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Written by Timothy Sexton
As hard as it may be to picture anyone else as the snarky Phil the weatherman in Groundhog Day, Tom Hanks was actually the first choice of director Harold Ramis. Ramis eventually rejected that idea on the grounds that Hanks was too nice to play Phil. Obviously, Ramis was only familiar with Hanks from his films and not from his short-lived TV series Bosom Buddies in which he played a character that definitely has a little bit of Phil Connors in him. Regardless of the short-sightedness of Ramis on the topic of Hanks (as well the potential for Michael Keaton who turned the role down) nobody alive could ever possibly argue that Bill Murray was not positively born to play Phil, effectively tapping into every one of the myriad emotional responses a situation like reliving one single day for the equivalent of centuries would stimulate. Whether being snarky, disgusted, sweet, bitter, romantic, nihilistic or stoically resigned, Murray manages to hit just the right note in every scene, giving what many still consider the most fully developed performed of his career.
For many at the time of its release, Andie MacDowell was still just that pretty young thing whose lines in Greystoke had to be dubbed in by Glenn Close. Despite the fact that nearly every single American actress except Katherine Hepburn had tried their hand at doing a southern accent in a movie (usually to less than impressive results) for some reason directors had been utterly resistant to allowing MadDowell to speak in her natural North Carolina accent. Until Harold Ramis upon casting her as the Murray’s love interest. The performance turned MacDowell’s career around and led to series of big roles in high profile movies in which neither vocal dubbing nor controlling her natural accent were demanded.
Larry the Camera Man
Chris Elliott first achieved recognition through a series of bizarre characters in running gags on Late Night with David Letterman before—much like Tom Hanks—starring in a short-lived sitcom of sheer brilliance, Get a Life. As comic actor known for a big, dark streak of snarkiness himself, casting Elliott alongside Bill Murray ran certain risks. Somehow, the combination managed to pay off big time as both actors plenty of opportunity to exercise their sardonic sense of humor.
The annoyingly gregarious guy on the street that Phil ultimately punches is played by one of the most versatile character actors in Hollywood history. At some point around the turn of the 21st century, Stephen Tobolowsky unofficially inherited the mantle of Hardest Working Man in Show Business from James Brown. Despite working steadily only since the mid-1980s, it took Tobolowsky roughly thirty years to accumulate 250 acting credits on his resume. By way of contrast, Mickey Rooney’s 80-year-long career produced only 330-something credits.
Buster the Groundhog Day Master of Ceremonies
If it’s a Bill Murray movie not directed by Wes Anderson, his older brother Brian Doyle-Murray must be playing a character somewhere. Overshadowed by his younger brother since Bill became a regular on the original Saturday Night Live, Brian is arguably every bit as funny. Interestingly, he became a regular on the second season of Chris Elliott’s sitcom. Brian has also turned in a series of memorably hysterical cameo performances in movies in which the star happens to be a young guy who sorta looks like him and shares half his last name.
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