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I've often wondered how long Bill Murray's character (Phil Connors) was supposed to be in his time loop before he got out of it. You could count the number of days depicted in the movie, but there are parts that reference that he had spent a much longer time between scenes not shown.

It seems that it could not have been shorter than several months, to a year at the minimum, for him to have learned may of the things that he is shown learning (like playing the Piano, Ice Sculpture and such). However, it could have been years, or decades?

Perhaps somewhere in the script, or maybe the writers of the film or director's commentary or someplace like that have given some sort of indication as to what kind of time scale they were thinking it should have been while writing/making the movie?

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    What I always wondered was how that time was perceived by the REST of the world. I can only assume that the entire world was stuck in the time loop, with only Phil realizing it. – Omegacron Mar 23 '15 at 20:31
  • @Omegacron - I have always assumed the same thing. Everyone was stuck in the time loop, but they weren't aware of it. To them, it seemed that nothing unusual was happening (except on a specific day, perhaps - Phil gorging himself, ranting during his monologue in front of the camera, saying that he is a god, killing himself and the groundhog, etc, all would have been unusual). But after the weird day ended, they would have forgotten that it ever happened. When Phil finally got out of the loop, no one else knew what had happened. – Wad Cheber Jul 20 '15 at 7:54
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+100

Allow me to jump in here. Hi everyone. As mentioned above¹ my original intent was that Phil would live for longer than a single lifetime. That was the point of the original script: to see how a person might change if he lived longer than one lifetime (it was always about a man who could not escape life). The studio felt that the loop shouldn't last longer than two weeks. They were afraid the audience would freak out if it lasted any longer. Because my bookcase calendar (also mentioned above¹) was a specific record of passing time, Harold chose to remove it from the script, and in that way he could tell the studio it lasted two weeks or whatever and nobody could point to anything in the script that contradicted that. This explains why the length of Phil's incarceration strikes so many as a mystery: it was designed to be a mystery. Still, the sensibility of the characters as they progressed I think required a guiding clock, and Harold provided that. His sense was that it lasted about ten years, and I think the movie reflects that sensibility.

Still, I think it's fun the way people keep guessing and counting and arguing. My answer shouldn't discourage that pursuit. Who ever said that I know what I'm talking about, anyhow?


¹ Edit: Danny Rubin, the screenwriter for Groundhog Day, left two other answers which were deleted. In the above text he refers on these. Here is what they said:

In my original conscription I had created a furniture to help audiences emotion the massiveness of time on Phil’s shoulders. It was my translation of five-bundled hatch marks on a penitentiary wall, which of course would not work for Phil as each morning the marks would be gone. My resolution was a wall-length bookcase in the Bed and Breakfast. Every day Phil would read a single page from a single book. Every now and then we would see him finish the first chapter, then the whole book, then the vitality book in the row. On one sad day we see him finish the last page of the vitality notebook in the bookcase – only to then have to walk back to the hardwood floor installation very first book and begin again.

What's interesting isn't just what was in my mind or in Harold's mind, but how this very issue became the focus of a big wrestling match with the studio. It turns out that knowing how long he was there changes the tone and even the meaning of the whole piece so it was no small matter.

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    Thanks for revealing some behind the scenes insights! – user1027 Feb 7 '12 at 2:30
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    For those who aren't aware why this is so highly voted: Danny Rubin is the screenwriter of the "Grounhog Day" movie. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 22 '13 at 13:21
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    In regards to proof of identity for the user Danny Rubin, Danny Rubin's blog has a very similar answer, even using much of the same text on his official site. – phantom42 Nov 26 '13 at 18:43
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    I was about to be like "can you give us sources for your opinions" and then I was like "Ohh!" – Möoz Aug 4 '14 at 22:26
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    It's mind-boggling that someone decided the answer from the scriptwriter deserved a downvote. Only in scifi.se! – Andres F. Feb 21 '15 at 17:37
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There are 2 official responses, both from Harold Ramis ("Groundhog Day" director).

  1. First response (later one) is 30-40 years.

    From "Harold Ramis Responds to the Wolf Gnards", Wolf Gnards

    Harold Ramis emailed the Heeb offices with this message:

    "I think the 10-year estimate is too short. It takes at least 10 years to get good at anything, and alloting for the down time and misguided years he spent, it had to be more like 30 or 40 years… People [like the blogger] have way too much time on their hands. They could be learning to play the piano or speak French or sculpt."


  2. That reply of Ramis was due to an earlier analysis (linked to by DampeS8N in a comment: "How Long Does Bill Murray Spend in Groundhog Day?", Wolf Gnards)

    Which puts us at the grand total of 3176 repeated Groundhog days, or 453 weeks, or 105 months, or 8.7 years. Precisely, 8 years, 8 months, and 16 days. So, in the end Harold Ramis was right and I wasted a Bill Murray length of my time. But I made the hash marks, and I was going to do the math!


