Bill Murray’s absence from the cast list of Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City released by Focus Features this week was because he contracted Covid and the left the project prior to the start of production, it has emerged.

According to reports, Murray got infected as principal photography was about to start last September in Spain. He had been mentioned on the original cast list and was replaced, reportedly by Steve Carell, who was listed in the cast this week.

It is understood the departure was not due to an episode earlier this year when Murray was at the centre of an allegation of inappropriate behaviour during production on Searchlight Pictures’ Being Mortal.

Murray spoke about the issue at the time and said there had been a difference of opinion with a woman on the production and the parties were attempting to reconcile. Searchlight released Anderson’s last three films – The French Dispatch, Isle Of Dogs and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Focus announced this week it had acquired worldwide rights to Asteroid City. The film stars Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton and Tom Hanks, among many others, and is styled as a poetic meditation on life set in a fictional American desert town circa 1955 that hosts a Junior Stargazer convention.

Asteroid City reunites Focus with Anderson after the parties last collaborated on 2012 release Moonrise Kingdom. The studio had not announced a released date at time of writing.