Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me

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The Number of Days Phil Was Stuck
In Feb. 2011, Tom Lasusa found this blog post about how many days Bill Murray was stuck.

The issue of the number of days Phil was stuck is a hardy perennial. In May 2011, Mike Burtner sent along this link to speculation on the subject (and much much more) by a star of the film: In Depth With Groundhog Day's Ned Ryerson, Actor Stephen Tobolowsky

British Groundhog Day Trivia
On Sept. 11, 2010, a friend passed along this Bill Murray 60th Birthday Facts link from the Guardian. Of particular interest to this site are the amusing, if of dubious provenance, items 53 and 54:

53 In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray repeated the same day countless times in order to win Andie MacDowell's heart. To this day, it remains the most amount of effort that any film character has expended for such a comparatively meagre reward.

54 During the filming of Groundhog Day, Bill Murray was asked to hire an assistant to act as a buffer between him and the studio. He deliberately hired a deaf mute who could only communicate in Native American sign language.

I have my doubts about 54.

Picked As One Of Ten Best Films Ever
On January 4, 2009, NY Times Blogger Stanley Fish named Groundhog Day one of the 10 best American Movies Ever.

Sondheim No Longer Interested

This from my friend and former editor, Joe Brancatelli in January 2007:

So I'm flipping the dial last night and TBS is showing Groundhog Day. Hadn't seen it for a while. Good movie. Not as good as King Ralph, of course, but not bad...

Actually, though, I'm dropping a line because I meant to tell you this a year or so ago and it just slipped away. The New York Times Sunday magazine did a cover story on the 75th birthday of Sondheim. His most interesting comment: The one idea he wished he'd had was Groundhog Day. And, if you know anything about Sondheim, this would be the PERFECT project for him... One wonders why he hasn't tried to adapt it to the stage anyway...

Sondheim was on the record as being interested; his interest has since waned.

On March 11, 2008, reported:

Sondheim has very recently abandoned the idea of adapting the film Ground
Hog Day into a musical, to the disappointment of many

On May 6, Sondheim had this exchange with

Q: What are the chances of us seeing your rumored musical version of Groundhog Day, and what drew you to Groundhog Day as a musical?

Stephen_Sondheim: Groundhog Day is in my opinion a first-rate movie and it lends itself so clearly to musical treatment. I'm not the first person who's thought of it. Many have. To make a musical of Groundhog Day would be to guild the lilly. It cannot be improved, it's perfect the way it is. I don't want to touch it, because it's perfect. Pretentious as that sounds.


Groundhog Day in Popular Culture

This Modern World provides one of the many pop culture references in which Groundhog Day has become synonymous with "time loop."


Interesting Groundhog Day Thought

Like me, Stephen Segall is a Top Five contributor. He writes:

I was glancing at your site regarding Groundhog Day. I couldn't agree more. That story is reminiscent of Robin Williams' character in The Fisher King, which, incidentally, I liked very much because it's one of several movies that portray the same life lived different ways and what that teaches: Groundhog Day, It's A Wonderful Life, and Regarding Henry also come to mind. Or, similarly, movies that feature a parallel or alternate reality that become difficult to distinguish from ordinary reality such as 24 Hours and Total Recall. Competing realities.

The thing is, I never made those comparisons, but I think he's right. While I still think Groundhog Day is unique, even on this list, for the intellectual breadth and moral underpinnings of its basic trope, it is more similar to these movies than to your average American film.


Groundhog Day Casting

Regular correspondent Kent Peterman checks in with a web site full of movie scripts (Copyright violation much?) and a great deal of fun at, the opposite of that Jeopardy category "Actors and Their Roles." In this case, it's actors who were considered for parts they didn't get. Checked out my personal favorite movie, and I am sure you will agree with me that Tom Hanks would not have been as good as Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. The film might still be a classic, but wouldn't be as good as it is with Murray--as proven by the Italian version. Also, how would Tori Amos have worked in the Andie MacDowell role? Not so well, I think.

On NPR's Fresh Air broadcast of Oct. 3, 2012, actor Stephen Tobolowsky  was talking about his memoir, The Dangerous Animals Club. In it, he mentions that his friend and fellow character actor Kurt Fuller (you'll recognize him if you look him up) was already set to play Ned Ryerson, but that Tobolowsky snatched the role away. Fuller, at the Groundhog Day premier, was a good sport.




