Exploring Immortality Through "Groundhog Day"

Rubin's 1993 comedic cult classic is actually an examination of whether one lifetime is enough for some men to fully outgrow adolescence
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: How did you come up with the idea for “Groundhog Day?"

Danny Rubin:
There's so many parts to answering that question.  I think the big idea, if there is a—the big think or the accidental happenstance was when I was trying to solve a story problem.  If a person could live forever, if a person was immortal, how would they change over time?  I was curious about whether one lifetime was enough for somebody.  There are some people, those arrested development type men who can’t really outlive their - out grow their adolescence and I thought, well, maybe one lifetime isn’t enough.  Maybe you need more.  

So, I was just thinking through if a person could live long enough, how would they change and that seemed like a cumbersome experiment because of having to deal with changing history.  So, I was trying to solve the problem how you can have a person be immortal without having history change from underneath him so that the movie would not - the story of the movie would not have to deal with the French Revolution and with the future and things like that. 

And then, to solve that, I remembered an idea I had had about a year or two before that about a guy repeating the same day and I realized that having a person repeat the same day turns an eternity into a circle and that’s when all the dramatic possibilities came and the comedic possibilities and all the resonances with repetition.  So, that was the idea like that. 

I was actually getting ready to read one of Anne Rice’s novels about vampires and I was sort of thinking about why I thought that was interesting and the most interesting thing to me was that it was a different class of people.  They were just like people except some of the rules were different and the most interesting one being that they were immoral and that’s what got me thinking about immortality.  There, that’s all of it.

Question: Did you always conceive of it as a comedy?

Danny Rubin: Yeah, well I thought of the funny things first.  The very first thing I thought of was the date scene, being able to use your superior knowledge to pick up women.  As soon as I thought of that I knew I had a movie.  That just seemed to me so extraordinarily interest and fun and funny.  So, I guess I was approaching it in a comedic way, but it wasn’t a genre comedy.  I was thinking of it more as just a whimsical entertainment.

Question: Did it have to be Groundhog Day, or could it have been another holiday?

Danny Rubin: This is one of those things that just kind of fell together.  When I got the idea of a man repeating the same day over and over again, it was January 30th or 31st and so the first thing I thought of is, I’ve got to think of which day he repeats.  Which day is it?  And so, I just opened up the calendar and the first holiday day I came to was two days later, Groundhog Day and I was thinking about that saying, “Well, this is perfect.  It’s a completely unexploited holiday.  We can play it on TV every year like the Charlie Brown specials.”  But, other things started to make sense immediately too, like I wanted him to be a character who went somewhere and was in unfamiliar territory.  If he was on his home turf with his family and friends, it would be a completely different story.  And, by making it Groundhog Day, I thought, “Okay, so maybe he’s a weather man and he comes from Pittsburgh and he drove to Punxutawney for the ceremony and the groundhog’s name is Phil, so I named him Phil and a bunch of things just started falling together in that way.

Recorded on May 12, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman