Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Filming of "Groundhog Day" Movie-- Part 3: Bringing It Home

Why was the movie filmed in Woodstock, Illinois,  instead of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania?  Hey, those folks are still mad about it (and I don't blame them).  If I lived there, I probably never would have watched the movie.

Harold Ramis and his scouting team went all over the Midwest looking for possible locations.  Many involved with the movie were from the Chicago area and wanted to keep it close to home, but they went as far away as Iowa and were particularly interested in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.  At this time they were thinking of a main street town, one where the business district is located along one street like Punxsutawney.

A stop in Baraboo, Wisconsin, on their way back impressed them with the town square.  With Phil Connor being stuck on one day, the idea of an enclosed area like a square fit the general motif.  Harold Ramis wanted to know if there was a town closer to Chicago with a square.  Location manager, Bob Hudgins, knew of a place called Woodstock and they stopped on the way back.  He had previously been involved with shooting scenes for the "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" movie there.

They arrived late in the day in December, just as Woodstock Opera House Director John Scharres was closing.  He opened again for them.  "I gave them the hard sell," Scharres remembers.  "You really don't have an idea of what Woodstock is until you see it from a higher altitude."  And then they went up to the top of the tower.  On the way down, Ramis told Hudgins to make it happen.  It did.

The Opera House ended up in the film as the Pennsylvanian Hotel, where the non-talent Rita and Larry stayed.  Phil Connor was not impressed with it.  The outside is seen many times in the film.  One scene of Rita checking in was cut.

A week was spent turning the building next door (now Stage East) into the fudge shop, shown in the film where Rita hates chocolate.

More to Come.  --RoadDog

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