Thursday, June 19, 2014

this is your third

Subtitle: notes on yet another draft of the screenplay for Groundhog Day, part one.

Phil in front of the greenscreen doesn't include any dialogue. The WPBH scene would be scripted and filmed later of course.

An additional scene (the opening scene at the news station in Pittsburgh) was shot after the movie wrapped, written by Harold. (Rubin, 2012, p. 121)

Gil Hawley--Phil's boss--is still in this draft, and he gets some of the lines that later to go Rita and Larry. He gets Larry's bit about San Juan Capistrano and Rita's "cute story" bit, for example. Phil, even though this draft and the previous one were done after Bill Murray got involved, is still described as being in his mid-thirties. And, he's got a little more of an attitude about doing the groundhog coverage again. In response to Hawley telling him he "covered the swallows returning to Capistrano for ten years in a row," Phil tells him, "You should've killed the guy who made you do that." "I wanted to do it," Hawley replies. "Then you should've killed yourself," Phil says, followed with a fate-tempting line that is a little on-the-nose: "I'm not going to get stuck with the groundhog for the rest of my life" (Ramis, 1992, January 30, p. 3).

Though younger than Bill Murray, here, Phil was an experienced reporter once Murray was involved, so Rita, just like in the second revision, is practically a rookie, and she's in her late twenties.

(By the way, when I just jumped over to my browser to get the link to that entry about the second revision, I noticed that I called that on-the-nose line "nice." I guess my opinion thereof has changed slightly since Day 36.)

Given that parenthetical, another nice line would be Phil's answer when Rita asks him if always jokes. "No," he says. "About 70 to 80% of the time. Inside I'm a very shy and sensitive person, so I kid" (p. 5). A little too honest for Phil.

Oddly, Stephanie still shows up in this draft, but only in her scene at the station, a bit of leftover evidence for Phil being a womanizer, I suppose. She mentions their horoscope still, but we don't get her second scene with her causing the time loop.

A contradiction (maybe), and one that bugs me--because there is only one remaining bit of voiceover at the end of the screenplay and it says something that makes no sense to me--the newsvan is described as having a microwave transmitter on the roof on page 8, but 120 pages later, Phil is telling us, "Larry never got through the blizzard, so none of my groundhog reports ever made it on the air." To be fair, the Wikipedia page on microwave transmission does say that the signal can be attenuated by bad (especially wet) weather. The end voiceover bit bothers me generally, though, regardless of the specifics, but I will get to that more when I get to the end of these screenplay notes.

Phil rides in his Lexus--which has a bumper sticker that says, "Weathermen Like It Sunny and Moist"--instead of in the van with Rita and Larry, and he makes a prank call to Rita on his car phone, pretending to be a fan of Phil Connors. I don't remember that call being in the second revision... and I don't feel like checking right now.

Though this draft is after Murray was involved, it seems to be before the scouting trip to Punxsutawney... which, duh, would be in time for Groundhog Day, 3 days after the date on this draft. Anyway, they don't pull Punxsutawney Phil out of that fake tree stump; instead, the groundhog comes out and runs around and with their Day One setup, Larry cannot get a good shot of anything but the groundhog's back. Later--Day Two a bit, but moreso later--Phil will alter the setup to get a better shot. Weirdly, the dialogue about checking with Buster Greene and knowing where to get a better shot survives into the film even though, with the fake stump thing, Larry's angle seems just fine.

(Also, no ice sculpting, and no big dance at the end--it's still the wedding party.)

Just to hit home the womanizing, Phil calls a Sabrina on his car phone on the drive out of Punxsutawney. That call gets cut off by the weather.

Phil meets Nancy earlier--in fact, sitting at the bar the night of Day One, he is "unsuccessfully hustling an attractive local girl (NANCY)" (p. 24). This is interrupted by a BRIDE (who will turn out to be named Doris, because Doris the waitress doesn't exist yet) rushing into the bar, "crying and shouting." Debbie's cold feet visualized.

Potential R-rating alert: Phil says to Ned, "Did I say 'fuck off,' Ned? I can't talk to you right now" (p. 31).

Phil's news report on Day 2 is actually pretty good considering he should be freaking out--his slow freak out and departure on Day 2 in the movie is still (I'm pretty sure) my daughter's favorite part of the movie; Phil starts his report like the previous day, then starts walking to where he knows the groundhog is going to run. There's a bit that might have been cute but probably an impossible scene to film, practically speaking--remember, in his one scene interacting with the actual groundhog, Bill Murray was bitten twice:

The groundhog sticks his head out, looks left, looks right, steps out of the hole, and runs away from the press pool, directly over to Phil, who casually bends down and picks the groundhog up in his arms.

PHIL
(to the groundhog)
Hi, Phil. I'm Phil. So what's the story? Six more weeks of winter or what?

Rita and Larry watch in amazement as Phil pretends to have a conversation with the groundhog. The spectators laugh appreciatively.

Buster Greene, the Groundhog club official, walks over to Phil and takes the groundhog from him. (p. 35)

I've had a little confusion over the scene in which Phil trashes his room. I thought it had been scripted but not filmed because the pencil breaking concept was a) simpler and b) cheaper. But, apparently it was filmed. But then, there was this bit from Stephen Tobolowsky in the Seattle Times, 2 February 2013:

[Phil] shaves his head into a mohawk, takes spray paint and paints graffiti all over the inside of his room, then he takes a chain saw and starts sawing the room in half." It was an expensive scene, and Ramis, after consideration, quickly cut it. He replaced it with a much quieter, simpler moment: [Connors], going to bed terrified, breaks a pencil in half and puts it on his radio. When he said, the audience gasped at that moment, "We expect a crazy Bill Murray movie... and [Ramis] replaced it with visual poetry.

Tobolowsky elaborates in Slate, 25 February 2014:

If you know anything about filmmaking, you know how difficult and expensive that scene was to shoot. It took three days. Everything that was destroyed had to be rebuilt. Paint had to be cleaned off the walls. The set had to be restored for different camera shots. Bill's mohawk toupee cost thousands to make. Not to mention it was near the beginning of shooting, when everything a director does is scrutinized by the studios. Harold shot the scene, looked at it, and threw it away.

He replaced it with simplicity itself. Bill is about to go to sleep. He breaks a pencil and puts the two pieces on his nightstand. Cut to: Sonny and Cher on the radio. Bill wakes up. The pencil is whole.

When I saw this in a theater filled with real people, the audience gasped. Harold understood the power of poetry and had the courage to tell the story his way.

Turns out, all of that isn't quite the reality of the situation either. This draft includes both the pencil-breaking scene and the room-trashing scene. One did not replace the other as such. One just worked better.

I will end today's entry with something from one of Phil's Groundhog Day reports--these evolve nicely through this draft:

...So according to Mr. Groundhog I guess we can expect six more weeks of winter. It's not very scientific, but it sure is fun. (p. 38)

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to just figure out how to travel back in time to 1992 to be there for these drafts and the filming so I can know for sure how it all went down.

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