7 Crazy Things You Never Knew About Groundhog Day

The Bill Murray classic has turned 25 and the story behind it is stranger than fiction.

Ask anyone to list their favourite film comedies of the 1990s and the chances are Groundhog Day will feature.

It’s a comedy that’s got a bit of everything: laughs, sentiment, an inventive premise and Bill Murray. Lots of Bill Murray.

The premise, as if you needed reminding, is simple: Murray’s character weatherman Phil travels to Gobbler’s Knob in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania to cover the annual appearance of Punxsutawney Phil – the groundhog who predicts how many weeks of winter are left.

While there he quickly discovers he is trapped in a time loop, reliving the same day every day. The movie sees Phil take a variety of approaches to try and get through the day – hedonism, sentimentalism and even suicide – only to take up to Sonny & Cher singing I Got You Babe. Every. Single. Morning.

Directed by Murray’s Ghostbuster’s co-star, the late Harold Ramis, the film has just turned 25 – so here are 7 Weird Things You Never Knew About Groundhog Day.


Tom Hanks Turned Down The Role – Because He Was Too Nice

Tom Hanks

Murray may seem like a logical fit for the role of Phil in the film but  Ramis initially had someone else in mind for the part. During a 2009 Q&A on the film, Ramis revealed Tom Hanks was his first choice. Hanks felt otherwise though, turning down the part and later telling Ramis:

“Audiences would have been sitting there waiting for me to become nice, because I always play nice. But Bill’s such a miserable S.O.B. on- and off screen, you didn’t know what was going to happen.”


A Real Family Of Groundhogs Was Raised For The Movie

The wrangler who features in the film and can be seen grabbing a groundhog for the ceremony that features on the movie wasn’t your everyday animal handler.

He actually pushed the boat out for Groundhog Day, raising a family of groundhogs with six babies specifically for use on the film. Not that they were always that easy to handle…


The Groundhogs Turned On Murray And Bit Him Multiple Times

Bill Murray in Groundhog Day

Murray had a tough time of things during filming on once particular scene – the one where Phil steals a truck and lets the groundhog drive.

“To be bitten twice means [Murray] stuck around after being bitten once. He’s very game,” Ramis told Premiere magazine in 1992.


Phil Was Trapped In Groundhog Day For A Crazy Amount Of Time

Quite how long Phil was forced to live out Groundhog Day, over and over, is the source of some debate. Ramis reckons repeated the day for a total of 10 years. The original script suggested it was more like 10,000 years.

Someone writing for the website Wolf Gnards, meanwhile, watched the film and ran the numbers – Phil was trapped for a total of eight years, eight months and 16 days.


Groundhog Day Was A Special Occasion For Michael Shannon

Michael Shannon in Groundhog Day.

Watching Groundhog Day back now and you may spot none other than Michael Shannon as Fred, one half of a soon-to-be-wed couple that feature in the film’s diner scene and dance.

The experience was an interesting one for Shannon who was tasked with eating omelettes over and over again, take after take, in a kind of egg-based microcosm of Groundhog Day itself. It was his first on-screen role ever.


There’s A Plaque To Commemorate Where Phil Stepped In That Puddle

Though the film is supposed to be set in Punxsutawney, in reality the movie was actually filmed over in Woodstock Illinois.

This location is notable for being around 45 miles from where Murray grew up. It’s also notable for now featuring a plaque marking the point where Murray’s character Phil repeatedly puts his foot into an icy puddle.


Murray And Ramis Fell Out Making Groundhog Day

Ghostbusters 1984 original cast Bill Murray

Producer Trevor Albert confirmed that the actor and director clashed during what was a complicated and, at times, frustrating shoot.

“The relationship between Harold and Bill was a struggle on the movie, and I think part of it was just because of the heat of battle-the heat of creative battle.”

Despite a decade-long silence, the pair did eventually reconcile and Murray made a point of honouring Ramis at the 2014 Oscars with an unscripted shout-out while reading out the nominees for Best Cinematography.

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