Tag Archives: Harold Ramis

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day has recently been resurrected as a Broadway musical, and Bill Murray went to see it on Tuesday. And Bill Murray went to see it on Wednesday. Is Bill Murray fucking with us?

By all accounts he enjoyed the show, laughing and pumping his fist during musical numbers. Not all of us are destined for NYC this summer, but the good news is, you can catch Groundhog Day pretty much any old time, and here are but a few reasons why you should revisit this classic over and over again.

  1. Director Harold Ramis originally wanted Tom Hanks for the role but realized Hanks was “too nice” and went knocking elsewhere. Michael Keaton turned it down. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Alec Baldwin, Howie Mandel, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Kevin Kline, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and John Travolta were also considered before Bill Murray was cast.
  2. Harold Ramis has a cameo in the film as Phil’s neurologist. Also appearing, if you shannon-groundhog-day.jpgwatch dedicatedly enough: Michael Shannon in his big screen debut – he’s Fred, one of half of the young couple who’s supposed to get married that day.
  3. Although a family of groundhogs was raised specifically for this movie, when Bill Murray was severely bitten not once, but twice, he had to receive rabies treatment, which are rather painful injections.
  4. Although set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the film was actually filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, just 50 miles from Murray’s hometown, Wilmette. Tourism in Punxsutawney spiked after the film’s release, but it’s in Wilmette where you’ll find a small plaque that reads “Bill Murray stepped here” on the curb where Phil continually steps in a puddle, and another marked “Ned’s Corner” where Phil perpetually meets Ned the insurance salesman (Stephen Tobolowsky).
  5. There are 38 days depicted partially or in full in the movie. Ramis said originally he wanted about 10 000 years worth of days and ended up with what he considers to be a decade’s worth which is still a really, really, sad, lonely long time to be reliving the same day.
  6. Bill Murray was offered a “spit bucket” for the scene in which he gorges on pastries. That was a terrifically bad idea on his part…guess who got a tummy ache?
  7. In one scene, Phil throws the alarm clock, destroying it. In real life, Murray’s throw did little to damage the thing so the crew took baseball bats to it to smash it up. And yes, it really did keep playing that stupid song, just like in the movie.
  8. Murray was going through a divorce at the time and compensated by becoming obsessed with the movie, calling up Ramis with all kinds of questions. Ramis tired of it and sent the writer (Danny Rubin) to sit down with him and iron out all the wrinkles. This caused a rift in their friendship – Murray didn’t speak to Ramis for many years.
  9. When Phil is at the piano teacher’s house, it’s actually Bill Murray playing. He can’t read music but plays by ear, and learned that passage by heart to play it in the movie. [It’s Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paginini, fyi]
  10. Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Stephen Tobolowsky have all served as honourary Grand Marshals in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
  11. In Swedish, the movie’s title is translated as “Monday Every Day” – although in 1993, when the movie came out, Groundhog Day was on a Tuesday. The specific day of the week is not mentioned in the film.
  12. In once scene, Phil throws himself from a bell tower. The building is actually the opera house in Woodstock, Illinois, where local legend has it that the ghost of a young girl haunts the building ever since she fell off a balcony section and died.
  13. uxyA34o.gifThe famous line “Don’t drive angry!” was improvised by Murray when the groundhog in his lap was aggressively trying to escape by climbing over the steering wheel. [Yes, this was one of the times when Bill got bit]
  14. In the final shot, we see Phil carry Rita over the gate before climbing over it himself. This may seem romantic but was unscripted: in real life, the gate was simply frozen shut.
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Stripes

Stripes came out before I was born, but it’s still a good source of inspired team work between Harold Ramis and Bill Murray. 10 fun facts about a classic comedy:

 

  1. Ivan Reitman and Dan Goldberg wrote the movie specifically for Cheech and Chong. When their manager demanded way too much money, they took out (most) of the pot humour, found the script got smarter, and flagged down Bill Murray to star. Judge Reinhold, in his first film appearance, gets what little remained of the weed jokes.
  2. Bill Murray only came aboard about 2 weeks before filming began. He didn’t show up to set until the 3rd day of filming because he’d been following his precious Chicago Cubs around the country. In the very first scene shot, in which he grabs LxxsQSI.gifheavy luggage out of a trunk, he genuinely injured himself and his exclamation “Oh my balls!” is the real deal.
  3. Bill Murray insisted that Harold Ramis should be tapped to play his best bud. They were friends in real life of course, but Murray also wanted Ramis’s help in re-writing dialogue, the better to improvise with. Dennis Quaid was auditioned by the studio to play Ramis’s part. He was married to P.J. Soles at the time. If you squint hard, you can spot him as an extra in the graduation scene.
  4. Soles’ part was meant to have been played by Kim Basinger but she too wanted too much money, so the part went to Soles who had just finished shooting Private Benjamin in which she wore the exact same uniform.
  5. The department of defense for some reason approved of the film. They not only let them film at Fort Knox, they allowed soldiers to be extras. A real army barber buzzed all the men, who had not been told how short their haircuts would be. John Candy was particularly depressed. Murray and Ramis being the “stars” got to keep theirs a little longer.
  6. The cast and crew had a 2-week drinking binge when they found out John Lennon had died.
  7. John Larroquette ad-libbed the line “I wish I was a loofah” and then had to explain to director Ivan Reitman what a loofah was.
  8. A 9-minute scene in which they drop acid and parachute out of a plane was filmed but cut – BUT is included on the DVD extras.
  9. John Candy wasn’t well known; he bonded with the cast by inviting them over for spaghetti and to watch the Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard fight.
  10. When Bill Murray shouts  “But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re ten and one!” – the last is a thinly-veiled reference to Vietnam, written by Ramis.