After four months of shooting on location—and handing off Live Read duties to guest directors—Jason Reitman was back last Thursday night to his signature series at Film Independent at LACMA with Groundhog Day, an endearing tribute to the recently passed Harold Ramis. Reitman introduced the 1993 dark comedy by calling Ramis “one of the funniest people in cinema history.” Groundhog Day, Reitman told the audience, is our generation’s Frank Capra movie.
After the heartfelt opening, Jason Bateman, Mae Whitman, Stephen Tobolowsky, Jeffrey Ross and Elizabeth Reaser joined Reitman onstage to kick off the reading.
The night was special not only due to the significance of the film and Ramis’ legacy, but because Reitman chose an earlier version of the script, one that included noticeable differences from the film’s theatrical release. In this version, as Phil Connors (Bateman, expertly channeling Bill Murray’s classic deadpan delivery) begins to enjoy the perks of not having to worry about the consequences of his actions, Phil goes all out and robs a bank at gun point, even introducing himself to the tellers he assaults. (The ultimate script has Phil discretely stealing money from bank guards.) Devout Groundhog Day fans in the audience noticed that in this version, when Rita (Elizabeth Reaser in the charming role originated by Andie McDowell) and Phil start hanging out, her drink of choice is “a tequila with lime, gold if you got it.” (In the film, she ordered a vermouth on the rocks with a twist.
Tobolowsky elicited the loudest cheers from the audience at the Bing Theater. He was, after all, the original Ned Ryerson and he brought the same grating voice to the annoying character (BING!) Phil runs into every morning on his way to Gobbler’s Knob. Whitman and Ross were most hilarious as the radio anchors who wake up Phil every morning to the tune of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got you Babe” and loudly declare “It’s Groundhog Day!”
Diana Buendia / Marketing Assistant