Question: How did “Groundhog Day” become a classic film?
Rubin: Well, it wasn’t an overnight success in that way. I mean, I
think when it first came out, generally the reviews said, “Another
comedy by Harold Ramis. It’s kind of cute.” Two, two and half star
kind of reviews. But there were other places where people seemed to dig
it right away. I was getting letters from Germany and from England. A
lot of fans in England who just thought it was an extraordinary movie
and my feeling was I felt justified. I was like, “Yeah, that’s what it
was supposed to be.” And it was just very slowly that people realized
that everybody was sort of saying, “Oh, have you seen "Groundhog Day?" It
was really good.” And it was just sort of a buzz started developing
and then little things started happening.
Like, there was a big
Buddhist convention in San Francisco and somebody delivered a paper
about "Groundhog Day" and Buddhism and people realized that people were—psychologists were showing it to their patients, prescribing it and all
kinds of different religious disciplines were embracing it and giving
sermons and lectures and writing important papers based on the
philosophy of "Groundhog Day."
And Harold Ramis was also getting
letters and notes and the two of us would compare things and say, “Wow,
this is really interesting.” And then, at some point, I guess Roger
Ebert wrote, not a retraction, but a new review that sort of said, “I
think we should revisit this movie. I think this is a little better
than I thought.” And I know at the end of the year that it came out
in’93, William Goldman, the screenwriter, was reflecting on movies of
the past year and he was the one who wrote, "I think 'Groundhog Day' is
the one that will be—of all of the movies that came out this year,
it’s the one that will be remembered in 10 years,” and perhaps that gave
it some street cred or got some people thinking.
But, I don’t
know. I think people just like it and a little bit at a time, it
started to develop this, not exactly a following, but an awful lot of
people who identified with it.
Question: What makes
people identify so strongly with the movie?
I haven’t thought a lot about that, but everybody seems to have their
own reason and that’s what makes it so remarkable. Everybody seems to
bring their own way of thinking and their own discipline to bear on the
ideas within it and would express this is absolutely describing the
essence of Judaism. This is the essence of Nietzsche’s philosophy.
This is the essence homeopathy. I mean, I’ve seen all of this. I think
there's something about - I think we understand how people grow and
develop. Okay, I have a few answers. I think I understand how people -
we understand how people grow and develop in a linear time fashion.
How you have an adolescence at a certain age and you start to develop
adulthood and you start to mature. But, I think the movie shows that it
is the repetition of days itself which pushes us forward in our own
maturation as we start to encounter the same things over and over again.
so, there's an element of truth to the fact that we are repeating the
same day over and over again. But, I think the biggest thing that
affects people is the fact that Phil is presented with the exact same
day and the very first time he’s presented with it, it’s probably the
worst day of his life. And, by the end of the movie, we see that it’s
the exact same day but somehow this is probably the best day of his
life. It’s the day he fell in love and she fell in love with him and
everybody loves him and he was living a fulfilling life pursuing culture
and things that he loved and appreciating the day and doing good works
and contributing to society and it makes it very clear that we are in
control of our day. We can control our future. There's something very
empowering about it and
"Groundhog Day," it’s almost an experiment that
says, "See? Here's a guy who is having a terrible day and he’s kind of a
horrible person and just through the act of repetition and paying
attention and remembering, he is forced to change who he is and by
changing who he is, he changes the life that he experiences the world
around him. That, I think, is the main thing that gets people very
excited about the movie.
Recorded on May 12, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman