Today marks the 25th anniversary of the release of a cult classic film. Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, first hit theaters on February 12, 1993. It turned the weather geek holiday into something completely different: a metaphor for being a better person and doing the right thing the first time around.
Movie summary (with mild spoilers, but hey, the movie is 25 years old!): Phil Connors is a television weathercaster who traveled to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover their famous groundhog’s prediction. Phil isn’t the nicest person, it’s evident that he has quite the selfish streak: he doesn’t’ care for his viewers, and simply wants to cover the news story and be on his way back to Pittsburgh before a winter storm hits. However, the winter storm hits in a way that Connors didn’t predict; he and his crew end up stuck in the town for the night. Phil awakens the next morning to the same day (February 2nd), and he has to live the same day over and over again. There’s this evolution that occurs, from Phil getting angry and frustrated with the same day over and over again, to Phil attempting to seduce Rita, the producer with whom he is smitten. His initial attempts at wooing Rita fail. Phil realizes he can get away with numerous crimes without consequence, then he gets depressed and attempts suicide in several different ways. Finally, Phil attempts to simply be a better person. Once he has the “perfect” day, being completely selfless, kind, and respectful, particularly to Rita, the cycle is broken.
To weather geeks like me, there are additional underlying themes in the movie that we totally understand, including the incredible honor bestowed upon Punxsutawney Phil, the general public assuming we don’t know how to forecast the weather, and (of course), everyone stopping you in the street asking what tomorrow’s weather is going to be.
Two of my college friends, Tony and Colleen Demark, from near Philadelphia, celebrated this year’s Groundhog Day on Facebook with a photo homage — seen above — to one of the movie’s many, many classic scenes — seen below. The quote in the caption accompanied the post.
By this point in the movie, Phil is clearly in his “let me see what I can get away with” phase. This image was so spot on, I showed it to a couple of fellow Geek Family writers and several of the movie’s fans could pick out the scene right away. We had so many questions about how they made it happen. As as you know, when GeekMom and GeekDad have questions, we won’t sleep until they’re answered! I asked Tony (guzzling from the carafe in the photo) and Colleen (staring incredulously) about their inspiration for replicating this scene, as well as the logistics of making it happen:
What inspired you to stage this particular scene from Groundhog Day?
A number of years ago I had a run-in with a groundhog. This one in particular had been digging holes under our shed, steadfast in its refusal to become ensnared in the Have-A-Heart trap. In a situation that, upon reflection, is properly described by “What were you thinking?” I chased it down and caught it by hand. Lessons learned that day include the fact that groundhogs are really nasty and aggressive, leather gloves don’t offer great protection from sharp teeth, and rabies shots (all eight of them) are administered in the buttocks. As a reminder of this (mis-)adventure I have a small plush groundhog toy on my desk.
On Groundhog Day 2017, I was leaving my home office to head out and caught a glimpse of the doll peeking out from around the monitor. What popped in my mind was “Don’t drive angry!”, a quote from the chase scene in “Groundhog Day” where Phil Connors absconds with the prognosticating rodent. When I got in the car I snapped a quick selfie recreating that moment with the plush and posted it to my social media. It got a good response and started me thinking about recreating other scenes.
It didn’t take much time for me to settle on the iconic cafe scene as the next target.
It’s clear this photo needed a lot of props. In particular you did a great job with the coffee carafe and the clothes you’re wearing. Did you happen to have everything on hand?
Even though we had planned on recreating the scene for almost a year, life got in the way and we didn’t take any action until two weeks prior. For clothing we raided our closet to get outfits that were “close enough” which is why my shirt has little squares instead of pin-stripes and Colleen’s sweater is white instead of salmon. Our goal was an homage as opposed to 100% reproduction.
That being said we knew there was one item that had to be spot on: the carafe. Just a basic coffee pot was not going to be enough, it had to be that traditional diner gold urn. With a little searching on eBay we were able to identify the brand and style that was used in the movie: a vintage West Bend Thermo Serv. Luckily the demand for 1970s cafe-ware isn’t that great so it was relatively inexpensive to acquire.
I’m sure everyone wants to know (a) did you bake everything on the table? and (b) what became of all of it after the photo came out perfectly?
Beyond the carafe and Colleen’s expression, we knew the key to this reproduction was going to the table setting.
The day of the shoot I sat down with two stills from the movie and sketched the layout. We wanted it to be as close as possible to the scene. With plan in hand we were able to determine what we had, what we could make, and what had to be bought.
The simplest of the items was the breakfast. Not to spoil movie magic but our “breakfast” scene actually took place the evening of Thursday, February 1. We knew we couldn’t dedicate the time on a weekday morning to get everything ready so instead settled on “silly dinner”: pancakes, eggs, bacon, and sausage.
For the rest, some items we had on hand (ice cream, pudding, cereal, cookies, strawberry quik as a stand-in for a milkshake), some had to be purchased (cake slices, donuts, cinnamon buns), and others had to be made (mini-custard pie next to the chocolate cake, strawberry shortcakes). It ended up being a pretty good balance of “had”, “make”, and “buy”.
The majority of the sweets were packed up after the shoot and taken to Colleen’s work the next day.
What’s your favorite scene from Groundhog Day? If you want to take a cue from the Demarks and recreate your favorite scene, be sure to share it with us!