Bill Murray Truly Suffered For His Art On The Set Of Groundhog Day

The beloved 1993 comedy classic "Groundhog Day" is renowned for putting its main character, the cynical TV Weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray), through the wringer. Trapped in a time loop, the increasingly frustrated Phil is forced to relive the same day over and over and over again... all while covering the weirdly depressing annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. But it's definitely no blessing.

Unable to get out of Punxsutawney, Phil is condemned to live out the same day over and over in a small town full of "hicks"... and it turns out, he spent around 30 or 40 years stuck there in the snow. It's no wonder he began desperately looking for a way out. As Connors notes in the movie, "I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned." Of course, every time Phil tried to kill himself, he nonetheless woke up again in the Cherry Inn Motel at 6:00 A.M. on the morning of February 2, listening to "I Got You Babe" on the clock radio. But that's nothing compared to the real-life trauma Bill Murray faced on set while filming "Groundhog Day."

Punxsutawney Phil bit Bill Murray – twice

There's advice to live by in Hollywood that says to never work with animals or children, and that goes double for groundhogs. It turns out that Bill Murray didn't have a great time working with Punxsutawney Phil, who got a bit physical during the scene where Phil Connors lets the groundhog drive a truck.

"One frame after we cut away, he turns and bites Bill really hard on the finger," said director Harold Ramis during the film's audio commentary.

With the groundhog on his lap (and its paws on the wheel), Bill ended up with a nasty bite — not once, but twice. To be bitten twice means [Murray] "stuck around after being bitten once," Ramis told Premiere Magazine. "He's very game."

During an interview with The Morning Call, Murray explained what happened:

"He bit me bad, right on the knuckle. And he bit me again — just about when it was going to heal — in the very same spot. I went to the doc and said, 'Hey, I got bit by a groundhog, should I get a rabies shot?' He said, 'Well, no.' 'You mean I'm not going to get it?' He said, 'Well, no. See, we don't know if groundhogs give rabies.' And I'm like, 'Because you don't know, you can't give me the shot?' He said, 'That's right.' 'And what if I get it, then what?' He said, 'Then we'll know. Then we'll know, then, won't we?'"

Even with protective gloves on, Murray ended up with a nasty bite on his finger. And to top it all off, it looks as though groundhog in question wasn't even a tame one. Murray continued:

"He was a very, very cranky actor, and difficult to work with. They said, 'We got a groundhog handler.' I think it's some guy who owns groundhogs. It turns out it's a guy who has a couple of puppies and is good with animals, and he just went out and trapped this groundhog in Illinois a few weeks before."

"It's not like we bred groundhogs 10 years ago in the hopes that they'll get into movies one day," said producer Trevor Albert.

He told Andie MacDowell to slap him for real

If being bitten by a groundhog wasn't punishing enough, Murray then asked co-star Andie MacDowell to slap him. But there was a good reason for it. During a particularly hilarious montage, we see Phil strike out with Rita (Andie MacDowell) after trying many, many times to seduce her. And the iconic comedy actor wanted it to look real.

"He asked me to really slap him," MacDowell told The Wrap. "It's hard to hit someone that many times!"

The result is a montage of slaps that leaves Murray's character dejected and well... looking absolutely terrible. It's a poignant and hilarious moment, and a real turning point for Phil. It makes it even more heart-breaking to know Murray was getting slapped for real. McDowell said:

"Bill is so funny. He's a comic genius. Listening and reacting to Bill — because Bill is not the same in every take — so listening and react. His nature is to improv and make it his own every take. It was mostly fresh. I had to really be in the scene and just listen to him."

But even with the admiration of his co-star, it sounds as though Murray had a horrible time on the set of "Groundhog Day." And with the heavy snow it was about to get even worse.

Harold Ramis got him pelted with snowballs

It's no secret that Bill Murray and Harold Ramis didn't get on during the filming of "Groundhog Day" – in fact, it completely devastated their friendship. But while Murray was difficult on set, it looks as though Ramis found creative ways to get his own back.

One scene called for Phil Connors to end up in an impromptu snowball fight with some local kids. But while it all looks nice and friendly on screen, on set it was another matter entirely. During the film's DVD and Bluray commentary, Ramis admitted that he told the children to aim for Murray's head... and to throw those snowballs as hard as they could. "That kid almost took his head off," said Ramis. "Bill threw really hard back at him."

But a face full of snowballs wasn't the only frosty reception Murray got on set. "Groundhog Day" was shot almost entirely in Woodstock during frigid, bitterly cold conditions. Murray himself was unimpressed with the weather:

"If you're outside in the cold for 12 hours a day, you have very much the experience of homeless people. Because your face gets raw and red. And you snap at people. And you get afraid of people. You really want to lie down on a heating grate."

Filming lasted several months from March 1992 until June... with temperatures staying around 20°F until the end of May. So, when the radio DJ says it's "cold out there", it really, really was. Every single day. Murray recalled:

"It's very depressing to watch the Chicago channel and they say, 'It's going to be 40.' It never made it over 20 where we were. It wasn't the coldest winter. It wasn't the most snow. But it never stopped. It went all the way till end of May practically. It snowed in May."

So the next time you watch "Groundhog Day," just know that Bill Murray endured many hellish days so you could enjoy a comedy classic all these years later.