Bill Murray improvised the "Cinderella story" sequence from two lines of stage direction. Director Harold Ramis simply asked Murray to imagine himself announcing his own fantasy sports moment. Murray simply asked for four rows of 'mums and did the scene.
The famous scene that begins when Ty Webb's golf ball crashes into Carl Spackler's ramshackle house was not in the original script. It was added by director Harold Ramis after realizing that two of his biggest stars, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray (who did not get along due to a feud dating back to their days on Saturday Night Live (1975)), did not have a scene together. The three met for lunch and wrote the scene together. Although it has nothing to do with the plot, it is widely regarded as the funniest scene in the movie. This is the only time that Chase and Murray have appeared in the same scene together.
Cindy Morgan (Lacy Underall) has said that the oil massage scene with Chevy Chase was also completely improvised. When Lacy exclaims "You're crazy!" that was Morgan's genuine reaction to Chase dousing her with oil.
The movie was inspired by writer and co-star Brian Doyle-Murray's memories working as a caddy at a golf club. His brother Bill Murray and director Harold Ramis also worked as caddies when they were teenagers.
After filming wrapped each day, most of the cast and crew spent the nights partying, which eventually took its toll before the end of filming as cast and crew began to show up late for morning calls, holding up filming for hours at a time.
As it was his first directing job and he wanted to make sure the production was successful, Harold Ramis avoided fraternizing with the cast and crew's late night parties to focus on the next day's shoot. However when filming wrapped, Ramis had gone to the wrap party and partied so heavily and early into the party, that he had to be carried back to his hotel room.
In the scene where the Bishop (played by veteran actor Henry Wilcoxon) is having his best round of golf ever during a thunderstorm, he misses an easy putt, looks skyward and yells "rat farts!", and is immediately struck down by a bolt of lightning. The background music in this scene was from Cecil B. DeMille's classic The Ten Commandments (1956), in which Wilcoxon played the part of Pentaur.
A big hill was built from scratch for the climactic 18th hole scene because the country club did not want their course blown up. They used too many explosives, which completely destroyed the hill and caused planes flying by to report the explosion as if a plane had crashed there.
The rowdy, improvisational atmosphere around the filming, created by Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield, didn't sit well with all the members of the cast. Ted Knight, widely regarded as a very nice man, got fed up with the constant shenanigans. Initially, Murray's, Chase's, and Dangerfield's roles were to be cameo appearances. But their deft improvising caused their roles to be expanded much to the chagrin of Scott Colomby and some of the other cast members whose roles were reduced as a result.
Harold Ramis wanted to use Pink Floyd to write music for the film, but couldn't get them. After an audition, Kenny Loggins came up with the famous theme song for the film, "I'm All Right" and played it for the producers and got the job. Johnny Mandel, who wrote the film's musical score, was also hired immediately afterward.
Cindy Morgan did not want to appear topless in the movie. While director Harold Ramis was amenable to changing the scene, producer Jon Peters asked to talk to her while Ramis had her on the phone. When the call ended, Peters informed Ramis that Morgan would do the topless scene - because Peters had told her she would never work again in Hollywood if she didn't. Morgan recounted in July 2010 that this incident contributed to her not working again (voluntarily) for a long time afterward.
In the lovemaking scene, Cindy Morgan was so uncomfortable that Harold Ramis ordered a closed set for it. Michael O'Keefe asked all the cast and crew to take off their shirts for the scene to make her feel more comfortable.
Bill Murray filmed all of his scenes, including the famous scene with Chevy Chase, in six days. (Many people expected them to have another confrontation as they had had during Chase's return to Saturday Night Live (1975) years before. They were professional and didn't show any signs of their alleged previous feud.
According to the original script and specials on the making of the movie, the character Maggie is an exchange student from Ireland. This explains her thick accent which goes unexplained in the final movie.
The gopher sequences were written and filmed after most of the movie was shot. Originally, director Harold Ramis wanted to cast a live animal to play the gopher. When that did not work out, the animatronic gopher and its tunnels were built by John Dykstra.
Cindy Morgan was furious at Chevy Chase during their scene in his cabana. Morgan was upset at the fact that Chase was improvising more than she had anticipated because he didn't tell her ahead of time. This made her uncomfortable, which can be seen clearly when she's having the tequila shots with him and the massage where all the oil accidentally spilled out on her back. Harold Ramis had to settle them down and the scenes then went very smoothly.
While filming, there were a lot of planes flying overhead, which interfered with shooting the golf scenes and caused continuity errors in the dialog tracks that would require looping. Bill Murray's younger brother John Murray was the one on set everyday to alert director Harold Ramis and the shooting crew to stop filming while the planes flew by.
Writer and Producer Douglas Kenney passed away after the film was released. He had accidentally fallen off a cliff while on vacation in Hawaii. He had been in a deep depression after the film was in post-production as much of the original story had been butchered in the editing room and he was adamantly against the final addition of the gopher to the film.
Cindy Morgan took swimming lessons before filming. For the pool scene, Morgan couldn't wear her contact lenses and had to be assisted to go on the diving board, since she was legally blind without them.
Rodney Dangerfield hired singer and golfer Don Cherry to teach him to golf for this film. Don was a regular headliner in Las Vegas and lived near Dangerfield. In addition to his singing, Don was a very well known-professional golfer.
After Cindy Morgan's dispute with producer Jon Peters over her nude scene, Peters invited a photographer to the film's set for photo shoot to appear in Playboy as a promotion for the film. Morgan once again reluctantly agreed to do this. When the photographer arrived, Morgan was too nervous to go through with it, causing Harold Ramis to side with her and cancel the shoot.
