Comfort Movies: ‘Groundhog Day’

Screenshot of Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray in 1993’s ‘Groundhog Day’. Copyright goes to Columbia Pictures.

Hey! Hallie here!

It’s Groundhog Day so I’m going to push off the weekly Twins in Media post to talk about this amazing movie. I feel like watching this movie every year on February 2nd is a tradition for many families, so I don’t really have to explain how great this movie is. But if you haven’t watched it, go do that right now. Harold Ramis is a brilliant director and script writer, and Bill Murray is undoubtedly perfect for this role. Turning a character from completely dislikable to completely likable isn’t a task just any actor can undertake, and Bill Murray has done it in so many movies that he’s a pro at it. In honor of this movie, I’m going to go through my favorite fun facts about it and it’s production. SPOILERS ahead, if you care about that sort of thing for this movie.

The Buildings In Rome:

If you’ve watched this movie in most of it’s released forms, you’ll find that Phil brings two very strange things up to Rita when he’s first attempting to date her. In the scene where he orders her favorite drink, sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist, he mentions to her that the drink reminds him of how the sun hits the buildings in Rome. When he’s sitting down with Rita at a restaurant later on, he enthusiastically comments about how he wishes everyone could live up in the mountains instead of focusing on their careers. In previous cuts of the movie, including the one released to theatres, Rita mentions all of those things to Phil in his previous attempts at dating her. The decision to shorten the scene by cutting those parts was made for the movie’s release. Some versions will have these extra bits, so if you’re one of the people who has seen them, consider yourself lucky.

How Long Phil Relived Groundhog Day:

This has been long debated. Harold Ramis revealed that Danny Rubin, another writer for the movie, initially planned for Phil to be stuck in Groundhog Day for ten thousand years. As for the final script, Harold Ramis commented that it was more likely that Phil relived Groundhog Day for ten years. Many fans have been skeptical of this number considering how good Phil is at the various hobbies he picks up throughout the movie, such as piano and ice sculpting. Those who have attempted to calculate exactly how much time Phil would need to develop these skills, along with everything else he does in the movie, have estimated that he was stuck reliving Groundhog Day for thirty to forty years. Either way it sounds like Hell.

The Beginning of the Movie:

The original idea for the movie’s beginning was written by Danny Rubin. In it, Phil is already stuck in Groundhog Day. Danny Rubin desired the audience to come into the movie wondering how Phil knew what was going to happen before it actually happened. This way the mystery could unfold as the movie went on. Harold Ramis promised to keep this idea, but ultimately decided against it. The beginning of the movie we see now, with all of our main characters working inside the news station, was filmed very last minute. This beginning wasn’t decided on until the editing process, causing the company to call everyone back to shoot the scene so it could be edited in later.

The (Temporary) End of Harold Ramis and Bill Marray’s Friendship

Harold Ramis and Bill Murray had worked together multiple times before ‘Groundhog Day’. Harold Ramis directed ‘Caddyshack’, which Bill Murray was in. The two starred together in ‘Stripes’, which Harold Ramis also co-wrote. And, of course, both played major roles in the ‘Ghostbusters’ franchise. These weren’t the only projects the two worked on, either. They both considered each other good friends. Harold Ramis was hoping for the same friendliness between them when he began to envision Bill Murray for the role of Phil. However, Bill Murray went through a bad divorce during the filming of ‘Groundhog Day’. He was consistently late to set and would throw temper tantrums, arguing with Harold Ramis over directing and writing choices. He’d push Ramis to change the film to something darker rather than the comedy Ramis wanted. Bill Murray would also obsessively call Harold Ramis about the movie, even in the middle of the night, to discuss the plot. Eventually Ramis became tired of these issues and sent writer Danny Rubin to help work out the issues Murray was having. Bill Murray took this move badly and swore he’d never work with Harold Ramis again. Many speculated that part of this overreaction was due to Bill Murray feeling that Harold Ramis was dictating his career, since the two had done so many successful things together. Either way, the two didn’t talk for many years afterwards. Harold Ramis spoke often about wishing to be friends again but Bill Murray refused to comment. However, on Harold Ramis’ deathbed, the two finally made up.

Harold Ramis is one of the directors, actors, and screenwriters who made my childhood. I miss him pretty often, especially when I re-watch movies like ‘Groundhog Day’. But the movie is brilliant, and I’m grateful for his contributions to cinema every time I watch it. Bill Murray is a brilliant comic actor, but it’s pretty clear from various stories told about him that he isn’t necessarily the most civil person. But there’s no doubt the Harold Ramis could take the craziest of actors and turn a film set into a collaborative and creative space. And there were very few people who he could work with as well as he could work with Bill Murray. There are various reasons I like to watch ‘Groundhog Day’, but the most prominent one is the sheer amount of talent from the people working on it. From Andie MacDowell’s easily likable Rita to Stephen Tobolowsky’s hilarious Ned, there’s no person who worked on this film who shouldn’t be praised for their contributions.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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