A big hill was built from scratch for the climactic 18th-hole scene, because the country club did not want its course blown up. The pyrotechnic people 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.
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 rowdy, improvisational atmosphere during the shoot 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.
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.
As it was his first directing job and he wanted to make sure the production was successful, Harold Ramis avoided attending the cast and crew's late-night parties to focus on the next day's shoot. However, when filming wrapped, Ramis went to the wrap party and partied so heavily and early into the party that he had to be carried back to his hotel room.
Cindy Morgan was furious at Chevy Chase during their scene in his cabana due to the fact that he was improvising more than she had anticipated and didn't tell her ahead of time. This made her uncomfortable, which can be seen clearly in the scenes where 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.
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 several hours at a time.
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.
Cindy Morgan did not want to appear topless in the movie. In an interview with TV Store Online she claims that while 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 he told her she would never work again in Hollywood if she didn't.
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.
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.
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.
After Cindy Morgan's dispute with Jon Peters over her nude scene, he invited a photographer to the film's set for a photo spread that was to appear in "Playboy", as a promotion for the film. Morgan once again reluctantly agreed to do this. However, when the photographer arrived she was too nervous to go through with it. Harold Ramis sided with her and canceled the shoot.
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.
Writer / Producer Douglas Kenney died after the film was released. He had 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.
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 gopher sequences were written and filmed after most of the movie was shot. Originally, 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.
Editor William C. Carruth's original assembled length was about 4-1/2 hours. Bill Murray's ball-mashing speech scene lasted about 30 minutes. Everyone hated the way the film was being put together, so they brought in another editor to cut it down to a 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.
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 his or her golf clubs properly.
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 that he played Carl Spackler in an American Express commercial that included references to many of the movie's most famous scenes.
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 the kind of control you had with a puppet 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.
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.
There were a lot of planes flying overhead during filming, which interfered with the golf scenes and caused continuity errors in the dialogue tracks that would require looping. Bill Murray's younger brother John was the one on-set every day to alert Harold Ramis and the shooting crew to stop filming while the planes flew by.
Most of the cast and crew lived in a motel located near the country club used in the film, which made it easy for everyone to show up to work. However, many of them were still late, due to the Animal House (1978)-like atmosphere on-set and after hours.
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.
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.
The little girl with pigtails in the footie pajamas playing Danny's youngest sister is Harold Ramis' daughter Violet Ramis; she was almost three-years-old at the time of filming and her normally brown hair was dyed blonde to match the family.
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, he kept being called down from New York City to film more and more scenes as production continued.
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.
During his final attempt to kill the gopher with plastic explosives, Carl Spackler sings a snatch of the 1966 hit song "The Ballad of the Green Berets". John Wayne used this song as the theme music for his Vietnam War drama The Green Berets (1968). Harold Ramis admitted sneaking in veiled references to the Vietnam War in some of his early films, including his next with Bill Murray, the military comedy Stripes (1981), which he co-wrote.
After 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.
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) Sewage Commission, and consists of 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.
Harold Ramis initially pitched two different projects to Orion Pictures, neither of which got made. One was a dark satirical comedy about the American Nazi Party in Skokie, IL, and the other was what Ramis dubbed a "revisionist Marxist western." Douglas Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray pitched the film as "Animal House (1978) on a golf course".
The original rough cut that editor William C. Carruth put together was about 4-1/2 hours long. The film was neither very funny nor, obviously, releasable in that particular version. Executive in Charge of Production Rusty Lemorande had previously worked for Blake Edwards' agent. In that position he 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 that a full-time editor with experience should be hired. David Bretherton, a longtime editor and the son of veteran 1930s/1940s "B" picture director Howard Bretherton, was hired.
Harold Ramis had only played golf twice in his life before directing the film, and recalled that he nailed someone in the nether regions with one of his first practice shots taken to prepare for the film. Naturally, he made use of this tale by contributing the scene where Judge Smails gets hit in the crotch with an errant golf ball.
Airplanes were frequently flying low over the golf course where the movie was filmed, and interfering with filming, because the course was only a few miles directly west of the east-west runways at Ft. Lauderdale International Airport, and lay under the busy airport's main landing approach. It is true that a commercial passenger flight was on final approach at the moment of the huge explosion when Carl Spackler tries to blow up the gopher, and the pilot did report a plane crash to Air Traffic Control.
Theatrical and television trailers show 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, a couple of extra shots of the gopher, including a scene where he dances in one of his tunnels, Ty and Lacey talking while walking across the golf course, alternate version of the scene where Smails gets hit with a golf ball in the groin, 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 the same deleted scene).
The Florida weather proved intense for the cast and crew, who were often unwilling to film, and there were frequent no-shows on set. Sound recording was frequently ruined by planes flying over the golf course.
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, the production spent many days spray-painting the grass blue around the clubhouse.
One deleted scene shows Danny and Ty on the fairway, when Carl drives up. He offers advice on hitting the ball, which actually belongs to a party playing behind Danny and Ty. Ty lets him hit one, then catches another and gives it to Carl to hit before the party behind them runs up.
With scenes between Danny and Maggie ending up on the cutting room floor, the original thru-line in the narrative dissolved. Producer 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 it (with the end of his golf club).
In the opening long shot of Danny and Ty Webb walking down the hill towards the camera, Ty absentmindedly calls him caddy 'Betty.' Six years later, Chevy Chase appeared in the music video with Paul Simon for the song "You Can Call Me Al" and sings the refrain line "I can call you Betty."
The opening line of the film is "All right, kids, rise and shine". In the course of this film you will also discover "Watch out for your first step, it's a doozy". Both lines were again used in "Groundhog Day" in 1993 by Harold Ramis, putting them on a radio alarm in form of Sunny and Cher music and in "Ned Ryerson"'s mouth when "Phil Connors" steps into the puddle.