20 Things You Might Not Have Realised About Groundhog Day
One of the most original comedy films of all time, Groundhog Day was directed and co-written by Harold Ramis, and starred Bill Murray as Phil Connors.
Connors is a TV weatherman who, whilst covering an annual Groundhog Day event, is caught in a time loop and has to relive the same day over and over again.
Below are 20 things you might not have realised about this classic 1993 film.
20. It nearly ended with Rita also being stuck in a time loop
Groundhog Day has a pretty happy ending, with the clock finally ticking over and Phil and Rita happily together.
We’ll reveal later that Phil’s ending was originally supposed to be much bleaker, but Rita also had a much darker ending once upon a time.
In a much earlier version of the script, Phil woke up at the end of the film, happy and relieved that he was finally allowed to progress again.
However, he quickly realised that Rita was stuck in her own time loop, constantly reliving the day February 3rd, the day after Groundhog Day.
It’s unclear what caused Rita to get stuck in a time loop, or what lessons she would have to learn in order to escape it.
It’s also unclear if this original ending would have warranted a sequel following Rita’s journey, or if we would have just been left to wonder what had happened to her.
19. Michael Shannon embarrassed himself in front of Bill Murray
Micheal Shannon plays the newlywed Fred in Groundhog Day, in his first-ever featured role in a movie.
He was understandably nervous to be on set among more established stars like Bill Murray, and he wanted to make a good impression.
Unfortunately for him, his attempts to seem laidback and fun backfired when he saw Bill Murray listening to The Talking Heads on a boombox between takes.
Shannon eagerly asked Murray if he liked the band, and then immediately realised what a stupid question that was, since the answer was obviously yes.
To make things even worse, Murray replied in a way that convinced Shannon that Murray thought he was stupid.
Not only that, but Murray was later asked to apologise to Shannon for embarrassing him, which only succeeded in making the young actor even more embarrassed.
18. In an earlier draft of the script, Phil never escaped the time loop
Groundhog Day already has its fair share of dark moments, since we see Bill Murray’s character Phil get in the bath and throw a toaster in with him.
We also hear about a whole host of other methods he has used to attempt to bring his time loop to an end, all without success.
However, the ending of the movie was originally set to be far darker, with Phil never escaping the time loop.
Instead, we follow him through a day where he already knows everything that is going to happen.
After following him through just one of these days, the movie ends with Phil attempting to end his life, and the clock ticking back over to begin the same day again.
This version had a much more shocking impact on the audience when the twist was revealed, but was ultimately deemed to be too bleak.
17. Bill Murray fed an entire crowd of onlookers on-set
Local townspeople crowding around a film’s shooting location is nothing new, and they’re mostly just treated as a mild inconvenience by the cast and crew.
However, Bill Murray and Stephen Tobolowsky had a different approach for dealing with the unwanted extras, and that was kindness.
During their first scene shooting together, Tobolowsky, who plays Ned, remarked to star Bill Murray that the locals crowding around to watch looked hungry.
Sure enough, Bill Murray agreed that the Woodstock townspeople didn’t look happy, and resolved to do something about it.
His solution was simple: go into the local bakery where they were shooting, and buy up all the Danish pastries that they had.
He then returned with armfuls of pastries and started throwing handfuls of them to the hungry crowd. That’s one way to get the residents of your filming location on-side.
16. Tori Amos was almost cast as Rita
Lots of actors were considered for the starring role of Phil in Groundhog Day, but significantly fewer were considered for the part of Rita.
Of those that were almost granted the role though, one was a pretty unusual choice, since she had zero acting experience.
That’s right, famous singer and songwriter Tori Amos was considered for the role of Rita, despite her complete lack of acting experience.
Though Amos had often acted in her own music videos, she had never done any acting outside of that, and still hasn’t to this day.
It is unclear why casting directors were so keen to see her in the role, other than maybe how recognisable she was.
Still, it’s fun to imagine a version of Groundhog Day with Amos in it, which probably would have featured a whole lot more piano playing – and not just from Bill Murray.
15. The Tip-Top Cafe was built in real life after demands from the townspeople
Many scenes in Groundhog Day were filmed in and outside the Tip Top Cafe, with its iconic blue brick and candy-striped awning.
The eatery was a set created from scratch for the movie, but over the course of production it became a beloved fixture of the town.
It was so liked that when production ended, locals made sure it was permanently built and operated in real life.
It kept its name and signature blue colour, and was turned into a bistro for townspeople to enjoy that lasted many years.
Since then, the building has been used to host everything from a Mexican food place to a fried chicken restaurant.
Throughout all the changes though, it has kept its connection as ‘the place where Groundhog Day was filmed’.
14. The explanation for the repeating day was originally a curse from an evil ex-girlfriend
One interesting thing about Groundhog Day is that we never actually learn what is causing the day to repeat over and over again for Phil, and we never learn for sure what resolves the time loop.
An earlier draft of the script gave the time loop a much more definite cause, more in line with the story that screenwriter Danny Rubin was inspired by.
In the earlier draft, the time loop was the work of a resentful ex-girlfriend called Stephanie, who cursed Phil to live the same day over and over again.
Stephanie cursed him as revenge for treating her so badly when they were together, in the hope that his punishment would make him learn kindness and empathy.
The original version would also have had Phil’s relationship with Rita be the explicit key to the ending of the loop, since it would prove that he had changed for the better.
With that said, it’s unclear whether audiences would have responded well to an evil ex-girlfriend with witch-like powers.
13. The actual ‘weather-predicting’ groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, was banned from appearing in the movie
Groundhog Day is based on a real-life event that takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every year.
The star of the show is Punxsutawney Phil, the titular groundhog who predicts the weather by seeing (or not seeing) his shadow.
Despite his fame and importance to the Groundhog Day festivities, you won’t see him anywhere in Groundhog Day the movie, for a very specific and petty reason.
Essentially, production on Groundhog Day involved shooting some scenes in Illinois, since Punxsutawney apparently didn’t have a town centre that looked good on camera.
This did not go over well with the town of Punxsutawney, who were offended enough to retaliate by banning the likeness of Punxsutawney Phil from appearing in the movie. Ouch.
With that said, it’s unclear if anybody actually noticed, since one groundhog looks pretty similar to another, and not many people were aware of Punxsutawney Phil’s likeness in the first place.
12. Phil reading to Rita is based on a moment Bill Murray had with his wife
Groundhog Day is somewhere between a comedy, a philosophical meditation, and a romance – so there are plenty of sweet moments between Rita and Phil.
Maybe the sweetest moment is when Phil reads to Rita out loud in bed until she is asleep, finally proving that he is a decent and kind man.
The scene might seem like something so adorable that it could only happen in the script of a movie, but the moment was actually Bill Murray’s idea.
Not only that, but it was inspired by his real-life, and a moment he shared with his wife after she had drunk too much champagne.
According to Murray, his wife got so drunk on their wedding night that she was close to falling asleep, and so he read out loud to her until she did.
It was a sincere and lovely moment to include in the film, but was made bittersweet by the fact that Murray and his wife were in the process of getting a divorce while the movie was shot.
11. Bill Murray was twice bitten by a groundhog
Groundhogs may look rather cute, but Bill Murray will likely disagree, having twice been bitten by lead groundhog ‘Scooter’ during the film’s shoot.
Murray went so far as to claim that Scooter took an instant dislike to him at the beginning of the shoot, and continued to make his life miserable all the way through production.
One of the worst instances was when they were shooting the car scene, where Phil steals the groundhog and drives them both off a cliff.
Scooter the groundhog allegedly wriggled around in his lap so much, biting and scratching, that Murray ended up ad-libbing the chant “don’t drive angry, don’t drive angry”.
The bites were so severe that Murray had to be given medical attention, as well as anti-rabies shots to prevent any kind of nasty infection.
