Countdown to Groundhog Day

In an early screenplay Phil Connors manages to leave Punxsutawney

Did you know that in the original screenplay of “Groundhog Day”, after many years of repeating the same day over and over, Phil Connors steals an airplane and actually manages to leave Punxsutawney, flying to his mother’s house in Cleveland? The scene, found in Danny Rubin’s excellent How to Write Groundhog Day, goes as such:


DISSOLVE TO: POV SMALL AIRPLANE Surreal atmosphere of cloud wisps, snowflakes, pitching and rolling, all illuminated only by small colored lights. It is night. The hum and pitch of a small airplane is heard.

PHIL (V.O.) Unless you were me, unless you had lived an eternity, you couldn’t possibly understand my feelings. I was beyond frustration, beyond hope, beyond isolation. The word “loneliness” doesn’t begin to describe how alone I was. The clouds break apart, and we begin to see the lights from a city. We realize now that Phil is in an airplane.

PHIL (V.O.) Still, I could surprise myself with undying human resourcefulness. I lived in a world where time was cheap, where it was no more bother to steal a plane than it was to make a cup of coffee.

EXT. RESIDENTIAL CLEVELAND STREET –NIGHT The street is empty. It must be very late. The small plane descends and lands in the middle of this street.

PHIL (V.O.) Tedious logistics restricted my choices, but not my resolve. After all, where does a poor boy go when he’s hurt and lonely beyond all comprehension?

INT. APARTMENT HALLWAY –NIGHT Phil stands facing a closed door. It opens. A little old LADY in a bathrobe answers.

MRS. CONNORS Philip!

PHIL Hi, Ma.

THEY hug.

MRS. CONNORS Philip! What time is it? What’re you doing here? They enter the APARTMENT

PHIL Sorry about the hour.

MRS. CONNORS You look freezing. Take off your shoes.

PHIL I’m fine.

MRS. CONNORS Put your feet up on the table. It’s warmer up there.

PHIL I’m fine, really.

MRS. CONNORS You’re gong to make yourself sick.

PHIL Ma!

MRS. CONNORS Go on.

Phil pulls off his shoes quickly, like a petulant child.

MRS. CONNORS Doesn’t that feel better?

PHIL Much.

MRS. CONNORS What’re you doing here at this crazy hour? I thought you were starting a new job today.

PHIL I did …

MRS. CONNORS What’s wrong?

PHIL Nothing. Really. I just wanted to see you.

MRS. CONNORS What kind of job is a weatherman, anyway? People want to know the weather, why can’t they look out the window?

PHIL Ma …

MRS. CONNORS You are wasting your talents.

PHIL Ma …

MRS. CONNORS You could be anything you want to be. I always told you that.

PHIL Ma, we’ve been over this a hundred times.

MRS. CONNORS Maybe you need a hundred and one to get it through that thick head of yours. You know your problem …

PHIL Ma, I didn’t come here to …

MRS. CONNORS Your problem is all you think about is yourself.

PHIL What?

MRS. CONNORS It’s true.

PHIL How can you say that? Ma, I just flew four hundred miles in this blizzard thing …

MRS. CONNORS … Because YOU were lonely. When’s the last time you visited me because I was lonely?

PHIL Ma … you don’t understand. I’m not like everybody else.

MRS. CONNORS Yeah, well, who is? Could I get you some soup?

PHIL No, thanks.

SHE proceeds to open a can of soup.

PHIL (V.O.) Every visit to my mother was an exercise in aggravation. That hadn’t changed in three hundred years.

MRS. CONNORS I’ll put the shoes on this radiator by the door. That way you won’t forget them on your way out.


As you can see the visit doesn’t actually provide Phil with the comfort he’s looking for. His mother points out the problem that he still hasn’t figured out himself: “Your problem is all you think about is yourself.” Also another thing to note is that in this screenplay Phil is a much younger man. He isn’t the middle aged weatherman that Bill Murray ultimately portrays, but he’s much younger. In fact this day, which has lasted hundreds of years by this point, was his first on the job. Ultimately it was decided that Phil shouldn’t be able to escape the town and this scene was removed.

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In an early screenplay Phil Connors manages to leave Punxsutawney – Countdown to Groundhog Day

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