Released in 1993, Groundhog Day is directed by Harold Ramis and stars Bill Murray as a TV weatherman covering the Groundhog Day events in a small town. However, he soon realizes that he’s stuck in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over again. While the film was relatively successful, over the years, it has grown to become a cult classic and has even been described as one of the best comedy films of all time. Now, take a look at some of the lesser-known facts about Groundhog Day which made it such a beloved film.
Bill Murray Wasn’t The First Choice
While we couldn’t imagine Groundhog Day without Bill Murray, surprisingly, he wasn’t the first choice for the film. Initially, both Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton turned down the role of the weatherman Phil Collins.
Although Tom Hanks was busy, he also didn’t think that the character fit his personality and that the ending would be too predictable if he was the star. Michael Keaton on the other hand, just didn’t understand the script and passed on the role. A decision he later admitted he regrets.
They Wasted Three Days Of Shooting
In a scene that was eventually cut from the film, Murray’s character, Phil, gives himself a mohawk, paints his room, and goes crazy with a chainsaw. Filming for the scene took three days even though none of it made it into the final cut.
However, instead of being ultra-destructive, director Harold Ramis had Phil just break a pencil only to see it appear whole again the next morning. This scene helps audiences realize what exactly is going on in a much more subtle way than using a chainsaw like they originally planned.
They Had To Use Fake Snow
While the film is supposed to take place on February 2, Groundhog Day, the actual filming of the movie occurred between March 16 and June 10, 1992.
Towards the end of shooting, the temperature began to reach upwards of 80 degrees, so they had to bring in fake snow in order to make it still look like winter in the town. This also meant that the actors and extras had to wear big snow coats in the heat of the summer.
There Were Many Changes During The Making Of The Film
Between the first and final drafts of the film, there were numerous major changes in the script that completely changed the direction of the movie. The original screenplay was written by Danny Rubin who wrote the role of Phil for someone like Kevin Kline.
His version had the audience kept in the dark about the time loop, something they would have to figure out themselves. Phil then kills himself yet wakes up to the same morning once again. Furthermore, in the original ending, Rita admitted that she was stuck in a time loop as well.
It Was Filmed In Woodstock, Illinois
Although the film was set to take place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, apparently, the town center of the city wasn’t what they were looking for. So, director Harold Ramis then decided that the film would be shot in Woodstock, Illinois, which would better suit their needs.
However, the people of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania saw this as an insult and were offended by their decision. So, as an act of revenge, they didn’t allow the film to use their groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, to be featured in the movie.
There Was A Debate How Intimate Phil And Rita Got
Until it was decided whether or not Murray would be wearing pajamas, Bill Murray refused to shoot the scene. Apparently, the debate over how intimate the couple got became a big issue among the cast and crew.
Ramis ended up putting it up to a vote among the cast and crew which ended in a tie. However, an assistant set director warned Ramis that the film might be ruined if Phil wasn’t wearing clothes in the end. Ramis took this to heart and decided that his character should be wearing clothes.
Ramis And Murray Had A Falling Out After The Film
After wrapping up Groundhog Day, director Harold Ramis admitted that he and Bill Murray had a falling out in their friendship. Although the two were once good friends and worked on Stripes and Ghostbusters together, Ramis claimed that Murray was “really irrationally mean and unavailable.”
The two stopped talking for almost 20 years until Murray came to set things straight on Ramis’ deathbed before he passed away in 2014. They were friends for two long to stop talking altogether.
Nobody Knows Exactly How Long He Was Trapped In The Time Loop
While there are 38 different days depicted in Groundhog Day, some fans broke it down and claimed that Phil Connors was in the time loop for eight years, eight months and sixteen days. However, Simon Gallagher from WhatCulture proclaims that he was trapped for around 34 years, enough time to become a great piano player, speak French fluently, become an ice sculptor, etc.
This was also the same estimation given by Ramis when asked how long Phil was stuck. Yet, in the original script, the weatherman was going to be stuck in the loop for 10,000 years, marking his time by reading one page in the public library a day.
Stephen Tobolowsky Used His Insurance Agent For Inspiration
While filming the movie, Ramis and screenwriter Danny Ruben wanted to add another Ned Ryerson scene at the last minute. So, actor Stephen Tobolowsky wrote up a scene for his character in which Ryerson, who is an insurance salesman, explains numerous insurance policies to Phil Conners.
Tobolowsky claims that he based his character off of his own insurance agent to achieve his desired result. Apparently, his insurance agent later called and thanked him for portraying insurance agents accurately rather than making fun of them like most other media platforms.
Trouble With The Groundhog
Funny enough, Bill Murray ran into some issues with the real groundhog while on the set of the film. While Murray and the groundhog were never close for extended periods of time, it managed to bite him numerous times.
During the car-chase, scene, Murray was bitten no less than three times during the process, angering the actor. Furthermore, he even had to go receive anti-rabies injections due to the seriousness of his injuries from the rodent.
A Reference To Rasputin
In the scene when Phil is trying to explain what is happening to him to Rita, he states, "I’ve been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned." Interestingly, these are the same methods that were used by the assassins of Grigory Rasputin, which may be an Easter egg in the film.
However, it also might be a reference to Ghostbusters II as it’s said that Vigo the Carpathian may have died after being "poisoned, shot, stabbed, hung, stretched, disemboweled, drawn and quartered."
A Family Affair
Bill Murray wasn’t the only Murray family member to appear in Groundhog Day. In fact, his brother Brian Doyle-Murray actually appears in the film as well. He acts as one of the Punxsutawney groundhog officials and is one of five of Bill Murray’s brothers.
This wasn’t Doyle-Murray’s first film either as he had roles in Caddyshack, Christmas Vacation, and JFK, among many others. He has an extensive work history in both film and television although he’s usually overshadowed by his brother, Bill.
A Possible Explanation Of the Loop
Although Murray’s character eventually makes it out of the time loop, audiences were still left wondering what or who had caused it. Initially, Ramis thought about providing an explanation at the end but otherwise decided to leave it as a mystery for the viewers.
Luckily for him, this worked out, and not very many people were openly annoyed that they never got a clear explanation of the time loop. Yet, some of the explanations they brainstormed were that he was cursed by a past lover or someone that he had been rude to.
Keeping It Appropriate
While Phil spends his time in the loop learning new languages and skills such as playing the piano and ice sculpting, Rubin and Ramis did this on purpose in order to keep the film appropriate for basically all ages.
While they could have delved into darker aspects of being in the loop such as committing murder or other horrible crimes without consequence, they decided against it. They felt that it would ruin the entire point of the film and would lead to mixed reviews.
Inspired By Nietzsche
Unsurprisingly, the concept of Groundhog Day was actually inspired by the works of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In his renowned book The Gay Science, he tells the story of a man that lives the same day over and over again.
While the film is considered to be a comedy, there are actually a lot of philosophical and ethical nuances sprinkled throughout the film for those who are willing to look. It’s what gives the film a lot more depth rather than if it was just another quirky Bill Murray comedy.
The Clocks Are Stopped In The Diner
If you look closely during the scenes in the diner, you’ll notice that all of the clocks are stopped. They are all completely stationary and are used to represent Phil Conner’s current situation whose life has been momentarily put on hold.
This is one of the many Easter eggs in the film that are only obvious to those who are paying extra-close attention to the film. It might take a few times watching the movie to catch some of these smaller details.
The Snowball Fight That Turned Serious
While filming, Murray and Ramis weren’t the closest of friends. Their relationship had been shaky for some time, and working together on Groundhog Day didn’t help. While filming the snowball fight between Phil and the kids, Ramis instructed the kids to throw snowballs at Murray as hard as they could.
This was a way for Ramis to passive-aggressively lash out at Murray for his behavior on set. Once Murray realized was going on, he began pelting the kids with snowballs as hard as he could too out of anger.
The Movie Made Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania Famous
Being set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Groundhog Day made the small town famous. Now, the city actually takes Groundhog Day seriously and has developed into a community-wide event. In past years, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis have come to act as honorary grand marshals for the holiday festivities.
In the film, the festivities take place in the center of town called Gobbler’s Knob. This wasn’t made up and is where the ceremony actually takes place near Punxsutawney. However, it is a densely wooded area, not as it’s depicted in the film.
It Tried To Avoid Being Like Caddyshack
Although there were numerous changes throughout the scriptwriting process, one of the most notable changes was a scene between Phil and the groundhog. In the original version, Phil was supposed to kill the groundhog in its lair to try and disrupt the time loop.
Yet, it didn’t take them long to cut the scene as they thought it was too reminiscent of the movie Caddyshack. In the film, Bill Murray plays humorous groundskeeper trying to hunt down and kill a gopher on the golf course.
Michael Shannon Embarrassed Himself In Front Of Bill Murray
Actor Michael Shannon, who played the role of Fred in the film was a big fan of Bill Murray, so working with him in the film was a dream. One day, he saw Murray listening to Talking Heads on his boombox between tapes.
