Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

The Important Stuff: Back to Groundhog Day

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But let’s get back to the important stuff: the subject of my 1000th post, the question of how many days Bill Murray spent trapped in a temporal loop in early-1990s soft-s.f. classic Groundhog Day. The screenwriter, Danny Rubin, has weighed in at his blog, and says the following:

My original intent was that the length of time needn’t be specific, just terribly long, and in my mind, more than one lifetime. That was in fact the whole point of the original experiment, the one I hoped to play out via comedic dramatization: if a person could live long enough would that person fundamentally change? The clarity of the experiment would come from the huge exaggeration of time. He would have to live longer than a person is supposed to live, more than one lifetime. The repetition part was how I got to the immortality.

I know that I have been quoted as having originally intended for Phil to have lived “ten thousand years”, a time-frame with Buddhist overtones. I find that so incredibly cool that I put no effort into disputing it. But it’s not true. For me, any lifetime for Phil longer than one would have sufficed, and even so, that statistic never had to leave my head. As long as the audience understood it to be a very, very long time, it never had to become specific.

In my original draft I had created a device to help audiences feel the massiveness of time on Phil’s shoulders. It was my version of five-bundled hatch marks on a prison wall, which of course would not work for Phil as each morning the marks would be gone. My solution was a wall-length bookcase in the Bed and Breakfast. Every day Phil would read a single page from a single book. Every now and then we would see him finish the first chapter, then the whole book, then the last book in the row. On one sad day we see him finish the last page of the last book in the bookcase – only to then have to walk back to the very first book and begin again.

The studio had a note: He’s there too long. He can’t repeat the day so many times. Peoples’ heads would explode. The studio solution: Two weeks.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 6, 2008 at 1:23 pm

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