This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, story by Danny Rubin. The movie received the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.
You may download a copy of the script here.
Today we discuss the script’s structure. How would you break down the story’s plot? What do you think are the major Plotline points? How did the story sustain its incredible narrative drive?
Our schedule for discussion:
Monday, January 28: General comments
Tuesday, January 29: Structure
Wednesday, January 30: Characters
Thursday, January 31: Themes
Friday, February 1: Dialogue
Here is an excerpt from a Big Think interview with Danny Rubin:
Question: Did you always conceive of it as a comedy?
Danny Rubin: Yeah, well I thought of the funny things first. The very first thing I thought of was the date scene, being able to use your superior knowledge to pick up women. As soon as I thought of that I knew I had a movie. That just seemed to me so extraordinarily interest and fun and funny. So, I guess I was approaching it in a comedic way, but it wasn’t a genre comedy. I was thinking of it more as just a whimsical entertainment.
Question: Did it have to be Groundhog Day, or could it have been another holiday?
Danny Rubin: This is one of those things that just kind of fell together. When I got the idea of a man repeating the same day over and over again, it was January 30th or 31st and so the first thing I thought of is, I’ve got to think of which day he repeats. Which day is it? And so, I just opened up the calendar and the first holiday day I came to was two days later, Groundhog Day and I was thinking about that saying, “Well, this is perfect. It’s a completely unexploited holiday. We can play it on TV every year like the Charlie Brown specials.” But, other things started to make sense immediately too, like I wanted him to be a character who went somewhere and was in unfamiliar territory. If he was on his home turf with his family and friends, it would be a completely different story. And, by making it Groundhog Day, I thought, “Okay, so maybe he’s a weather man and he comes from Pittsburgh and he drove to Punxutawney for the ceremony and the groundhog’s name is Phil, so I named him Phil and a bunch of things just started falling together in that way.
Remember: Reading scripts is one of the most important single things you can do to enhance your understanding of the craft of screenwriting. So download Groundhog Day, read it, and join in the conversation.
For Part 1, a general discussion of the script, go here.
For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.
NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.