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Danny Rubin is a screenwriter whose credits include "Hear No Evil," "S.F.W.," and the cult classic "Groundhog Day," for which he received the British Academy Award for Best Screenplay and[…]

The screenwriter had 50 meetings with different producers when he was trying to sell his script. The most common reaction: “I loved ‘Groundhog Day.’ Of course, we can’t make it.”

Question: How long did it take to write the script for rnGroundhog Day?

Danny Rubin: As I recall, it took me rnabout seven weeks to brainstorm and figure out what the rules were and rnwhat I wanted the main characters to be in the story and the flow of thern story and how I wanted it all to come out and after I’d figured that rnout, then I just sat down and wrote it and that took me about three or rnfour days.

Question: What were the reactions to the rnscript?

Danny Rubin: I had written one screenplay rnalready and had sold it and that was the sum total of my Hollywood rnexperience up until then.  I had gone to a lot of meetings and my agent rnhad pretty much said, “You really need to write something else and get rnit out there quickly before people tire of you,” and I had had this rnthought and I decided, you know what, I could write that one quickly.  rnThat’s a really good one.  It’s a little movie.  I can write it quickly rnand get it out there and use it as a writing sample just to show people rnwhen I walk in the room, here’s my latest script.

So, that was rnthe purpose of it and then after it went out, I got a ton of meetings rnoff of it because people liked the story and they liked the writing and Irn counted 50 different meetings and that’s what really got my feet wet inrn Hollywood.  I got to meet a lot of these producers.  I got a couple of rnjobs off of it.  Nobody wanted to make Groundhog Day.  In fact, kind of rnstrangely, I was new to L.A. and I was going to these meetings and rnpeople would say, “Danny, glad to meet you.  I loved Groundhog Day.  Of rncourse, we can’t make it,” and I would say, “Of course.”  And nobody everrn explained to me why and I didn’t ask why not because I was trying to rnjust go along, get along to accept the industry on its own terms and rnthey’d say, “Well, but what else have you got?” or, “We’ve got this listrn of ideas.  See if you like any of those,” and then I got a couple of rnjobs and I was on my way and it wasn’t until my agent quit to become a rnschool teacher, that I found myself without an agent, but I had this rnspec script that I was sending around to try and get a new agent and rnthat’s how that script wound up at CAA with Richard Lovett.

He rncalled me and said, “I love Groundhog Day.  Of course we can’t representrn you.”  And I said, “Of course,” and he said, “But I have a client who Irn think might like this.  Can I give it to him?” and he sent it to Haroldrn Ramis and that’s how the movie got set up.

rnHow did the film change from the original script?

Danny rnRubin: One thing that occurred to me is I wanted to do something funrn with the movie and the first thing I thought was, “You know what?  I rndon’t want to have to deal with how he got into this situation.  I don’trn want to deal with some kind of supernatural reason that he was stuck inrn the same day because then the movie becomes about the plot of his rngetting out from under it instead of about that existential quality of rnhow does he just deal with it.”

And so, I thought, “Well, I know rnhow I can avoid that.  I’ll start in the middle.  The first things that rnhappens is you hear the clock radio come on with the “I Got You Babe” rnand then the DJs come on doing their little shtick and Phil is able to rnsort of mouth the words to what they're saying when he wakes up before rnhe even knows what they're saying and the audience is thinking, “Huh, rnthat’s strange.  How does he know what's playing on the radio?”  And rnthen he goes downstairs and he knows what Mr. Lancaster is going to say rnbefore she says it, so he’s anticipating and the audience is thinking, rn“Wow, this is weird.  How does this guy know what’s going to happen rnbefore it happens?” 

Then he goes outside and this geeky goes, rn“Phil?” and Phil goes up to him and takes off his glove and he slugs himrn and we have no idea why that happened.  And so, I set it up by rnbeginning in the middle with this mystery.  How does this guy have this rnsupernatural ability and we go through meeting, you know, going through rnthe Groundhog report and setting up the day and then he repeats the day rnand that’s when we know how the movie is set up and we understand how hern knows what he knows.

That was the way I set it up and from the rnvery beginning, they were - the studio was a little antsy about that.  rnHarold Ramis, the director, said that he liked that.  He tried to keep rnit, but eventually there was just this weight of convention where they rnreally wanted to just establish who he is, set it up and then have this rnthing happen when he starts repeating the day.  And so, I’d say that wasrn the biggest thing that changed, was when the movie opened, the rnbeginning of it.

And also, as part of having the movie start in rnthe middle, I had a voice-over.  Phil had a voice-over sort of leading rnthe audience along so they wouldn’t feel too disrupted or too rndisoriented and kind of helping them bond with Phil and as soon as we rnstraightened out the timeline to where it began a little sooner, that rnbecame unnecessary.  So, on the face of it, the very two biggest changesrn were that it began soon, before the repetition and that there’s no rnvoice-over.

Recorded on May 12, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman