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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
His name was Scooter. Murray claimed Scooter hated him since day one.
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.
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.
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.
Bricks had to be removed to make the infamous puddle come to life. Woodstock later added a plaque that reads, “Bill Murray Stepped Here.”
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.
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.