5 Fun Facts About Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day is one of those special films that stays with you. Its incredible detail and layers to Phil’s repeated day give the viewer a little something new on every rewatch. The story can even resonate with you in different ways as you grow up.
In honor of the glorious Punxsutawney Phil, we’re laying down some fun facts about the film!
The script went through a metamorphosis.
Danny Rubin’s original screenplay began with Phil living through February 2nd again and using that knowledge to his advantage, without an explanation as to what is going on for the audience. At the end of the sequence, Phil kills himself, only to wake up to the same morning again.
“One of the first things we told Danny when we met was, ‘We love that it starts in the middle. We don’t want to drop that, we want to keep that. It’s very hip, very cool, that you started with the thing already happening,’” director and co-screenwriter Harold Ramis said in a making of documentary, “Of course, the first thing we did when I started rewriting it was change the structure. Whitney White, our development executive, said, ‘Well, you know, don’t you think the audience will feel cheated if they don’t see his reaction to the onset of the time warp?’ I said, ‘Well, maybe.’ She said, ‘Well, just write it and see. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it.’ And, of course, I wrote it, and we kept it.”
“That’s the way they wound up doing the film, and it works great, so at this point I have no problems with it,” Rubin said in the same documentary. “But at the time, I was quite married to that idea of not having that predictable first act. I wanted to get right into the repetition stuff right away.”
Ramis also omitted Rubin’s original ending, which revealed that Rita was also stuck in an endless time loop of her own.
It was actually filmed in Illinois.
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania didn’t have a town center that looked good on camera, according to co-writer and director Harold Ramis. After looking at several other locations, the crew stopped in Woodstock, Illinois (just fifty miles from Bill Murray’s hometown of Wilmette, Illinois) for a cup of coffee. When they got out and started looking around the town, they decided it would fit the bill. However, Punxsutawney got the last laugh by banning the real Punxsutawney Phil from appearing in the movie.
Filming began on March 16, 1992, and continued through May. Much of the filming was done in colder-than-normal weather, with Murray saying that temperatures were often under 20 °F (−7 °C), and had snowfall that lasted through May. Actor Stephen Tobolowsky, who plays Ned Ryerson said, “It was a cold that came up from the ground, and you couldn’t stop it. It was a cold that came up from the ground, up through your feet, into your knees, to where your knees were shaking, your hips were shaking, inside your clothes. You’d wanna get your jaw and tongue working before the scene because it was so cold.” Luckily, the town came to the rescue and hooked the production up with some industrial heaters.
For the scene with the infamous puddle, the crew had to remove several bricks from the road and sidewalk. Woodstock later commemorated the production by adding a plaque that reads, “Bill Murray Stepped Here.” They also added another plaque on the building wall at the corner where Bill Murray is continually accosted by Tobolowsky that says, "Ned's Corner.”
Bill Murray bought the whole town Danishes.
Moments into their first meeting, Stephen Tobolowsky recalls a sweet and humorous story about shooting with Murray in Woodstock, Illinois:
“I remember before we started shooting, Bill said, ‘You know what we need to do before we do this scene? The town needs a Danish. We gotta get the town some Danish. Come on, let’s get them some Danish!’ And he went to the bakery and said, ‘I need 500 Danishes.’ Cause everyone in the town was standing out to watch us shoot this. And he says, ‘Here. Come here, Needlehead. Come here. Help me with the Danishes.’ Bill threw some money at ‘em, and they started handing us these huge boxes of Danish. Bill comes out, and he’s tossing Danishes to all the townspeople that are standing around just to watch us film.”
I mean, who could say no to a Danish from Bill Murray?!
The film had wide appeal.
Harold Ramis’ initial worry was that the film was going to provoke backlash against him; however, that couldn’t be further from the truth:
“The reaction to the film was so amazing. That’s the thing that continues to stand out in my mind because no film I’ve ever worked on has gotten this kind of attention from so many different communities. It opened the well, and the reviews were really good. By Monday, the film was playing in Santa Monica where I lived and my producing partner, Trevor Albert, called me and said, ‘People are picketing the theatre on the Third Street Promenade.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, picketing?’ He said, ‘Hasidic Jews are walking around with signs that say, Are you living the same day over and over again?’ So, obviously, they were using the movie as a tool for proselytizing a religious point of view. And I thought, well, that’s a good sign. They’re not opposed to the film. They think the film is demonstrating something or saying something to the audience that they can somehow tailgate on. Then we heard from someone we knew from the San Diego area, who was a yogi, and she said the yogi community loved the film. Then the letters started coming right away. Psychiatrists wrote to say that the movie was a perfect metaphor for psychoanalysis because you keep revisiting the same material over and over again, each time with increasing insight. So we sort of knew that we had this embrace from the spiritual and religious and psychological community that very few films ever experience. Instantly, people were identifying the film as a teaching, and in such a parochial way, each seeing it as an expression of their own particular point of view without recognizing that it was, in fact, a universal point of view.”
In addition to receiving praise from nearly every walk of life, the film’s unique premise aroused several writers to emerge, claiming that the story was stolen from their idea. Science fiction Author Richard Lupoff (short story "12:01 p.m.") and Ken Grimwood (author of "Replay") both claimed that the film was a rip-off of their works. However, Danny Rubin is on record stating that his only inspirational jumping off points were the 1892 story "Christmas Every Day" by William Dean Howells and, surprisingly enough, Anne Rice’s "Interview with the Vampire", which got him thinking about what it would be like to live forever.
The groundhog bit the !@#$ outta Bill Murray.
When Bill Murray is engaged in a high speed chase with a groundhog at the wheel, he actually got tore up pretty good by the groundhog, Scooter, toward the end of the shoot. The bites were so severe that Murray had to have anti-rabies injections. Here’s what Ramis had to say about the incident:
“We’re doing this scene where Bill has kidnapped Scooter, and he’s driving. There’s a high speed car chase, and he’s got Scooter up on the wheel driving. Bill improvised his lines to the scene, and then the groundhog started to get a little squirrelly. We used every last frame of it in the film, right up to the moment that Scooter turned around and chomped down on Bill’s hand. He took a really big chunk out of Bill’s hand. Bill was wearing leather gloves. He bit through the gloves. The groundhog was just so upset that we’d been shooting for a long time, and he’d been probably getting a little car sick and really annoyed. So we stopped shooting at that point and sent Bill to the clinic to get bandaged up. But, you know, it was funny.”
In the original screenplay, Phil murders the groundhog in his lair; however, this was changed because it was a little too close to Murray’s famed groundskeeper from Caddyshack. Considering what Scooter put Murray through, we can imagine that he wished he could film that original ending!
Well, that's our list! What do you think? Did you learn something new? Did we leave off your favorite fun fact?! We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!