Two Lessons from Harold Ramis, Learned by Stephen Tobolowsky

Focus Features Premiere Of "The Ice Harvest" - After PartyThis is from Remembering Harold Ramis:  What he taught me about comedy on the set of Groundhog Day by Stephen Tobolowsky.  (Mr. Tobolowsky is from Dallas, by the way).

Lesson #1 – We all need Heroes (call them mentors; models… call them whatever you want.  But, you need them…):

At one break Harold came up to me for no reason at all. He looked off into the distance and ruminated, “You know, Stephen, it’s impossible to become a professional actor. It’s too hard for anyone to do it on their own. Everyone who has made it has had at least four heroes that helped them. They come from nowhere. They come when you least expect them. But they are there.” Harold didn’t know it, but he was one of my four.

Lesson #2 – Aim for “simplicity itself.”:

If you know anything about filmmaking, you know how difficult and expensive that scene was to shoot. It took three days. Everything that was destroyed had to be rebuilt. Paint had to be cleaned off of walls. The set had to be restored for different camera shots. Bill’s mohawk toupee cost thousands to make. Not to mention it was near the beginning of shooting, when everything a director does is scrutinized by the studios.

Harold shot the scene, looked at it, and threw it away.

He replaced it with simplicity itself. Bill is about to go to sleep. He breaks a pencil and puts the two pieces on his nightstand. Cut to: Sonny and Cher on the radio. Bill wakes up. The pencil is whole.

When I saw this in a theater filled with real people, the audience gasped. Harold understood the power of poetry and had the courage to tell the story his way.


Stephen Tobolowsky, in character...
Stephen Tobolowsky, in character…

Two great lessons!





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