Stephen Tobolowsky is an award-winning character actor who has appeared in more than 200 movies and TV shows. His podcast, The Tobolowsky Files, is absolutely worth your time, and you should totally follow him on Twitter.
He is also a Moviefone columnist. (His first insightful humor column for us was about on-set catering and craft services.) Since it's Feb. 2, we asked Tobolowsky to write about the movie 1993 comedy 'Groundhog Day' and how his landmark role as annoying insurance salesman Ned Ryerson (aka Needlenose Ned, Ned the Head!) has stuck with him through the years.
In particular, he discusses his famous lines: the irksome 'Bing!' and the snickering "Watch that first step -- it's a doozy!"
Before you read Tobolowsky's awesome column below, check out our list of interesting facts about him and watch the following clip that compiles all of his scenes from 'Groundhog Day.'
Happy Groundhog Day!
I am referring to the movie. 'Groundhog Day' has become a comedy classic and a part of the fabric of popular culture. It is one of the few films that has added mythology to a pre-existing holiday.
You can tell the movie's effect with one simple test: If people refer to Groundhog Day in connection with being caught in a web of senselessly recurring events, they're really talking about the movie. If they are talking about six more weeks of winter, they are talking about the holiday in its original incarnation. I would bet the split is greater than 50-50 toward the movie reference these days.
People still recognize me as Ned everywhere and indirectly express their love of the film though various Ned-related interactions with me. Here are some of my favorites.
1. I was working on a film for Disney called 'Don't Look Under the Bed.' We were doing a night shoot in Utah. It was about 10PM when an assistant director told me a couple of kids wanted to meet me. He said they were big fans of 'Groundhog Day.' I said, "Sure, bring em on." Two guys came up to my trailer and said they had something they wanted to show me. They proceeded to do the entire first street scene I did with Bill Murray in the movie. Full out. They had every line learned and every movement copied perfectly. By the end of the scene, they'd drawn a crowd of cast and crew, and with the final "Watch out for that first step -- it's a doozy!" they got wild applause, which they deeply deserved.
2. I was in the Bahamas shooting another movie for Disney, 'My Father the Hero.' A family got on the elevator. The husband did a double take when he saw me and asked what I was doing here. I said, "Working." He said, "You're kidding -- you guys have gone international?" I said, "We go where they tell us to go." He was very impressed. Then he started asking questions about his policy. I got a little lost and apologized. I told him I wasn't sure what he was talking about. He said, "You signed me to a big life insurance policy." I said, "Not me." He was certain. Finally his wife intervened and said, "No honey. This isn't our real insurance man; he was the insurance man in that movie." He stared at me for a long time and said, "You're an actor?" I said, "Yes." "But you played an insurance man in a movie?" Again I said, "Yes." He was still unsure. "And you said, 'Bing!'?" I nodded. He shook his head and said, "And you're sure you didn't sell me a life insurance policy?"
3. I was in Iceland and I got lost in the airport. I ended up in a hallway with lots of stripes painted on the floor and warning signs that were unintelligible to me. I walked on to see if there was a way out. Sirens went off. Lights started flashing. One of the three people in Iceland with a military uniform came running out of nowhere with two tough looking tattooed women behind him. He had his gun drawn. I froze as he pointed the weapon at me. I raised my hands ready to be hauled off to an Icelandic jail somewhere. The soldier looked at me sideways and started to smile, then giggle, then he called out to his two assistants, "Hey! It's OK! It's just Ned!" After which he came up to me and shook my hand.
Have a happy Groundhog Day, and remember it's all right if the same thing occasionally happens to you over and over again, like getting kissed by a stranger, receiving money in the mail -- or seeing the movie 'Groundhog Day,' of course.
For more Stephen Tobolowsky, check out his other columns and follow him on Twitter. For more 'Groundhog Day' coverage, enjoy our post about Bill Murray and the rest of the cast.