Geena Davis talks “Thelma & Louise”, ageism in Hollywood

Geena Davis thinks about Thelma and Louise. (Photo: Fiona Goodall / Getty Images for the New Zealand Film Commission)

When actress Geena Davis shot the 1991 film Thelma & Louise, she was already known for her work in films like beetle juice and Tootsie. She had even won an Oscar, for her performance in 1988 in The accidental tourist. Still, it was a game-changer for her, thanks to her co-star.

“Start working with Susan Sarandon on Thelma & Louise, she had the most impact of anyone in my life, because I had never really spent time with a woman who travels the world like she does, ”Davis told Allison Kugel in the last episode of the Allison Interviews Podcast. “It seemed crazy to be 33 at the time and first met a woman like that, but I had really never met a woman before who hadn’t prefaced everything with, ‘Well , I don’t know what you’re going to think and it’s probably a stupid idea, but… ‘She just lived her life and said,’ That’s what I think. ‘”

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis star in

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis star in Thelma & Louise. (Photo: MGM / courtesy Everett Collection)

Equally revealing to Davis was the way people responded to Sarandon.

“[It was received by our director, Ridley Scott, and producers] like completely normal, which was also amazing for me. The way I was brought up was to be extremely polite, over the top. I was kind of trained not to ask anything and not to bother anyone, but she obviously wasn’t (laughs), “said Davis, who grew up in Massachusetts.” So she just said it like that. she wanted it. to tell them, like ‘let’s cut this line’, or ‘Let’s do it this way’, or ‘This is what I would like to do. There was no reaction from anyone, like “Wow!” », In part because she did not present herself as combative. She would always say, ‘This is what I want’ and ‘This is what I think.’ “

It was an experience Davis wouldn’t have had if it hadn’t been persistent.

“I had read the script of Thelma & Louise after it has already been sunk. I thought, ‘Oh my God! This is the best script I have ever read. I wish I could be there. I ended up having a year-long quest for the role, as Ridley Scott was just the producer at the time, and different directors and different couples of Thelmas and Louises were getting together and falling apart. For a year my agent called at least once a week to say, “Just so you know, Geena is always available. She’s still interested. Then when [Scott] Decided he was going to lead it, he immediately said, “Yes. OK, sure, I’m going to meet her ‘and I convinced her somehow. “

The production also picked a promising actor named Brad Pitt, whose credits so far have been limited to a few episodes of Growing pains and Another world, some on Dallas and a handful of other shows and movies.

“They then picked Brad Pitt as my kind of … lover, and it wasn’t really because he was younger. They didn’t deliberately try to pick someone younger than me,” Davis said. “He just gave the best hearing and he was the best choice. But I thought it was pretty cool. He’s only seven years younger than me, but I thought it was kinda cool than they did that. “

Brad Pitt had a memorable role in

Brad Pitt had a memorable role in Thelma & Louise. (Photo: YouTube)

Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2004, noted that more often than not a younger woman is chosen alongside a prominent older man – often much over seven years older. age. It’s something she struggled with as an actress.

“It’s very strange and so widespread,” the 65-year-old said of ageism in Hollywood. “A certain male actor who was making a movie said that I was too old to be his romantic interest, and I was 20 years younger than him. You know what it is? Women peak in their twenties and thirties. 30s, and men peak in their 40s and 50s, when it comes to actors. So male stars in movies want to look younger than they are, or they want to appeal to younger ones, so they want to. always a co-star who is really young. That’s why it happens and that’s why women are not often chosen after 40 and 50. It’s because they are seen as too old to be one. romantic interest. “

Despite going against the entertainment industry’s unofficial casting rules Thelma & Louise was, of course, a runaway success. It surpassed the $ 45 million box office mark – nearly three times its budget, according to Box Office Mojo – and won dozens of awards and nominations. Davis and Sarandon were both Oscar nominees. (They lost to Jodie Foster in Thesilenceofthelambs.)

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