5 Great ‘Groundhog Day’ Stories From 1993’s Best Comedy Scene Stealer Stephen Tobolowsky

Stephen Tobolowsky as Bill Murray's cheery nemesis Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day.  (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

Stephen Tobolowsky as Bill Murray’s cheery nemesis Ned Ryerson in groundhog day. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

According to the calendar, February 2 is Groundhog Day, that 24-year period when the country cares excessively about whether or not a certain rodent sees its shadow. But really, February 12th Should be groundhog day. After all, that’s the date the comedy classic directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray groundhog day premiered in theaters in 1993. This year, the film officially celebrates three decades of delighting men, women, children and groundhogs alike.

A person who particularly loves groundhog day is Stephen Tobolowsky, the veteran character actor who plays lovable and obnoxious insurance salesman Ned Ryerson. In addition to being the source of some of the film’s biggest laughs, Tobolowsky is also a prime source of incredible stories about the making of the film. Here are five of the best behind-the-scenes stories he shared over the next three decades Marmot Dayof release.

Ned Ryerson is groundhog daythe biggest villain

It’s hard to think of a more cheerful and likeable guy than Ned Ryerson. But Tobolowsky specifically approached the role as having the insurance salesman as a villain to rival Darth Vader or Thanos. “It’s a force,” Tobolowsky told Yahoo Entertainment in a 2017 interview, a force that impacts the life of Murry’s Phil Connors, the cynical weatherman who gets stuck in Punxsutawney’s insane time loop.

“Before Bill meets Ned, he is the antagonist; but once Bill starts meeting Ned repeatedly, he becomes the protagonist,” the actor astutely explained. , Tobolowsky acknowledges that most audiences wouldn’t want to harm Ned in the same way they would a more overtly cruel villain. dislikes Ned, but boy, it sure can be annoying!”

There was almost another Ned

Kurt Fuller in the 2016 film, Ghostheads.  He almost played Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day.  (Photo: © Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection)

Kurt Fuller in the 2016 film, Ghostheads. He almost played Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day. (Photo: Netflix / Collection courtesy of Everett)

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Tobolowsky playing Ned Ryerson, but Ramis came very close to casting another actor. During the filming of Jason Priestly’s comedy Girl calendar, Tobolowsky lodged with co-star Kurt Fuller, and the two began discussing their upcoming projects. Fuller, a comedic reporter who has had scene-stealing roles in everything from Elvira: Lady of Darkness TO Anger management – said that Ramis had written a role especially for him in a brand new play by Bill Murray. But unbeknownst to his friend, Tobolowsky had also auditioned for the part.

“Insert a picture of someone’s brain exploding,” Tobolowsky said in a 2012 interview with NPR Fresh air when he had a flashback of that exchange. “I had no idea what to do. I knew I couldn’t tell Kurt that I’d just auditioned for the part he’d been given. In fact, Kurt said he’d already had a reading with the entire cast. I ended up getting the part”. When he saw Fuller at the film’s premiere, Tobolowsky wasn’t sure how the actor would react. “Kurt hugged me and said, ‘Well man, you got my cut, but at least you did it right, great job.'”

Murray and Tobolowsky bribed the extras with cupcakes

Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.  (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

The first day of shooting a movie is always tough for the cast and crew, and that goes double when the movie is shot on location. In a 2014 Reddit AMA, Tobolowsky described how Murray made sure the residents of Woodstock, Illinois — who doubled as Punxsutawney, Pa. in the film — would be on their side from the get-go.

“We were about to start filming and…there were 500 citizens gathered there to look at us. Bill looked at me and said ‘Do you know what these people need? DANES.’ Bill took me to the local bakery and bought every single baked good in sight. He put boxes in my arms, we ran outside and started throwing donuts and sweets at the crowd. It was the biggest PR move I’ve ever seen .”

Harold Ramis cut an important sequence

Harold Ramis on the set of Groundhog Day.  (Photo: ©Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

Harold Ramis on the set of Groundhog Day. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

The opportunity to work with Harold Ramis was one of the main reasons Tobolowsky was so excited to be a part of it groundhog day. And the writer-director-actor did not disappoint. When Ramis died in 2014, Tobolowsky wrote an emotional essay for Slate in which he praised one of his director’s choices in particular.

“When we were at the end of the first week of shooting, Harold shot a huge scene where Phil Connors realizes that time has stopped and that he’s living in a world without consequences. Bill spray paints his room at the inn hair in a ridge.He cuts the place in half with the chainsaw, knowing that in the morning everything will be back to normal.

The sequence ended up taking three days to shoot and costing thousands of dollars just for Murray’s fake mohawk. And when the scene was finished and assembled, Ramis looked at it, analyzed it… and threw it away, instead substituting a simple and inexpensive scene in which Murray realizes he is trapped in a time loop while watching a pencil. “When I saw it in a theater full of real people, the audience gasped,” wrote Tobolowsky. “Harold understood the power of poetry and had the courage to tell the story his way.”

An assistant director chose the ending

MacDowell and Murray in the climax of Groundhog Day.  (Photo: Columbia/Courtesy Everett Collection)

MacDowell and Murray in the climax of Groundhog Day. (Photo: Columbia/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

While Ramis was willing to play with the tone and structure of groundhog day, Murray demanded that the film follow a certain logic. Case in point: In the film’s final scene, when Phil finally escapes the time loop, the star doesn’t allow the cameras to roll until Ramis answers a very important question: Did Phil and Andi MacDowell’s character have sex during the their last first night together? Tobolowsky told the story in a 2010 groundhog day-only episode of his podcast, The Tobolowsky files.

“Harold asked Bill what we thought [the answer was], and Bill said, ‘Hey, I’m asking you!’ Surprisingly, Harold said, “Let’s vote.” He questioned the entire crew working on the film and it was a tie.” Ultimately, the decision was made by an assistant director who had never worked on a feature film before. After some thought, he informed Ramis and Murray that Phil kept the evening chaste.”[She said] “If you do it any other way, you’ll ruin the movie.” Harold Ramis smiled… and Bill nodded, and that’s how they shot it.”

groundhog day is currently streaming on AMC+, SlingTV and Philo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *