Behind the Scenes: My ‘Groundhog Day’ movie connection

With Groundhog Day almost upon us — none too soon; please tell me we’re not gonna have six more weeks of this diabolical winter — I’m thinking back.

To the movie Groundhog Day. It and I go waay back, ever so slightly.

It stars Bill Murray when he was still somewhat of a babe (weren’t we all?), as a jaded Pittsburgh weatherman who has to venture to the boonies of Punxsutawney, PA, to cover yet another Groundhog Day ceremony.

He’s sick of the same story assignment, and of his gig in general. Until he learns the hard way that you can’t change your circumstances, but you can certainly change your reaction to them. And make the outcome a little less boring.

Anyway, the L.A. TV news station I was working at was picked to double as his TV station in Pittsburgh.

Director Harold Ramis and his crew were going to be filming all night. We were invited to stick around after work and, maybe, just maybe, we might be in some of the newsroom shots.

Who could say no?

The station was a heady place to work anyway. It was right on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood, where celebs were in constant supply. See here.

But meeting comedy genius Harold Ramis (he of Ghostbusters fame — one of my all-time faves) was really something.

Groundhog Day/Columbia Pictures

Groundhog Day/Columbia Pictures

And watching our weatherman showing Bill Murray how to do the weather in sync with the camera was a blast. Murray, in typical Murray form, kept doing one hilarious take after another.

script

Ramis was gracious enough to give me a script.

Surprise, surprise, I didn’t make it into the movie. Incidentally, neither did Pennsylvania. Woodstock, Illinois doubled as Punxsutawney, PA. If you’re in the Chicago area and feel like taking a drive, they have tours.

There really is a Punxsutawney. Sort of near Pittsburgh.

phil punx

Here’s Hollywood’s take on what it’s like, courtesy of Phil, the snooty Groundhog Day weatherman.

Here’s a more-objective and very informative account, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I had no idea the movie had that huge an impact. Looks like a fun place to check out, any time of year.

Bonus: More movie trivia on BuzzFeed, supposedly supplied by “Bill Murray.” It seems to echo some I’ve seen elsewhere, so maybe that really is him.

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