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15 Repeatable Facts About Groundhog Day

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

As if you weren’t aware by now from repeated viewings, Groundhog Day’s story of a bitter TV weatherman waking up to the same cold February morning, in the same small Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, hearing the same Sonny & Cher song, managed to be both funny and profound. On the 25th anniversary of its release, here are some things you might not have known about Harold Ramis's comedy classic.

1. TOM HANKS AND MICHAEL KEATON TURNED DOWN PLAYING PHIL.

Though it's hard to imagine Groundhog Day without Bill Murray, he wasn't the only actor approached to play weatherman Phil Connors. Tom Hanks was busy, and figured if he starred in the film audiences would just expect him to become nice because he’s always nice anyway. Michael Keaton didn’t understand the script. (He later admitted to regretting the decision.)

2. MULTIPLE CHANGES WERE MADE BETWEEN THE FIRST AND FINAL DRAFTS.

Danny Rubin wrote the original screenplay, envisioning someone like Kevin Kline for the lead role. In Rubin’s version, the movie begins as Phil is living through February 2nd again and using that knowledge to his advantage, without an explanation as to what is going on for the audience to understand right away. In the end, Phil killed himself, only to wake up to the same morning again. Also in the original ending, Rita revealed that she’s also stuck in an endless time loop.

3. IT WAS FILMED IN WOODSTOCK, ILLINOIS.

Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day (1993)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania didn’t have a town center that looked good on camera, according to co-writer and director Harold Ramis, so they shot in Illinois instead. Punxsutawney got their revenge by banning Punxsutawney Phil himself from appearing in the movie.

4. FAKE SNOW HAD TO BE BROUGHT IN.

Filming took place from March 16 to June 10, 1992, so some days in Woodstock reached 80 degrees. That couldn’t (and didn’t) stop the cast and extras from having to wear coats.

5. MICHAEL SHANNON EMBARRASSED HIMSELF IN FRONT OF BILL MURRAY.

Michael Shannon (he played Fred in his first feature role) approached Murray because he spotted him listening to his favorite band, Talking Heads, on a little boombox between takes. After asking the star if he liked the band, he realized how dumb the question was, and Murray acknowledged that he liked the band in such a way that Shannon thought that Murray believed him to be stupid. After Shannon recounted the story to Ramis, Ramis made Murray apologize, which only further embarrassed Shannon.

6. BILL MURRAY GRADUALLY DISCOVERED PHIL’S DUALITY.

Sometimes when Ramis would talk to Murray about Phil’s motivation, Murray would stop him and ask, “Just tell me—good Phil or bad Phil?”

7. THREE DAYS OF SHOOTING WERE WASTED.

In a scene that would ultimately be cut, Phil gave himself a mohawk, repainted his room, and had fun with a chainsaw. Instead, Ramis just had Phil break a pencil, only to see it appear whole again the next morning, to show what was going on.

8. MURRAY FED THE HUNGRY WOODSTOCK ONLOOKERS.

Moments into their first meeting, Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson) pointed out to Murray that the Woodstock residents attempting to take a look at their scene looked famished. Murray then ran into a bakery, purchased their entire supply of Danishes, and tossed them to the crowd.

9. THE GROUNDHOG BIT MURRAY. THREE TIMES.

His name was Scooter. Murray claimed Scooter hated him since day one.

10. ANDIE MACDOWELL COULDN’T SAY "RUIN" TO RAMIS’S LIKING.

Rita was supposed to say, “Oh, let’s not ruin it!” to Ned when he proposed a three-person celebration. Unfortunately, MacDowell’s South Carolina accent caused her to say "ruin" in a way that Ramis felt would be unclear to some viewers. They settled on having her say “Oh, let’s not spoil it!” instead.

11. THERE WAS A BIG DEBATE OVER WHETHER PHIL AND RITA HAD SEX.

Murray refused to shoot the last scene between the two, when it finally became February 3rd, until it was determined whether or not he was wearing his pajamas. Ramis put it to a cast and crew vote, and it ended in a tie. The assistant set director insisted the movie would be ruined if Phil appeared shirtless in the end. Ramis considered that the tie-breaking vote.

12. NOBODY REALLY KNOWS HOW LONG MURRAY WAS STUCK IN THE SAME DAY.

Ramis refuted an earlier estimate of 10 years, guessing in 2009 it was more like “30 to 40 years.” In Rubin’s original script, Murray was looping for 10,000 years, and he marked the time by reading one page in one of the B&B’s library books every day.

13. THERE IS A PLAQUE COMMEMORATING THE PUDDLE.

Bricks had to be removed to make the infamous puddle come to life. Woodstock later added a plaque that reads, “Bill Murray Stepped Here.”

14. MURRAY AND RAMIS DISAGREED. A LOT.

When promoting the movie back in 1993, Murray remembered wanting it to be more comedic, with Ramis insisting on focusing more on the romance. In 2004, Rubin recalled the opposite being the case: that Murray wanted Groundhog Day to be more philosophical than it was, while Ramis tried to keep it comedic.

15. MURRAY AND RAMIS’S FRIENDSHIP FELL APART ONCE FILMING ENDED.

Ramis admitted that his old friend and fellow Stripes and Ghostbusters star was "really irrationally mean and unavailable" at times, and often late to set, though he attributed the behavior to a divorce Murray was going through at the time. Outside of a few words at one wake and one bar mitzvah, Murray stopped speaking entirely to Ramis for 20 years, only to finally bury the hatchet on Ramis’s death bed before he passed away from complications due to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis in 2014.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. And he's about to put a number of these talents on display with Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a new comedy special that just arrived on Netflix. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

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Star Wars Premiered 41 Years Ago … and the Reviews Weren’t Always Kind
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

A long time ago (41 years, to be exact) in a galaxy just like this one, George Lucas was about to make cinematic history—whether he knew it or not. On May 25, 1977, moviegoers got their first glimpse of Star Wars, Lucas’s long-simmering space opera that would help define the concept of the Hollywood “blockbuster.” While we're still talking about the film today, and its many sequels and spinoffs (hello, Solo), not every film critic would have guessed just how ingrained into the pop culture fabric Star Wars would become. While it charmed plenty of critics, some of the movie’s original reviews were less than glowing. Here are a few of our favorites (the good, the bad, and the Wookiee):

"Star Wars is a fairy tale, a fantasy, a legend, finding its roots in some of our most popular fictions. The golden robot, lion-faced space pilot, and insecure little computer on wheels must have been suggested by the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. The journey from one end of the galaxy to another is out of countless thousands of space operas. The hardware is from Flash Gordon out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the chivalry is from Robin Hood, the heroes are from Westerns and the villains are a cross between Nazis and sorcerers. Star Wars taps the pulp fantasies buried in our memories, and because it's done so brilliantly, it reactivates old thrills, fears, and exhilarations we thought we'd abandoned when we read our last copy of Amazing Stories."

—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Star Wars is not a great movie in that it describes the human condition. It simply is a fun picture that will appeal to those who enjoy Buck Rogers-style adventures. What places it a sizable cut about the routine is its spectacular visual effects, the best since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001Star Wars is a battle between good and evil. The bad guys (led by Peter Cushing and an assistant who looks like a black vinyl-coated frog) control the universe with their dreaded Death Star."

—Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

Star Wars is like getting a box of Cracker Jack which is all prizes. This is the writer-director George Lucas’s own film, subject to no business interference, yet it’s a film that’s totally uninterested in anything that doesn’t connect with the mass audience. There’s no breather in the picture, no lyricism; the only attempt at beauty is in the double sunset. It’s enjoyable on its own terms, but it’s exhausting, too: like taking a pack of kids to the circus. An hour into it, children say that they’re ready to see it again; that’s because it’s an assemblage of spare parts—it has no emotional grip. “Star Wars” may be the only movie in which the first time around the surprises are reassuring…. It’s an epic without a dream. But it’s probably the absence of wonder that accounts for the film’s special, huge success. The excitement of those who call it the film of the year goes way past nostalgia to the feeling that now is the time to return to childhood."

—Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

"The only way that Star Wars could have been interesting was through its visual imagination and special effects. Both are unexceptional ... I kept looking for an 'edge,' to peer around the corny, solemn comic-book strophes; he was facing them frontally and full. This picture was made for those (particularly males) who carry a portable shrine within them of their adolescence, a chalice of a Self that was Better Then, before the world's affairs or—in any complex way—sex intruded."

—Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

“There’s something depressing about seeing all these impressive cinematic gifts and all this extraordinary technological skills lavished on such puerile materials. Perhaps more important is what this seems to accomplish: the canonization of comic book culture which in turn becomes the triumph of the standardized, the simplistic, mass-produced commercial artifacts of our time. It’s the triumph of camp—that sentiment which takes delight in the awful simply because it’s awful. We enjoyed such stuff as children, but one would think there would come a time when we might put away childish things.”

—Joy Gould Boyum, The Wall Street Journal

Star Wars … is the most elaborate, most expensive, most beautiful movie serial ever made. It’s both an apotheosis of Flash Gordon serials and a witty critique that makes associations with a variety of literature that is nothing if not eclectic: Quo Vadis?, Buck Rogers, Ivanhoe, Superman, The Wizard of Oz, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table … The way definitely not to approach Star Wars, though, is to expect a film of cosmic implications or to footnote it with so many references that one anticipates it as if it were a literary duty. It’s fun and funny.”

—Vincent Canby, The New York Times

"Viewed dispassionately—and of course that’s desperately difficult at this point in time—Star Wars is not an improvement on Mr Lucas’ previous work, except in box-office terms. It isn’t the best film of the year, it isn’t the best science fiction ever to be translated to the screen, it isn’t a number of other things either that sweating critics have tried to turn it into when faced with finding some plausible explanation for its huge and slightly sinister success considering a contracting market. But it is, on the other hand, enormous and exhilarating fun for those who are prepared to settle down in their seats and let it all wash over them.”

—Derek Malcolm, The Guardian

“Strip Star Wars of its often striking images and its high-falutin scientific jargon, and you get a story, characters, and dialogue of overwhelming banality, without even a ‘future’ cast to them. Human beings, anthropoids, or robots, you could probably find them all, more or less like that, in downtown Los Angeles today. Certainly the mentality and values of the movie can be duplicated in third-rate non-science fiction of any place or period. O dull new world!”

—John Simon, New York Magazine

"Star Wars is somewhat grounded by a malfunctioning script and hopelessly infantile dialogue, but from a technical standpoint, it is an absolutely breathtaking achievement. The special effects experts who put Lucas' far-out fantasies on film—everything from a gigantic galactic war machine to a stunningly spectacular World War II imitation dogfight—are Oscar-worthy wizards of the first order. And, for his own part, Lucas displays an incredibly fertile imagination—an almost Fellini-like fascination with bizarre creatures.”

—Kathleen Carroll, New York Daily News

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