Murray’s interactions with Scooter proved that the age-old saying of ‘never work with children or animals’ is the gospel truth.
10. Murray and Ramis often disagreed about the film’s direction
Groundhog Day might have its moments, but it’s hardly the most serious, dark or intense movie out there.
That’s why it is so surprising that it caused a serious rift between star Bill Murray and director Harold Ramis, due to a simple disagreement about the tone.
Murray himself has been quoted as saying that he remembers wanting the film to have a lot more comedy, rather than leaning into the developing relationship between Phil and Rita.
Murray said that this opinion was disregarded by Ramis, who instead wanted fewer funny moments and more emphasis on the love story.
It’s clear there was a lot of back and forth about the film’s focus both on- and off-set, however, as those in the cast and crew can’t even seem to agree on who was saying what.
This has created an enduring mystery about Groundhog Day from which we simply can’t move on.
9. The film’s writer claims it was the other way round
That’s right: according to the film’s co-writer Danny Rubin, director Harold Ramis was the one constantly pushing to add more gags and comedy, not Bill Murray.
In contrast, Murray was constantly pushing for a more emotional and philosophical focus than the script had originally intended, with less emphasis on comedy.
These disagreements were rarely confined to working hours, as Bill Murray was apparently incredibly dedicated to seeing his vision for the movie win out.
Murray often called up director Ramis at all hours of the night to discuss the role, as well as the direction of the movie overall.
While on-set, Ramis would often ask writer Rubin to watch Murray, and help calm his fears about the project not going the way he wanted.
This obviously annoyed both the writer and the director, who worried that Murray’s impending divorce was causing him to be too much of a perfectionist with the movie.
8. Murray and Ramis never made amends
Sadly, despite being extremely good friends before the film was made, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis didn’t speak for 20 years after filming ended.
Before Groundhog Day, the two were considered longterm collaborators and friends, working together on projects such as Ghostbusters.
Groundhog Day ruined their ability to work together, with Ramis calling Bill Murray “mean” and “emotionally unavailable” during production.
Murray was similarly dissatisfied with their relationship, believing that Ramis had not accommodated his vision or been available to communicate more.
Thankfully, the two did eventually heal their feud, and Murray remained as the godfather to Ramis’ daughter Violet even though the two weren’t speaking.
Murray visited Ramis shortly before his death, with a box of doughnuts and a police escort, in order to properly apologise and make amends.
7. It was originally about someone who was immortal
Groundhog Day might be about a guy unable to escape living the same day over and over again, but the initial idea had no repeating days at all.
Instead, Danny Rubin’s idea was to follow a character who was immortal as he went about his life, in order to get inside the head of someone who doesn’t have to worry about ageing.
The immortal character’s behaviour would change over time and go through periods of being irresponsible, selfish and downright mean, just like Phil does in Groundhog Day.
He would also have eventually learned the same lessons as Phil and started being kinder and using his long life to do as many good deeds as possible.
Eventually though, Rubin decided that an immortal character would just be too difficult to convincingly portray on screen.
That’s when he remembered a different idea he had come up with a few years previously, of a man who couldn’t escape the same repeating day.
6. Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton were rejected for the lead
It’s hard to imagine anyone else but the legend that is Bill Murray starring as Phil Connors, several other actors were considered for the role.
Amongst the actors in the running were Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton, who both made it a fair way through the audition process.
Both actors were eventually decided to be too nice for the role, although Keaton also allegedly dropped out because he found the concept of the movie too confusing.
Bill Murray was eventually chosen because of his ability to bring to life both the generous and kind aspects of Phil’s personality, as well as the cynical and disinterested aspects.
Murray even stopped asking for detailed descriptions of what kind of performances the director wanted from him, and instead started asking “do you want good Phil or bad Phil?”.
This question allowed him to quickly get to the heart of where Phil was in the story, and what kind of characterisation was needed.
