How Bill Murray’s First Divorce Impacted His Work on ‘Groundhog Day’

One of the classic movies from the ’90s is Groundhog Day. But despite its success, the movie never received a sequel. The film stars Bill Murray as the lead. And during the making of the film, Murray was going through a rough patch in his personal life.

Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell in a scene from the film 'Groundhog Day'
Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell in a scene from the film Groundhog Day | Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

The premise of ‘Groundhog Day’

Groundhog Day is a 1993 film about a weatherman named Phil Connors. Phil has to cover the Groundhog Day celebration in a small town. He does not hide his hatred for his assignment and treats those around him poorly. Each morning, he wakes up to find that it is still Groundhog Day.

The movie contains edgy humor as Phil tries to escape the time loop via death. Over time, he begins to be a more caring person, and the cycle eventually ends. The movie also stars Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliott.

Bill Murray’s divorce affected his behavior on the ‘Groundhog Day’ set

While Murray is not currently married, he has been before. In 1981, he got married to Margaret Kelly. The couple had two sons but divorced after more than a decade together. Murray tied the knot for a second time with Jennifer Butler in 1997. The couple had four sons together. But Murray and Butler broke things off in 2008.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Murray’s first marriage was dissolving during the filming of Groundhog Day. And apparently that made Murray a bit “cranky” on set. “I learned to step back,” director Harold Ramis said. “You don’t step in front of a train. You just let it go by.”

Ramis also shared that Murray was difficult to communicate with during that time. “Calls would go unreturned,” he said. “Production assistants couldn’t find him.”

“At times, Bill was just really irrationally mean and unavailable; he was constantly late on set,” Ramis told The New Yorker. “What I’d want to say to him is just what we tell our children: ‘You don’t have to throw tantrums to get what you want. Just say what you want.’”


Bill Murray Hated the Movie ‘Groundhog Day’ — Here’s Why

Bill Murray originally did not like ‘Groundhog Day’

Groundhog Day was a major success and earned more than $70 million domestically at the box office. It also received positive critical reviews.

But despite its popularity, Murray was not a big fan of the movie. Murray had a different vision for the film. “Bill wanted it to be more philosophical, and Harold kept reminding him it was a comedy,” writer Danny Rubin told The New Yorker.

Ultimately, though, it seems Murray grew to love the story. In 2017, he attended the Broadway adaptation of Groundhog Day and came away from it misty-eyed.

“The idea that we just have to try again. We just have to try again,” Murray said after the show, according to Rolling Stone. “It’s such a beautiful, powerful idea.