AFI Underrates The Film

AFI's 10 Top 10, which resulted from a poll of 1,500 people in the movie industry, placed Groundhog Day was in the fantasy category, where it placed 8th (Wizard of Oz took the category; is it fair for these two to compete?) It placed 34th on AFI's list of the top 100 films.

You can watch longer comments from Harold Ramis and Andie MacDowell, recorded for the 10 Top 10 special.

This is what they said during the show, as aired on CBS on June 17, 2008 (NOT a precise transcript; paraphrase...)

[Clip from film: clock clicks to 6am. "Put your little hand in mine..." Murray smashes the clock on the floor.]

Ramis: Murray is having this mysterious, unexplained, existential experience. Bill Murray plays a self-centered weatherman who starts living the same day over and over again, ad infinitum.

[Clip from film: Phil and Rita in the hotel bar: "What should we drink to." He proposed the groundhog, she drinks to world peace. He winces as he swallows the sweet vermouth on the rocks. The scene repeats; "I always say a prayer and drink to world peace," says Murray]

MacDowell: A great fantasy film has to have a sense of reality. The dialog has to feel real. You have to believe these people. Even if the situation is impossible, there is something so genuine you believe these people.


Prof. Franz Metcalf (, author of Just Add Buddha and Buddha in your Backpack, has sent me an exclusive commentary on Groundhog Day.


The Dharma Talk column of the Buddhist magazine Tricycle which appeared in the Summer 2003 issue is by Ezra Bayda, and is excerpted from his book, At Home In The Muddy Water. The article is a very interesting analysis, but it is opening anecdote which concerns us here:

In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character wakes up every morning in the exact same place, at the exact same time, always having to repeat the same day--Groundhog Day. No matter what he experiences, he still wakes up having to repeat the day. No matter what he does, he can't get what he wants, which in this case is the sexual conquest of his female colleague. Although he tries all of the other classic strategies of escape, nothing works; he still wakes up the next day to the same mess.

In the meantime, another part of him is growing. He starts moving from just trying to fulfill his own desires to doing things for other people. For example, every day he saves the same child from falling out of the same tree at the same time. He even starts using his once ego-driven accomplishments, such as playing the piano, to entertain others, not just to serve himself. Finally, not through purposeful effort or even awareness, he becomes more and more life-centered, less and less self-centered. And in typical Hollywood fashion, he gets the girl. However, his real success lies in breaking free from the repeating patterns of his personality."

Bayda goes on to make some excellent points about Buddhist practice. I recommend his book.


I gave an interview to the Philadelphia Inquirer, of which exactly one quote made the paper on Feb. 1, 2007 (I teach in California, not Oregon, by the way):

The enlightened 'Groundhog'
Tomorrow is a big day for Buddhists who find spiritual meaning in the 1993 Bill Murray film about a man reliving the same day over and over.
By Jeff Gammage
Inquirer Staff Writer


In The New Yorker dated Nov. 10, 2003, on p. 48, Charles Murray, the neoconservative author of Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 is asked which artistic accomplishments after 1950 might make one of his top 20 lists:

"The movie Groundhog Day," he immediately offered. "It is a brilliant moral fable, offering an Aristotelian view of the world."

In April 2004, The New Yorker profiled Harold Ramis, who directed Groundhog Day. Check out the section of the profile that dealt with the film. ***

Don't miss this great New York Times feature story, from December, 2003, when GHD was featured in a religious film festival put on by the MOMA in New York City, or the Mario Sesti essay in the festival's catalog.

December 7, 2003
New York Times
Groundhog Almighty

A NEW movie series from the Museum of Modern Art, "The Hidden God: Film and Faith," features some pretty brooding stuff. There's a 1955 Danish movie about a man who thinks he is Jesus Christ, an Ingmar Bergman pastiche about a tormented pastor, a Roberto Rossellini movie about monks. These are, of course, the "intellectual with a capital I" films that audiences might expect at a religious-theme retrospective organized by a major museum. Subtitles and all that fancy stuff.

With one exception. On Thursday, the opening-night feature at the Gramercy Theater, where the series is being presented, was "Groundhog Day," the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray as a sarcastic television weatherman forced by a twist of fate and magic to relive one day of his life, Feb. 2, over and over.