He then asked Murray if he liked the band and Murray said something that made Shannon realize what a stupid question that had been. On top of that, Ramis made Murray apologize to Shannon, embarrassing him even further.
Bill Murray Honored The Town By His Visit
Filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, the town was thrilled when they learned that not only was a movie going to be filmed there, but it would also star the one and only Bill Murray.
To commemorate his time in the town, a plaque was installed in the location of the puddle that Murray’s character consistently stepped in, to his dismay. The plaque reads: “Bill Murray stepped here,” and can still be seen in the town today.
Bill Murray Was Going Through A Divorce
During filming, Murray was actually going through a messy divorce which was having a serious effect on his performance and mood. To keep his mind off of his troubles, Murray began obsessing over the film, calling Harold Ramis constantly in the early hours of the morning.
Remis eventually sent Danny Rubin to sit down with Murray to help him sort out his thoughts and handle his anxiety. Supposedly, Murray’s divorce was a contributing factor to him and Ramis’ falling out.
Tori Amos Almost Played Rita
Interestingly enough, the role of Rita actually almost went to Tori Amos, a renowned singer-songwriter and pianist. At the age of five, she was the youngest person to have ever been admitted into the Peabody Institute at John Hopkins University, although she was expelled at the age of 11.
Although she was mainly a musician, almost she had the opportunity to play Rita in the film but was eventually beaten out by Andy McDowell, unsurprisingly.
They Changed One Line Because Of McDowell’s Accent
In the original script, McDowell’s character, Rita, had her famous line that said “Oh, let’s not ruin it.” However, after a few takes, Ramis ultimately decided to change the line to “Oh, let’s not spoil it.”
This is because he felt that McDowell’s South Carolina accent made the word “ruin” sound a little too unusual for her character. Although most audiences most likely wouldn’t have caught it, he wanted to be as realistic as possible.
One Scene Came From Murray’s Own Experience
Going through a divorce while filming, Murray’s wife was on his mind a lot, and he even incorporated her into one of the scenes. The scene when Phil is reading to Rita after she falls asleep actually happened to Murray.
Apparently, his wife had fallen asleep on their wedding night after drinking too much champagne, and Murray read to her as she slept. Although it may not have seemed like a huge deal, the scene probably held a lot of weight for Murray.
The Final Scene Was Shot 25 Times
While the final scene when Phil wakes up next to Rita in the B&B may have been a relief for audiences, that certainly wasn’t the case for the cast and crew. They filmed the morning of February 3, the day after Groundhog Day, a total of 25 times.
Director Harold Ramis was unsure how he wanted the tone to feel as it was the end of the movie. So after a lot of debate and voting, they finally came up with the end scene.
The Film Experienced Backlash
Even though the film was well-received by a lot of people and has made it onto many top movie lists, that doesn’t mean everyone was happy with it. Amazingly, the film also got a lot of attention from religious groups and spiritual gurus who were rubbed the wrong way by the concept of the film.
This was particularly shocking to Harold Ramis who didn’t think anyone would actually take the movie as seriously as they did.
Bill Murray Refused A Spit Bucket
In the scene when Phil is gorging himself on pastries in the diner, he was offered a spit bucket by Remis because he was clearly chewing the food. However, Murray declined and instead decided to eat just about every pastry for authenticity (and maybe because he was hungry.)
However, in a later interview, Murray admitted to getting sick after eating far too much angel food cake. At least it must have been fun while it lasted!
The Film Heavily Boosted Tourism
Before the release of Groundhog Day, the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania wasn’t known for much else besides hosted the annual Groundhog Day ceremonies. However, even then, that wasn’t enough to make it very popular.
Due to the popularity of the movie, tourism spiked. According to the Washington Post, in 2013, there were more than 35,000 spectators at the annual Groundhog Day festivities, while prior to the movie, there were only a mere 6,500 residents of the small town.
The Alarm Clock Wouldn’t Break
In one scene, Murray snags his alarm clock and slams it on the ground, shattering it. Despite this scene looking smooth in the movie, it didn’t happen easily on set. Murray threw his alarm clock to the floor as planned, but it barely broke.
Since throwing the alarm didn’t crush it, the film crew battered it repeatedly with a hammer. The mangled clock you see on the ground was the result of hard labor. Although the hammer broke the clock, it continued to play the same song, just like in the movie
Phil Actually Played The Piano
When Phil learns an instrument at the piano teacher’s house, he fumbles while playing “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paginini,” by Sergei Rachmaninoff. That was actually Bill Murray playing. Murray doesn’t read sheet music; he learned most of that song by ear.
