Just weeks before the opening of the new Broadway musical Groundhog Dog, Vulture has a very sweet profile of Danny Rubin, the original Groundhog Day screenwriter who is bringing this new stage version to life, too. It’s a story that could be tinged with bitterness; Groundhog Day is basically Rubin’s one claim to fame, and he has struggled to work within the Hollywood system after its success. Instead, Rubin comes across as affable, eccentric, and content with his rather odd career path.
Australian comedian Tim Minchin, who wrote the music and lyrics to Groundhog Day: The Musical, describes Rubin as “an incredibly gentle, sensitive guy, too good for the world he ended up in, too pure in his desire to write interesting things for Hollywood.” Indeed, Vulture’s profile is full of stories about Rubin refusing to play nice with the Hollywood execs who courted him after Groundhog Day’s success:
“[The pitch] would be like, Goldie Hawn has a dysfunctional family, none of them get along, so they go camping and in the end they all learn to love each other,” Rubin recalls. “Typically I would say, ‘Okay, I am going to tell you your movie.’ ” He’d lay out a perfectly respectable studio picture, with a three-act structure and a conventional conclusion. “And then I’d say, ‘Under no circumstances am I going to write that movie.’” He sighs. “It took me years to understand that’s why the business started disappearing.”
Instead of playing the Hollywood game, Rubin lived in Santa Fe with his family and continued to write what he wanted to write, selling scripts but never seeing them produced. And as Groundhog Day became a bigger and bigger cultural phenomenon over the years, Rubin embraced his one claim to fame. The article explains that every February 2, “Someone—he never found out who—for years left him little presents, balloons or candy or a toy groundhog, on his porch in Santa Fe. ‘It’s like my birthday,’ [Rubin] says.”
The article also digs into the mechanics of what it was like to write Groundhog Day alongside Harold Ramis and Bill Murray as well as Rubin’s partnership on the musical with Minchin and director Matthew Warchus. And throughout it celebrates Rubin’s optimistic philosophy about being tied to a movie about being tied to a specific time and place: “Rubin himself will concede only the slightest negativity. ‘I was always thinking, I’m not a one-hit wonder, I’m not a one-hit wonder!’ he says. Then he laughs. ‘But even if I am—okay, that’s more than most people get.’”