even with actors who are approached to play themselves, and certainly Matthew in this case, it feels like the door is already partially open.”

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