Murray does have a love of piano and classical music. In 2017, he released a new album with cellist Jan Vogler. He also sings classical accompanists such as Gershwin. He even performed the album New World at Carnegie Hall.
Paul Lynde Inspired One Of The Film’s Jokes
Comedian and character actor Paul Lynde was the inspiration for one of Groundhog Day’s best lines. In one of his bits, Lynde describes how he once drove through the San Fernando Valley while intoxicated. He crashed into a mailbox, and the police ran up to his car with their guns drawn. Lynde said, “I’ll have a cheeseburger, hold the onions, and a large Sprite.”
A similar joke was also told by Shecky Greene, involving him driving his car into a Las Vegas fountain. But it wasn’t as similar to Groundhog Day as Lynde’s joke was.
Several Authors Claimed That The Movie Stole Their Idea
After the film was released, several science fiction writers came forward and argued that the screenwriters stole their idea. For instance, Richard Lupoff claimed that Groundhog Day ripped off his short story, “12:01 p.m.” At the same time, Ken Grimwood asserted that his story “Replay” inspired the film.
Writer Danny Rubin confirmed that none of these accusations were true. His inspiration for the film came from “Christmas Every Day,” an 1892 short story by William Dean Howells. His other source of inspiration was Anne Rice’s novel Interview with a Vampire.
The Set Included One Real Room
Most of the sets featured in Groundhog Day were not filmed in real rooms. Phil’s room and the bed and breakfast were both shot in an empty warehouse in Cary, Illinois. The staff set up and took down the room decorations in between scenes.
The only scenes that featured an actual house were where Phil took piano lessons. The piano teacher’s house was real, as was her front room that you can spot in the movie.
A Company Tried To Sue The Movie
In the scene where Phil and Ned interact on the street, you can spot a store called Lloyd’s in the background. To film these scenes, the movie crew had to close off the street. Afterward, Lloyd’s tried to sue the production for their several thousand dollars in “lost business.”
Lloyd’s attempt to sue the film never went through. If it had, the lawsuit likely would cost the company far more than they supposedly lost in sales.
Groundhog Day Has Different Titles In Other Countries
Because Groundhog Day is only celebrated in the U.S. and Canada, international countries had to translate the title differently. In Sweden, the movie translates to “Mondy the Entire Week.” Although the film never clarified what day of the week it is, most fans speculate that it’s Tuesday, the date of Groundhog Day in 1993.
The German movie title is “The Groundhog Greets Every Day.” After the movie debuted, this phrase became a humorous proverb for Germans. They use it to mean something that is frequently repeated, especially awkward or annoying things.
Phil Went Through The Five Stages Of Grief
Throughout the film, Phil undergoes the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Writer Harold Ramis said that his fellow writer, Danny Rubin, “actually took Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as a model – her five stages of death and dying – and we used that as a template for Bill Murray’s progress.”
Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist who first proposed the five stages of grief in her book, On Death and Dying. The fact that Groundhog Day uses the model is ironic, because Phil can never die in his repeating world.
Groundhog Day And Edge Of Tomorrow Have Many Similarities
Groundhog Day shares many similarities with the 2014 movie Edge of Tomorrow. Both films chronicle men who are trapped in a never-ending day. Each movie includes a character called Rita, and both protagonists awake at 6:00 a.m. with the line, “same old, same old.”
Edge of Tomorrow was based off of a 2004 novel, All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. In both the novel and Groundhog Day, the main characters pinch themselves to prove that tomorrow has finally arrived.
A Fictional Cafe Became Real
In the movie, many scenes took place in the Tip Top Cafe. This was a fictional restaurant that was created for Groundhog Day. But after the film’s success, a real restaurant named Tip Top Bistro opened up.
However, Tip Top’s post-movie success didn’t last. The location later changed to Jaci’s Cookie Shop, and then Bella’s Gelateria, a coffee and Italian ice cream shop. Now, it is reportedly a fried chicken outlet.
There Are Two Inaudible Lines
Viewers have spotted two points in the film where Murray says something inaudible. When Rita first tells Phil what she typically drinks to, he resigners and mutters, “okay…to world peace.” This line can only be caught if you read lips, since there is no discernable audio of the saying.
Later in the film, Phil is in the alley scene when he gives up on saving the homeless man. He looks up and evidently says something, but no audio reveals what he said. That line was apparently cut, for reasons unknown.