December 03, 2021
McHenry County


Bill Murray returns to Woodstock Square to film Jeep commercial

‘Groundhog Day’ star and film crew stir excitement on the Square

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It was like 1992 all over again in Woodstock.

Bill Murray, star of the film "Groundhog Day," returned to the Square on Saturday, almost 28 years after the film was shot at locations on and around the Square and elsewhere in McHenry County. This time, Murray was there to film a Jeep commercial.

“Groundhog Day,” which was released in 1993, features Murray as a TV meteorologist who finds himself stuck reliving the same day – Groundhog Day – in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Gregg Hanson, who along with his two sisters owns The Backdrop vintage shop, said for those who love the movie, seeing the commercial being filmed was like a continuation of the story.

“It’s like déjà vu,” Hanson said.

Although he wasn’t in Woodstock for the shooting of the original film, Hanson said when looking at photos he noticed that the commercial setting was almost an “exact re-creation” of the movie, with a little twist.

Because of the commercial, Hanson said, he now has more of a connection to the movie.

Along with Murray, Hanson also saw the man who played the mayor in “Groundhog Day” on Saturday, Brian Doyle-Murray, as well as Stephen Tobolowsky, who played “Needlenose Ned” Ryerson.

A plaque at 100 Cass St. still commemorates “Ned’s Corner,” where Murray’s character, Phil Connors, keeps running into his old high school friend.

Another plaque on Cass Street shows where Connors stepped in a puddle in the movie. It reads “Bill Murray stepped here.”

“It was interesting to see the characters, how they had aged,” Hanson said.

Other staples from the movie could be seen around the Square, including the WPBH 9 Action News van.

A photo taken while the commercial was being filmed shows Murray in front of a red pickup truck that looks much like the vehicle his character drives away in when he steals a groundhog and later drives off a cliff. (The cliff-jump scene actually was filmed at a quarry in Loves Park.)

Murray even was wearing the same long jacket he wore in the movie during filming for the commercial.

Although no one from Jeep was available to confirm the date the commercial would run, it was filmed eight days before the Super Bowl, which falls on Groundhog Day this year.

Patti Zasada, owner of the gift shop Soul Focus at 120 N. Benton St., said she never had seen a Hollywood actor before she saw Murray shooting the commercial Saturday morning.

“To see Bill Murray, that’s pretty cool,” Zasada said. “It was an unexpected surprise.”

Zasada said she first was made aware of the commercial earlier in the week.

“I thought it would be pretty cool for them to shoot a commercial out here,” Zasada said. “I think it’s awesome ... especially since ‘Groundhog Day’ was filmed here, to be broadcasting a commercial on Groundhog Day. I think that was pretty smart of Jeep to decide to put that all together.”

Along with seeing actors, Zasada met some of the film crew as she let them into her store to warm up from the cold, snowy outdoors.

“We had all this snow today, too, during the filming,” Zasada said. “I don’t know that that was something they were hoping for, but they sure got it.”

Zasada said she’ll look out for the commercial when it airs.

“It looks like my store might be in the background,” she said.

A group of people standing around the Square watched as the actors and film crew worked Saturday.

Mickey Mahler, who lives on the Square, said she wanted to check out what was going on, so she went out for the earlier shoot, got a massage, then came back.

“I missed Bill Murray – I guess he was over there earlier – by like 10 minutes,” she said. “It’s cool to see all the stuff going on. ... More people should film stuff here.”

Sharon Lane of McHenry came to the Square to see a play at the Woodstock Opera House, but she also took some time to watch the crews take down the set and put it back up.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “I love Woodstock, I love the Square. Any publicity that Woodstock gets is wonderful, in my opinion.”

Lane used to work for a corporation that shot commercials.

“I think they’re doing this one in record time with their setup,” she said.

Ono Lagattolla said the filming reminded him of the Groundhog Day celebration that takes place in the Square every Feb. 2.

A decommissioned police car from Mount Prospect, his original hometown, was used in “The Blues Brothers,” and now that he lives in Woodstock, he said he gets to experience the buzz around “Groundhog Day.”

“It’s always nice to see your hometown portrayed. ... [It gives you] bragging rights across the country,” Lagattolla said.

In an email to the Northwest Herald, a spokeswoman for Jeep’s parent company, FCA US, said the company does not comment on the details of ongoing video productions – its own or those of outside partners – that may feature any of its vehicles.

She didn’t disclose whether the commercial would air locally or nationally, and whether a new vehicle model or feature will be highlighted in the commercial.