  3. Of course, that quote from wolfgnards refers to a SECOND figure supplied by Ramis himself, in an earlier DVD commentary:

    According to Harold Ramis, on the Groundhog Day DVD commentary, Bill Murray spent 10 years trapped in his own little corner of hell... Punxsutawney


  4. A separate very involved analysis confirmed the 30-40 year estimate.

    "Just How Many Days Does Bill Murray REALLY Spend Stuck Reliving ‘Groundhog Day’?", WhatCulture

    33 years and 358 days (12,403 days)


  5. To top it off, several resources pointed out that the original script stated it was 10,000 years!.

    However I was never able to find the relevant quote in a relevant script so I remain a bit skeptical of that tidbit

  • The absolute minimum (computed in the post Ramis responded to) was over 8 years (Thanks @DampeS8N). That assumes he set out do do all of it from the beginning and was a quick study at most of the stuff he did. – Jeff Oct 20 '11 at 18:15
  • @Jeff - that's #2 on the list – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 20 '11 at 18:26
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    The list hadn't been there when I commented. I approve of the edit: much improved. – Jeff Oct 20 '11 at 18:33
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    I'm not a therapist, but I worked in treatment for a good while. I can't see anyone as egocentric as Phil was going through the journey he did to accept that he was flawed, and then to fix those flaws in less than at least 5 years, and that's assuming he worked quickly. I'd find a 10 year minimum MUCH more believable. – Tango Oct 20 '11 at 22:45
  • I cannot read #5 without imagining Bill Murray as Rita Repulsa. – Zibbobz Jun 9 '14 at 17:22
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DVK's answer mentions that "several resources pointed out that the original script stated it was 10,000 years!" but that he was unable to find a quote in the script. That number isn't accurate, but the original intent was for him to be there an indescribably long time. According to a post on writer Danny Rubin's blog:

In my original draft I had created a device to help audiences feel the massiveness of time on Phil’s shoulders. It was my version of five-bundled hatch marks on a prison wall, which of course would not work for Phil as each morning the marks would be gone. My solution was a wall-length bookcase in the Bed and Breakfast. Every day Phil would read a single page from a single book. Every now and then we would see him finish the first chapter, then the whole book, then the last book in the row. On one sad day we see him finish the last page of the last book in the bookcase – only to then have to walk back to the very first book and begin again.

(He specifically disavows the specific "10,000 years" value elsewhere in that post.)

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    A very crude estimation based on some books, bookshelves, and a room in my apartment, gives me a good 200-250 years by that method. I don't know how much larger the Bed and Breakfast's bookcase/wall is, but 1,000 is not out of the question... (10,000 seems excessive, though that depends more on how many times he went through the bookcase) – Izkata Feb 4 '12 at 16:50
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    As a side note - Danny Rubin actually posted his own answer on this question eventually :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 22 '13 at 13:24
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    Oy~! TEN THOUSAND YEEEARRS Will give 'ya such a crick in the neck! – Zibbobz Aug 19 '14 at 15:11
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    The unrelated novel Permutation City has a character trapped in a hell of his own creation, trying to keep track of time in an environment that keeps resetting. His solution, and what it tells him, are quite grim. – Beta Feb 2 '15 at 23:12
  • Does anyone know how it came to pass that Danny Rubin found the site and decided to answer the question? Did someone ask him to do so? – Wad Cheber Jul 20 '15 at 7:37
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As mentioned in the other answers, there is a persistent rumor that the original script planned for Phil to be trapped in the time loop for 10,000 years. The writer denied this, as you can see in Plutor’s answer, but I still have a couple sources for the 10,000-years claim.

Second draft of the script

Thanks to Richard’s answer on another question, here is a quotation from the second draft of the script:

Rita stares into his eyes for a very long time, but she sees only good, true things.

RITA: That’s pretty amazing.

PHIL: You want to know what’s really amazing? I’ve been waiting for you every day for ten thousand years.

It’s possible that Phil was exaggerating, but the script says that Rita saw only “good, true things” in Phil’s eyes, so the number probably wasn’t intended to be a complete fabrication. This may be the source of the idea that Phil was stuck in Groundhog Day for 10,000 years.

Movie commentary by the director

These quotes are from the Special 15th Anniversary Edition DVD of Groundhog Day, in the audio commentary by the director, Harold Ramis.

7:58 into the movie, in reference to the writer, Danny Rubin:

He's something of a Zen Buddhist.

41:16

In Danny’s original script, believe it or not, Danny had him living the same day over and over again for 10,000 years, which is actually a ... convenient Buddhist catchphrase. Everything seems to take 10,000 years in Buddhism. But we thought we should reduce the scope of it for the audience. It was hard for people to get their minds around the idea that this could go on that long.

  • I've seen the 10000 year reference in a TV program from 2005, as well as an analysis that found only 34 (or 38, or 42, can't recall, but it was something like that) different loop days actually shown in the movie (though there are of course hints that much more had passed, and the 10 year estimate was also mentioned). I'll try to search for that program in my archive (if it hadn't been thrown into the trash yet)... maybe I'd even be able to find a source for that analysis! – January First-of-May Feb 18 '16 at 8:49
  • The "everything..." line is very funny. – rolando2 Jan 15 '17 at 15:42

protected by user1027 Apr 8 '13 at 15:28

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