As stork replaces groundhog, more do-overs possible

ROME-Just as the furry animal known as Punxsutawney Phil “saw” his shadow in small-town America last week, across the Pond in Italy a “Groundhog Day” remake was unspooling, marking the first time Italians saw a locally adapted U.S. pic.

Titled “E’ Gia Ieri” (It’s Already Yesterday) — but also known as “Stork Day,” its English title — this Italian rework, in which the Harold Ramis-directed cult comedy becomes transposed from Punxsutawney, Pa., to the Canary island of Tenerife, is a unique project that could set a precedent for other European remakes, according to producer Riccardo Tozzi.

Tozzi, founder of Rome stable Cattleya, says he and director Giulio Manfredonia were talking about making a “what if” comedy and decided to go straight to that subgenre’s original source.

“At first, when we called Sony, they didn’t understand what we were talking about,” Tozzi recounts. “They kept saying: ‘We’ve already sold that movie.’ Then they got it and decided to distribute our pic internationally.” The “Groundhog Day” remake rights cost Cattleya $120,000.

“Stork Day” stars Italo comedian Antonio Albanese (“Holy Tongue”) in the lead role played by Bill Murray in the original, while Spanish actress Goya Toledo (“Amores perros”) plays the Andie MacDowell character named Rita. The remake is set on Aug. 13 in Tenerife, where the cynical star reporter of a popular Discovery-type TV show is sent to cover a flock of storks that have nested atop a volcano spout, and relives the same day over and over again.

Released by Columbia TriStar, “Stork Day” has done only so-so at the Italian box office, pulling in about $1.5 million in four weeks, after getting mixed reviews.

Still, Cattleya considers it a moderate success, seeing that last year only 21 homegrown pics made more than $1.2 million locally, and that the pic’s $ 4.5 million cost was largely absorbed by Spanish co-production partners Flamenco Films and Estudios Picasso, the production arm of Spanish web Telecinco. A Spanish release date has yet to be set.

“This is the first European remake of a U.S. pic in decades, and I think we will start seeing more,” says Tozzi, who thinks European remakes of European pics — such as Spanish remakes of Italian movies, and so on — are going to become more popular, too.

“We don’t have to ape what goes on in the U.S., but we can certainly learn from it,” the pioneer producer adds, referring to Hollywood’s still strong remake fever.

There have been several Hollywood remakes of Italo pics throughout the years, the most successful of which is probably Martin Brest’s “Scent of a Woman,” which won Al Pacino a best actor Oscar in the role played by Vittorio Gassman in the Dino Risi original, titled “Profumo di Donna.”

For Albanese, playing Murray’s role was an intimidating proposition. “Murray is one of the world’s greatest actors. I never thought I could compare with his extraordinary physical presence,” admits the popular comic.

As for Murray — who is Rome on the set of Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic” — he says he’s heard about the Italo “Groundhog Day” but hasn’t been able to catch it yet.

“I got up Monday morning and said: ‘I’ve got to go see that film.’ I got up Tuesday morning and said: ‘I’ve got to go see that film,'” he told Variety.

Sounds like another remake. Or maybe it’s the sequel.

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