5. A deleted scene saw Phil go crazy with a chainsaw
Many scenes that get deleted from films are cut because they’re simply not good enough, but one of Groundhog Day’s deleted scenes sounds so amazing that we can’t believe it was removed.
The deleted scene in question sees Phil giving himself a mo-hawk, repainting his room and starting to go crazy with a chainsaw.
The scene was supposed to show Phil realising that he can get away with doing any crazy thing he wishes, since everything will be reset when he goes to bed.
This reset was supposed to be illustrated with a match-cut, which would show the destroyed room and Murray’s crazy appearance all returning to normal.
Unfortunately, the match cut proved too difficult to pull off, and was not melting seamlessly into the shot of the reset room.
The scene was instead replaced with one where Phil breaks a pencil, only for it to appear whole again the next time he wakes up, since that was much easier to technically pull off.
4. Several authors claimed the story concept plagiarised their own work
Nowadays, the phrase Groundhog Day has become synonymous with a day that repeats itself over and over again, even more than it is associated with the actual festival called Groundhog Day.
However, the movie wasn’t the first piece of media to deal with a man trapped inside a single repeating day, and many people have claimed that Groundhog Day plagiarises their own ideas.
For example, science fiction author Richard Lupoff claimed that the movie was ripped wholesale from his short story, 12:01 p.m.
Ken Grimwood, in turn, claimed that the film was a blatant copy of his story Replay, which dealt with a very similar concept.
However, the writer of Groundhog Day, Danny Rubin, denied that he was inspired by either story.
Instead, Rubin admitted that he had only taken inspiration from one piece of media, and that was the 1892 story Christmas Every Day, by William Dean Howells.
3. Bill Murray snuck away from shooting Mad Dog and Glory to attend a Groundhog Day festival
Groundhog Day might seem like a pretty inconsequential holiday for a movie to be based around, but some people take the day very seriously.
Amongst those people is Bill Murray himself, since he once skipped out on a day of shooting a movie to partake in the Groundhog Day festivities.
Murray was filming Mad Dog and Glory in 1992, but mysteriously failed to show up to set one day.
It was later revealed that he had snuck away from the shoot in order to attend a Groundhog Day festival.
1992 was a year before Groundhog Day the movie was released, so if it was intended as a publicity stunt, then it was a little on the early side.
Still, Groundhog Day will have been filmed by then, so maybe the movie gave him a genuine and sincere love for the holiday.
2. The entire crew voted on whether Murray would be shirtless in the movie’s final scene
Often when making movies, the smallest decisions about wardrobe, props and set dressing can become incredibly important, as they can hugely influence the plot.
However, it’s quite unusual for a whole cast and crew to vote on one specific wardrobe choice, even if it would have repercussions for the story overall.
As unusual as it sounds, there were multiple arguments about whether Bill Murray should have been shirtless when he woke up with Rita after breaking the time loop, or whether he should be wearing a pyjama shirt.
The argument actually hinged on the implication: if Murray wasn’t wearing a shirt, audiences would assume that he had slept with Rita, and would assume he hadn’t if he was wearing his shirt.
Murray refused to film the scene until the director figured out what the wardrobe choice would be, and the director found it impossible to choose.
Eventually, a lot of the cast and crew voted, and eventually came to the conclusion that he should be wearing a shirt, just not one buttoned all the way up.
1. We’ll never know how long Phil was stuck in a loop
Have you ever wondered how long Phil was actually stuck in a loop for? Despite people initially thinking it was about 10 years, director Harold Ramis later claimed that it was “thirty to forty years”.
However, in Danny Rubin’s original script, Phil was looping for ten thousand years, which was displayed by him reading, and marking, one page of a book every day.
However, in the time Ramis’ statements, fans of Groundhog Day have crunched the numbers themselves.
By obsessively watching the film and scouring the footage for clues and references, it is most likely that Phil was trapped for eight years, eight months, and sixteen days.
That’s still a long time to be trapped living out the same day over and over again, but it’s much better than being trapped for ten thousand years, which was the original plan.