Prolific character actor Stephen Tobolowsky shared his memories of “Groundhog Day” director Harold Ramis, who died Monday at his Chicago home from complications related to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. He was 69.
During an AMA on Reddit, Tobolowsky credited Ramis with giving him his big break in “Groundhog Day,” the hit 1993 comedy that starred frequent Ramis collaborator Bill Murray. Tobolowsky, who has appeared in more than 200 films and television shows, said Ramis “was one of my heroes” and the director gave him important career advice on the set of “Groundhog Day.”
“Harold Ramis one day took me aside and said ‘Being an actor is impossible. You need four heroes in your life to succeed as an actor.’ What he meant was that you need help from four unlikely sources to succeed. It's too hard to do it on your own. You need help coming from where you don't expect it, like four Gandalfs riding over the hill on his white charger,” the 62-year-old character actor said during the Reddit AMA. “Of course, Harold didn't know it at the time but he was one of my heroes.”
Tobolowsky also knew Ramis beyond the movie set. He also shared a personal memory of the late director, writer and actor, whose credits included “Ghostbusters,” “Animal House,” “Stripes,” and “Caddyshack.”
“We were at a party in the mountains in Malibu, Harold once pull out his guitar and played a new song he had written. It was so beautiful, so filled with joy. It almost felt like that was the real him,” Tobolowsky said. “Besides being a phenomenal actor and a great comedic director, he had something people don't have usually. And that's courage. He was brave. He was brave as an actor, he was brave as a director, and he was brave as a writer. That's the impression I had of him. As a man of enormous courage.”
Tobolowsky said Ramis was one of the people who had a signature influence on his career. He said Ramis filled “Groundhog Day” “with so much joy and so much insight on how to film comedy.” The veteran character actor also said Ramis “always seemed to be on the verge of laughing” when he was behind the camera.
“It was like he always had some joke in the back of his mind that he wasn't telling anybody. No matter how long the shoot day was, no matter what tensions were on the set, he had this kind of twinkle and smirk that you thought he was going to break into laughter at any moment,” Tobolowsky said. “And I think it shows, certainly in his acting work. Every performance has that complete joy.”
The Reddit conversation also delved into Tobolowsky’s prolific career. Redditor LordWaffleDog asked if Tobolowsky has been in so many productions that he’s forgot a movie or television show that he’s been in. Tobolowsky said that did, in fact, happen.
There is one: "Romeo Must Die." I CANNOT have been in that movie. I wrote to IMDB and I said 'This is Stephen Tobolowsky. I don't think I've been in Romeo Must Die.'"
They wrote back and said "Are you really Stephen Tobolowsky?"
I said "Am I really in 'Romeo Must Die'?" It was kind of a stand-off.
I don't think i'm in that movie. It's been on there for years."
Reddit sleuths got to the bottom of the mix-up. It turns out Tobolowsky was right about "Romeo Must Die," but he was referring to the wrong movie. He appeared in "Romeo Is Bleeding," which was the film he didn't remember being in.
"Goddamn it. I watched all of 'Romeo Must Die' to see if I was in it. But now I think that the movie I actually might be in [and not remember myself in] is 'Romeo Is Bleeding,'" Tobolowsky said. He said part of the problem involves not knowing a film's title until after the movie is wrapped up.
"A lot of times when you shoot a movie, like 'The Insider' for example -- that movie did not have a name at the time that I was shooting it. The name comes out later after the movie is done," he said. "So sometimes you make a movie and you don't know the name of what you've been in. So it makes complete sense that I might've shot something and not known whether it was 'Romeo Must Die' or 'Romeo Is Bleeding.' Complete Sense!"