How Bill Murray Made the Set of "Groundhog Day" a Nightmare
"You don’t have to throw tantrums to get what you want. Just say what you want.”
It's been 30 years since the cult classic Groundhog Day was released in 1993—and according to insiders, making the movie was far from easy for a number of reasons. Danny Rubin's script was still going through rewrites even after filming had started, and Bill Murray proved to be a reportedly difficult presence on set, depending on his mood.
In fact, the movie ended up being the last straw for Murray's relationship with director Harold Ramis. "At the end of the first week, Harold and Danny start writing the script again, and all of us start getting new pages after we've already started shooting," actor Stephen Tobolowsky said to the Telegraph. "None of us know this stuff is coming." Here's what insiders say about the making of the movie.
That Foot-Dunking Scene
Murray was apparently annoyed with the scene where he had to dunk his foot in icy water repeatedly. "The foot would have to be amputated, it was so cold," says Stephen Tobolowsky, who played insurance salesman Ned Ryerson. "Bill was not happy shooting this, so he had his foot up to his knee wrapped in saran wrap. Then he had a neoprene sleeve over his foot, ankle, and calf. Then he had all that wrapped up, and then he had his pants on."
Murray's Music Would Match His Moods
According to Ramis, Murray's moods set the tone for the day. "When he was up, his arrival on set would be heralded by loud 'feel good' music to match his mood," Ramis said. "At other times, it's like working with Vincent Van Gogh on a bad day." Ramis and Murray were estranged after making Groundhog Day, only reconciling briefly before Ramis's death in 2014.
Murray Had Tantrums on Set
Ramis's daughter Violet Ramis Stiel said her father was "heartbroken, confused, and yet unsurprised by the rejection." Ramis previously spoke about Murray's behavior on set and how difficult he could be. "At times, Bill was just really irrationally mean and unavailable; he was constantly late on set," Ramis told The New Yorker. "What I'd want to say to him is just what we tell our children: 'You don't have to throw tantrums to get what you want. Just say what you want.'"
Murray Attempts To Learn Sign Language
Frustrated with never being able to contact Murray when needed, the director suggested the actor hire a personal assistant. "So he hired a personal assistant who was profoundly deaf, did not have oral speech, spoke only American sign language, which Bill did not speak, nor did anyone else in the production," Ramis told Entertainment Weekly.
"But Bill said, 'Don't worry, I'm going to learn sign language.' And I think it was so inconvenient that in a couple of weeks, he gave that up."
In Defense of Bill Murray
Tobolowsky acknowledges that working with Murray was not always easy but was always worth it. "Bill can be difficult at times during a shoot, but I have to say from my point of view [he's] one of the best actors I've ever worked with," he says. "Every scene he was in the moment, every scene it was like he listened, he responded."