“At first I would get mail saying, ‘Oh, you must be a Christian because the movie (Groundhog Day, 1993) so beautifully expresses Christian belief.’ Then rabbis started calling from all over, saying they were preaching the film as their next sermon. And the Buddhists! Well, I knew they loved it because my mother-in-law has lived in a Buddhist meditation center for 30 years and my wife lived there for five years.” Harold Ramis on the popularity of Groundhog Day
Harold Ramis is an American actor, director, writer and producer whose unique abilities have contributed to a number of the most prosperous screen comedies ever made. Starting out with Chicago’s renowned Second City troupe, the versatile comic talent attracted public attention as the co-scripter of the blockbuster comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), from which he jointly netted a Writers Guild of America nomination. Ramis received even more recognition in 1993 when he directed, co-wrote and produced the surprise comedy hit Groundhog Day, starring long-term pal Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. For his bravura effort, he took home a BAFTA award and a London Critics Circle Film Award, as well as earned a Saturn nomination. The accomplished screenwriter and director has also been responsible for a series of hits like Meatballs (1979), Stripes (1981), National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), Ghostbusters (1984) and Analyze This (1999).
Ramis has also made a reputation for himself as a character actor. His best known roles are perhaps Russell Ziskey in the successful Stripes (1981) and Egon Spengler in the Ghostbusters movies (1984 and 1989). Other films he has appeared in include Baby Boom (1987), Stealing Home (1988), Love Affair (1994), As Good As It Gets (1997), Orange County (2002) and The Last Kiss (2006).
Personally speaking, Ramis is a member of the Board of National Neurofibromatosis Foundation and the Board of Trustees of Washington University. The ex-husband of Anne Jean Plotkin is now married to Erica Mann. He is the father of three children, a daughter named Violet (born 1977, mother: Anne Jean Plotkin), and sons Julian (born 1990, mother: Erica Mann) and Daniel (born 1994, mother: Erica Mann).
Childhood and Family:
Son of Ruth and Nate Ramis, Harold Ramis was born on November 21, 1944, in Chicago, Illinois. He was raised in a Jewish family. After graduating from Senn High School in Chicago, Illinois, he attended Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, from which he earned a B.A degree in 1966 and an Honorary Doctor of Arts in 1993, and became a member of the Alpha Xi chapter of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.
On July 2, 1967, Harold married Anne Jean Plotkin and they welcomed a daughter named Violet in 1977. The marriage, however, ended in separation in 1984. He remarried on May 7, 1989, to present wife Erica Mann and had two sons, Julian in 1990 and Daniel in 1994. Before marrying Erica, Harold raised his daughter by himself.
A Chicago native, Harold Ramis started his showbiz career with Chicago’s well-known Second City improvisational theater while still employed as a mental ward orderly. He also wrote jokes for Playboy Magazine. Five year later, he relocated to New York to help pen and perform in The National Lampoon Show alongside fellow Second City alums Gilda Radner, John Belushi and Bill Murray, and by 1976, he had become the head writer and a regular performer on the syndicated “Second City TV.”
Ramis’ Hollywood breakthrough arrived in 1978 when he applied his comic talents to the scripts of the box office hit National Lampoon’s Animal House, a comedy starring John Belushi. For his effort, he earned a Writers Guild of America nomination for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen (shared nomination with Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller). He rejoined Animal House producer Ivan Reitman a year later for another blockbuster movie, Meatballs, which starred Bill Murray and was directed by Reitman.
The gangling, curly-haired Ramis shifted to the director’s chair in 1980 with Caddyshack, featuring comedian Rodney Dangerfield and again Murray, and co-wrote, as well as had his first significant role as Russell Ziskey in Stripes (1981), a Murray successful vehicle produced and directed by Reitman. He then produced and appeared in ABC’s “The Rodney Dangerfield Show: It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Me (1982). He next directed Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in the very popular comedy National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) before scoring a big hit as a star and co-writer in the 1984 comic blockbuster Ghostbusters, which spawned the less charming and less flourishing sequel Ghostbusters II (1989). The films saw Ramis played Dr. Egon Spengler, alongside Dan Aykroyd and frequent collaborator Murray. In between, Ramis executive produced and narrated HBO’s Will Rogers: Look Back in Laughter (1987), co-scripted such films as Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School (1986) and the Robin Williams-Peter O’Toole vehicle Club Paradise (1986, also directed) and acted alongside Diane Keaton in the film Baby Boom (1987), which marked Ramis’ debut as an actor in a movie he had not produced, written or directed. He also gave a somewhat dramatic turn as the ex-childhood pal of Mark Harmon in Stealing Home (1988).
Returning behind the camera, the multifaceted Ramis experienced his next big break with the genial romantic comedy Groundhog Day (1993), where he cast pal Bill Murray as a weatherman fated to remember February 2 over and over until he got it right. The film, which Ramis also produced and co-scripted, was a surprise hit and he won a BAFTA for Best Screenplay – Original and a London Critics Circle Film for Screenwriter of the Year. He also nabbed Saturn nominations in the categories of Best Director and Best Writing.
After the victory, Ramis acted alongside Warren Beatty, Annette Bening and Gary Shandling in Love Affair (1994), helmed Stuart Saves His Family (1995, starred Al Franken and Laura San Giacomo), directed and co-produced the Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell starring vehicle Multiplicity (1996) and made a cameo appearance as Dr. Martin Bettes in James L. Brooks’ As Good As It Gets (1997), the Oscar-nominated film starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. He rounded out the decade by directing Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro in the well-liked comedy Analyze This (1999). Ramis and his cast later rejoined for the jaded installment Analyze That (2002).
Ramis directed and scripted Bedazzled, a modern version of the original 1967 British comedy written by Peter Cook and had minor roles in the hit Orange County (2002) and the low-profile comedy I’m with Lucy (2002). The director tried a semi-radical shifting of gears with The Ice Harvest (2005), a bleak film starring John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton and Randy Quaid. In 2006, he was seen playing Professor Bowler in Tony Goldwyn’s The Last Kiss.