In September 2022, Geena Davis will attend the Emmy Awards. She discussed her movie career and impending memoir this month with NPR’s Morning Edition. AFP via Getty Images, Robyn Beck remove caption
switch to caption AFP via Getty Images, Robyn Beck
In September 2022, Geena Davis will attend the Emmy Awards. She discussed her movie career and impending memoir this month with NPR’s Morning Edition.
AFP via Getty Images, Robyn Beck In Hollywood, Geena Davis is a legendary person.
From the housewife-turned-outlaw Thelma in the feminist classic Thelma and Louise to her Oscar-winning performance as a quirky dog trainer in The Accidental Tourist, she has played many famous characters over the years.
She has long been an advocate for the inclusion and fair depiction of women in the entertainment industry, and she even founded the nonprofit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media , which last month’s Emmys honored with the prestigious Governors Award.
Nevertheless, she has occasionally battled insecurity and self-doubt. This was particularly true in the beginning of her career, when Davis, who studied drama at Boston University but always knew she wanted to be on TV, was found by a modeling agency while working as a live store mannequin.
“I used to find it uncomfortable when people looked at me, or if they did, I’d ask, “What, are they judging me or something?” But then I decide to aim for having as many people stare at me as possible, especially in my underwear, “she claims. “So I’m not sure. I can only deduce that I might have been drawn to having the potential to be someone else.”
Davis’ first acting role, which she landed thanks to modeling for the Academy Award-winning 1982 movie Tootsie, led to the opening of many more. According to Davis, she has learned something from each of her films, and the inner critic is no longer a burden.
In the chapter Dying of Politeness of a new memoir , Davis discusses her work, relationships, activism, and overall “journey to badassery.” She discusses the book with Morning Edition’s Rachel Martin and reflects on some of her best roles and how they influenced her.
TOOTSIE BROUGHT DAVIS TO THE WORLD AND THE INDUSTRY Although Davis claims that New Jersey Monthly was the only magazine she had appeared on the cover of, modeling did win her a role in Tootsie.
Alongside Dustin Hoffman’s hungry actor character who adopts a new feminine identity to find employment, Davis played a soap opera actress.
She reveals that because there would be a few underwear scenes, the casting director had gotten in touch with modeling agencies to find someone to play her character. She was instructed to put on a bikini underneath her clothes by her agency, Zoli, in case the reading went well. Since it was her first audition, Davis didn’t think much of the fact that no one requested to see her in a bathing suit.
Sydney Pollack, the film’s director, had in fact expressed interest in her tape, but by that time, she had flown to Paris for runway displays and was unable to return in a swimming suit. So they decided she could instead send images.
As it turned out, they were able to send over brilliantly lit, precisely windblown “pictures” since I had been featured in a Victoria’s Secret catalog, she chuckles. I was able to land the role without them having to see me in a bathing suit in person.
Davis learned a lot about the craft and the practicalities of filmmaking while working on Tootsie. She recalls, for instance, that she arrived every morning and would spend hours merely watching other people’s scenes since she had mistakenly believed that everyone in the group had to be on location every day.
Nobody informed her that “you only come on the days you’re working,” she claims, adding, “I’m sure you must know this.” “They probably believed that I was there to learn everything and anything, so to speak. And I enjoyed learning while I was there. But I was clueless.”
MOVIES As Davis remembers in the book, Hoffman gave her advise, which included a caution not to sleep with co-stars and acting hints. She specifically claims that he taught her how to silence the internal critic who was constantly criticizing her performance. He led her to “the dailies” to witness the scene she had filmed the day before despite having a minor role.
The process, according to Davis, gave her the insight that she had done her best that day and helped her focused on what she could do differently the following time.
Thelma and Louise served as an example of empowerment. Since its 1991 premiere, Thelma and Louise has left a lasting impression on many audiences thanks to its trailblazing feminist plot and strong female stars. According to Davis, having a role in the movie had an affect on her as well.
Before Davis joined on, the role had been cast a few times, and she remembers pleading vehemently for the opportunity to audition for a year or two (even working on it with her acting coach when there weren’t any open roles). She was aware that the part of Louise was the one she really desired.
Davis claims that when she finally had the opportunity to speak with director Ridley Scott, she poured her heart out on why Louise was such an essential part of her. He asked her after carefully listening: So you wouldn’t play Thelma?
“And I exclaim, “Oh my God.” I just convinced myself not to watch this movie because I requested the incorrect segment “Davis can recall. “I responded by saying, “You know what? As I’ve been discussing this, I’ve come to the realization that I ought to portray Thelma. Then I just made up reasons as to why I had to be Thelma.”
And she doesn’t look back Susan Sarandon was obviously destined to play Louise from the minute Davis first met Sarandon, according to Davis. The process of making the movie, according to Davis, was “exactly as fantastic” as she had envisaged. She was pleased to play Thelma.
Sarandon “had the most impact on my life of anyone that I’ve known,” according to the actress, who claims that experience has stuck with her.
Watching the manner in which Susan interacted with others and the manner in which she expressed her opinions without qualification, she continues. “I always stated, “This is probably a horrible idea,” before anything else. You will despise it. Probably. But what do you believe? Possibly?’ She never did that either. And for some reason, I had never had a lot of exposure to a lady who moves around the world that way. And it served as a daily lesson on how to stand up for yourself.”
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN DEMONSTRATED TO DAVIS HER ATHLETIC SKILLS Given that A League of Their Own is a sports movie, it’s not entirely unexpected that Davis would leave having learned a new athletic skill. But she became quite interested in… archery as a result of the baseball movie.
Davis attributes the discovery of her overall identity as an athlete to the film. She had always been reserved and believed that her height would be a liability rather than a strength (even when her school basketball team begged her to join).
However, she claimed that picking up baseball for the movie and hearing the coaches’ encouraging words had altered her perception of herself. Over the years, Davis has picked up a variety of new sports and acting techniques, from ice skating and pistol shooting to horseback riding and sword fighting.
Although she took them up quite quickly, she thought of them as “the movie version of these skills” and questioned whether she could compete in the real world. She was intrigued by the beauty and drama of archery while watching the Olympics on television one year and wished she could participate.
According to Davis, she eventually came to the realization that sports are completely subjective, unlike her day job, which is dependent on box office receipts and the views of others. Contrarily, archery is a point-based sport: “Did you strike the bull’s eye or not?”
That was one of the things that was really enticing to me, but I didn’t recognize that until much later, says Davis. “You quickly feel satisfied with how well you performed; other people’s opinions are not necessary.”
Reena Advani edited this interview, which was created by Kaity Kline and Chad Campbell.