Groundhog Day, Harold Ramis’ time-loop comedy about a down-on-his-luck weatherman trapped in the same cul-de-sac on the same day, has become not only an unlikely classic, but one of Bill Murray’s most beloved and critically acclaimed performances.
Off-screen, however, the experience of crafting this repeat-to-perfect rom-com is far from fondly remembered by those who created it.
Groundhog Day turns 30 this week and couldn’t have come at a better time in Ramis’ career. After directing hits like 1980s Caddyshack and National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983, the writer, director, and part-time actor had huge success in 1984 and again in 1989 with proton-suit-wielding smartass Egon Spengler, the mastermind of the Ghostbusters. However, in the early ’90s, after the lukewarm release of his Robin Williams and Jimmy Cliff beach holiday comedy Club Paradise, he was in dire need of a hit.
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Cue Groundhog Day, a film with a unique premise that would reunite him with longtime friend and frequent collaborator Bill Murray.
Co-written by Ramis and screenwriter Danny Rubin, the film’s strange plot meshed nicely with the director’s growing interest in the humanist religious beliefs and philosophies that turned the focus inward and toward self-improvement.
Murray played Phil, an egocentric weatherman for a regional TV station who’s shipped to the small town of Pennsylvania to cover their annual Groundhog Day celebrations and the rise of local hero Punxsutawney Phil – a groundhog who can predict how long the winter will last. will last depending on whether he can see his own shadow or not.
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Phil is pissed off at work and obviously can’t wait to leave – but when he wakes up the next day, he finds himself reliving the same Groundhog Day all over again… special movie blog, lasting 33 years and 350 days. Sure, he doesn’t like it all that much, but eventually learns to become a better person in the process.
Upon release, the film was a moderate hit, but in the years since, it has become a favorite of fans and critics alike, spawning its own short-lived musical and regularly dissected by philosophers and religious pundits eager to make their own sense. wanted to find in Phil’s madness. .
For Ramis, however, the making of Groundhog Day virtually destroyed one of his longest friendships and most successful comedy partnerships – and it was something that would plague the director for the rest of his life.
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As Ramis’ daughter, Violet Ramis Stiel, explains in her brilliant 2018 memoir Ghostbuster’s Daughter, a combination of factors led to this unfortunate split. “Bill was going through a rough time in his personal life, and he and my dad didn’t agree on the tone of the movie.
“They had a few arguments on set, including one where my dad uncharacteristically lost his temper, grabbed Bill by the collar and pushed him against a wall,” she reveals. “In the end, Bill just completely shut out my dad…for the next 20 years.”
Without going into details, Stiel paints a picture of a complex friendship pushed to its limits on an unexpectedly tense set.
As a result, like an inverted Phil Connors, Murray pulled in. He was notably absent from the Los Angeles premiere of the film in 1993 and despite Ramis occasionally contacting him in the following years, dearly missing one of his oldest friends and comedy collaborators, Murray returned the favor not.
Meanwhile, the rift between the two continued to grow. “My dad tried his best to be diplomatic about the whole thing and tried not to take it personally, but it bothered him,” Stiel explains.
“Describing himself variously heartbroken, confused and yet unsurprised by the rejection, he explained, ‘Bill would give you his kidney if you needed it, but wouldn’t necessarily call you back.'”
While this issue could arguably be the root of the long and protracted struggles to get a third Ghostbusters movie off the ground with the original cast, it also paints a very grounded picture of a Hollywood star often obscured by tall tales, mystery and his own larger-than-life persona.
After all, Murray even devoted his own documentary to such wild tales in 2018’s The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man. Eventually, the rift was resolved – and as a kind of Hollywood ending in the third act, it was infused with showing heartbreak, humor and an unspoken reconciliation that is sadly typical of some male friendships.
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While Ramis battled the disease that would ultimately take his life at just 69 years old and was largely unable to speak, Murray made one of his famous impromptu performances.
Stiel recalls the moment, saying, “In classic Bill fashion, he showed up at the house unannounced at 7 a.m., with a police escort and a dozen doughnuts,” adding that Murray and her dad spent “a few hours together.” spent, laughed a little and made their peace.”
While it may have delivered the long overdue happy ending Ramis was looking for, the human side of the situation – the sometimes inexplicable nature of people’s actions and the unexpected impact they can have on others – remains close to the chaos – still in his daughter’s mind.
“Since my father’s death, I’ve contacted Bill a few times, but I’ve had no response except for a short text,” she says. “I think I’m stuck with my unresolved feelings.”
Groundhog Day is streaming NOW with a Sky Cinema membership. Watch a trailer below.