Usually, this space is reserved for celebrating hallowed anniversaries but there aren't too many movies that have surpassed their holiday namesakes in popularity. Groundhog Day has. Bill Murray's comedy is now a genre classic and consistently named one of the best movies of the 1990s. Let's pay homage to the film with 20 interesting facts you never knew:
1. The idea for Groundhog Day originates with Friedrich Nietzsche's The Gay Science, which describes a man living the same day over and over.
2. Writer Danny Rubin said one of the inspirational moments in the creation of the story came after reading Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, which got him thinking about what it would be like to live forever.
3. Bill Murray, who plays arrogant newsman Phil Connors, got to film just 45 miles from his hometown of Wilmette, IL. The movie was shot in nearby Woodstock (not Punxsutawney, PA). There's a small plaque in Woodstock that reads "Bill Murray stepped here" on the curb where Murray continually steps into a puddle. And there's another plaque on a building wall that says "Ned's Corner" where Murray was continually accosted by insurance salesman Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky).
4. Director Harold Ramis considered Tom Hanks, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and John Travolta for the role of Phil Connors, but he thought they were all "far too nice" compared to Murray and Michael Keaton, who reportedly turned it down.
6. According to Ramis, whenever he tried to explain a scene to Murray, the actor would interrupt and ask, "Just tell me: good Phil or bad Phil?"
7. On the DVD commentary, Ramis says the original idea was for Connors to live February 2nd for about 10,000 years. Later, he says Phil probably lived the same day for about 10 years.
8. There are exactly 38 days depicted in Groundhog Day, either partially or in full. According to the website WolfGnards, Connors spends eight years, eight months and sixteen days trapped in Groundhog Day. But Simon Gallagher at WhatCulture claims he was trapped 12,395 days, just under 34 years, in order to account for becoming a master piano player, ice sculptor, etc.
9. In Rubin's original version of the script, the film begins in medias res as Connors is already trapped inside Groundhog Day at the start of the story. We join him on a typical day so the audience doesn't know how he knows everything. Ramis promised not to change this opening, but he ultimately decided to do so.
10. The script also originally ended with Phil waking up on February the 3rd to discover Rita is now trapped in a time loop of her own.
11. Rubin and Ramis both said they avoided exploring the deeper dark side of the time lapsing where Phil might do truly horrible things (like murder) without consequence.
12. Ramis directed the kids in the snowball fights to hit Murray as hard as they could. Murray responded by throwing snowballs back as hard as he could.
13. More changes from the original script: Phil was supposed to murder the groundhog in his lair. This was changed, however, since it seemed too much like Caddyshack (Murray plays a groundskeeper who tries to kill a gopher in that movie).
14. Murray was bitten by the groundhog twice during shooting. He had to have anti-rabies injections because the bites were so severe.
15. All the clocks in the diner are stopped, mirroring Phil's predicament.
16. When Phil's explaining his experiences to Rita, he first says "I've been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned." Those were all methods used by the assassins of Grigory Rasputin. It might also be a reference to Murray's film Ghostbusters II, which names similar methods ("poisoned, shot, stabbed, hung, stretched, disemboweled, drawn and quartered") as the cause of Vigo the Carpathian's death.
17. Murray was undergoing a divorce at the time of filming and was obsessing about the film. He would call Ramis constantly, often in the early hours of the morning. Ramis eventually sent Danny Rubin to sit with the actor and iron out all his anxieties. This was one of the reasons why Murray stopped speaking to Ramis for several years.
18. Rubin and Ramis wanted to add another Ned Ryerson scene at the last minute, so Stephen Tobolowsky wrote the sequence where he rattles off a number of insurance policies. Tobolowsky based his character on his own insurance agent. After the movie's release, the agent called Tobolowsky to thank him for portraying insurance agents so accurately rather than making fun of them as most movies do.
19. The writer and director considered including an explanation for the time loop, but decided it was best left a mystery in the end. The possibilities included a curse by a scorned lover or someone he had verbally abused.
20. At Groundhog Day 2010 in Punxsutawney, Tobolowsky told this great story about the film's final scene when Phil finally wakes up from the time lapse:
"He (Murray) said, 'I refuse to shoot this scene until I know how I'm dressed. Am I wearing the clothes I wore the night before? Am I wearing pjs? Am I not wearing that?' That is, what happened that night between him and Andie?
"So, he refused to shoot it. Harold Ramis, the director, hadn't thought of this question and he didn't know. So he took a vote from the cast and crew as to what Bill was wearing. Is he wearing the clothes from the night before, or is he wearing pajamas? And it was a tie, a tie vote, so Bill still refused to shoot the scene.
"Then, one girl in the movie—it was her first film—she was assistant set director. She raised her hand and said, 'He is absolutely wearing the clothes he wore the night before. If he's not wearing the clothes he wore the night before, it will ruin the movie. That's my vote.' So Harold Ramis said, 'Then that's what we are going to do.' I've never told anybody that behind-the-scenes story, so keep that a secret now."
[h/t to iMDB, Wikipedia, and my Groundhog Day DVD]