The movie's line "Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac...It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!" was voted as the #92 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
The reason the scenes of Mr. Gopher's underground world look better than the rest of the film is because they were filmed on a sound-stage with better quality film stock and cameras rather than on location like the majority of the film.
The scene where Cindy Morgan walks by Scott Colomby and Michael O'Keefe at the swimming pool made Morgan very nervous at first, but when she completed it, she felt relieved. Colomby was supposed to say a line while she walked past him but couldn't so he wet his lips and that's what ended up on screen.
Unsurprisingly, the movie is a huge favorite among golfers and golf fans. Tiger Woods so adores the movie, he played Carl Spackler in an American Express commercial that included references to many of the movie's most famous scenes.
Editor William C. Carruth's original assembled length was about four and a half hours. Bill Murray's ball mashing speech scene lasted a good thirty minutes. Everyone hated the way the film was being put together so they brought in another editor to cut it down to more reasonable length and pace. Orion Pictures and the producers still were not happy with this cut as the shortened version cut out much of the story with the caddies due to both pace and the fact that Bill Murray's, Chevy Chase's and Rodney Dangerfield's parts set the pace for the film's strong comedic elements. The gopher was added at the last minute to ensure that the movie had structure rather than being a series of vignettes.
The scene where Carl and Ty are talking in Carl's "house" was written over lunch by Bill Murray, 'Harold Ramis (I)', Douglas Kenney, and Chevy Chase. It was requested by the studio when they noticed the biggest stars didn't share a scene.
Most of the cast and crew lived in a motel located near the actual country club used in the film which made it easy for everyone to show up to work. But many of them were still late due to the Animal House (1978) atmosphere on set and after hours.
According to Jon Peters and unbeknownst to Harold Ramis, if the shoot hadn't gone as planned or if Ramis' dailies weren't going to live up to what the studio had wanted, they had to pick a director just in case this happened. After the studio loved the dailies, they backed off and production went on as planned.
As Carl Spackler is working on his plastic explosive animals, bags of Milorganite are seen stacked behind him. Milorganite is an actual fertilizer produced by the Milwaukee (WI) Sewerage Commission and consists of the dried microbes left after human waste and other sewage is processed. Contrary to popular belief, it does not contain any actual fecal matter. It is extremely popular among lawn-care professionals (such as golf course greenskeepers) and is produced and sold to this day.
Theatrical and TV trailers shows some extra shots and deleted scenes. These include; Danny almost gets hit by a throwing knife while he is in the kitchen, Danny juggling with golf balls, couple extra shots of gopher including a scene where he dances in one of his tunnels, Ty and Lacey talking while walking across golf course, alternate version of scene where Smails gets hit with golf ball in groins, another scene between Ty and Lacey on some boat (some stills and lobby cards also show a part where Ty talks on the phone while Lacey whispers in his ear in same deleted scene).
The part of Joey was originally written for a boy but transportation captain Hank Scelza suggested his granddaughter, Minerva Scelza for the role because she was a tomboy. Minerva improvised the part where she spins around while trying to carry Al Czervik's bag.
After the filming ended and the rough-cut came in, it was too long, and over two hours had to be cut. This also included key parts of the main plot, and the film made no sense, so more money had to be spent on a mechanical gopher to add extra comic relief and to tie the picture together, and an ending had to be filmed (with an explosion!)
While the movie was filmed in Ft Lauderdale, FL the country club was supposed to be located in Nebraska. In preparation for filming certain scenes they spent many days spraypainting the grass blue around the clubhouse.
Harold Ramis suggested that a live animal play the gopher. Rusty Lemorande had been a professional puppeteer through his college years and convinced the team that only with that kind of control could the quantity of material be filmed. He searched for a suitable creature builder. Companies such as The Henson Company (which became the premier creature builders in the 1980s) did not yet take outside assignments, so Lemorande contacted friends at Walt Disney Imagineering for help. One of the Disney theme park creature designers, Jeff Burke, was willing to create the character but only on a moonlight basis. Lemorande drew a simple sketch, indicating the range of movement the puppet would require and Burke fleshed out the remainder of the creature's design with further input from Lemorande.
The film was originally supposed to be a simple coming-of-age story about kids working at a golf course, with Danny and Tony as the main characters. However, the expansion of other roles led to the film being an ensemble piece.
Bill Murray was working on Saturday Night Live (1975) at the time, and was not intended to have a large role in the movie. However, Murray kept being called down from New York to film more and more scenes as production continued.
The original rough cut that editor William C. Carruth put together was about four and a half hours long. The film was neither very funny nor, obviously, releasable in its present version. Executive in Charge of Production Rusty Lemorande had previously worked for Blake Edwards' agent. In that position, Lemorande became friendly with Edwards' editor, Ralph Winters, a man very experienced in comedy editing. Winters agreed, at Lemorande's request, to work for one week, at night, to reshape the film. The result was so improved that Harold Ramis, Jon Peters and Douglas Kenney agreed a full time editor with experience should be hired. David Bretherton was the man.
With scenes between Danny and Maggie ending up on the cutting room floor, the original thru-line in the narrative dissolved. Rusty Lemorande suggested that the gopher become a complete character. (In the original script and cut, the gopher is referred to, and there is a brief scene where Al tussles with the gopher (with the end of his golf club).
To the end of his life, even though the film became better appreciated over time, Harold Ramis was dissatisfied with his directorial debut. "All I see are compromises and things we could have done better," he told GQ magazine in the late 2000s. His greatest complaint was that no one in the film other than Michael O'Keefe was able to swing their golf clubs properly.