From the San Francisco Chronicle
A Buddhist on good, evil and Gibson
Laurel Wellman

An interview with Robert Thurman, author of "Infinite Life: Seven Virtues for Living Well," who was the first Westerner ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk and one of Time magazine's 25 Most Influential People in 1997.

Here's the nut graf, as far as I am concerned:

"My new guru in life is Bill Murray, because actually the best metaphor for the infinite life, the reincarnation thing, is 'Groundhog Day.' You keep coming back until you get it right. When you get it right, then you have a really great time. Nirvana means you live with other beings in a really happy way. "And we all could, in the 21st century -- if we used our brains a little better."


Also of interest is an excerpt from The Force Is With You: Mystical Movie Messages That Inspire Our Lives by Stephen Simon.

Harvard professor and film critic Stanley Cavell contributed to a New York Times Magazine article on September 29, 1996 (the hundredth anniversary of the Magazine), in which he was asked to identify a film since 1971 that would last a century. He selected Groundhog Day:

A small film that lives off its wits and tells a deeply wonderful story of love. It creates a vision of the question I ask here -- of what will endure. Its vision is to ask how, surrounded by conventions we do not exactly believe in, we sometimes find it in ourselves to enter into what Emerson thought of as a new day.

I asked Prof. Cavell to elaborate in February 2006:

I too am a fan of Groundhog Day.... I wrote...a 50-word epitome of the film in response to a request from the New York Times Magazine to (I quote from memory) "pick one film made after 1971 [I may have the date slightly wrong] that you think will still be appreciated in a hundred years and write 50 words about it". It is obviously a challenge to be taken with some grain of wit -- if you start thinking seriously of the wonderful films made in the past three decades that you are truly grateful for, you could not choose one against the rest without feeling nutty -- so I looked for a small film (not, for example, The Godfather) that was both serious and witty and that it would be a welcome challenge to try to capture in a long sentence. No film really came to mind that satisfied me that it was really serious and witty enough to put forward, and also that came together with my philosophical taste. When at the last moment Groundhog Day presented itself, and I thought of its Emersonianism or Thoreavianism (or just say its transcendentalism, which is the way I would characterize its attempt to escape the fatality of time), the choice made itself.

While I have published 17 or 18 books, I think I may have received more pleasant acknowledgments of my little notice of Groundhog Day, and certainly from more unpredictable places, than about any other piece I have published. I include among what I call "pleasant acknowledgments" the one that took me to task for being preposterous in choosing Groundhog Day over so many other really serious works.


This is another interesting article:

Revisiting 'Groundhog Day's' spiritual side 15 years later
Bill Murray and philosophical fodder mean there's still plenty to mine in the 1993 film.
By Dennis Lim, Special to The Times
February 3, 2008
Fifteen years after its release, "Groundhog Day" (Sony, $19.94) seems as strange and singular as ever: a Hollywood romantic comedy that could double as a Zen koan or an existential nightmare, depending on how you look at it. Harold Ramis' high-concept classic, reissued in an anniversary edition last week, is a movie premised on relentless repetition and is itself surprisingly well-suited to multiple viewings.

Back to the home page of Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me

The simplified URL for this site is:

Other material. This is a chronological "blog" of new Groundhog Day material as it accumulates; much of it once resided on the home page, but that page had become too large.

Commentary from Prof. Franz Metcalf, (, author of Just Add Buddha and Buddha in your Backpack

The name Ned Ryerson

New York Times Feature Story on Groundhog Day, The Movie

Boston Globe Anniversary Appreciation

French (Jaques Brel) in the restaurant and Walter Scott (The Wretch) in the Diner

Paul Schindler's Blog Comments On Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day Links and Metalinks

Groundhog Day Script Writer Danny Rubin

Groundhog Day Star Bill Murray

Groundhog Day Director Harold Ramis

New Yorker Profile of Groundhog Day Director Harold Ramis

Groundhog Day essay in Stephen Simon's book, The Force Is With You: Mystical Movie Messages That Inspire Our Lives

Groundhog Day essay by Mario Sesti in the Museum of Modern Art catalog for, The Hidden God: Film and Faith

Groundhog Day by Ryan Gilbey, published by the British Film Institute and the University of California Press.

The Italian remake of Groundhog Day .

Content Changes

2012.10.013Added Kurt Fuller to casting
2008.06.203 Moved material from main page, added new material

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