Thelma and Louise: Geena Davis on Sexism

Working together on Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman gave Geena Davis (who played a very small part) a career advice that she has followed ever since.

“One of the things he told me was ‘Work on getting your own material. Read books. Read articles, get the rights,’” says Davis. “So from the very beginning that was in my mind. In fact, I tried to get the rights to ‘The Accidental Tourist’ when I read it and somebody bought the rights a long time ago and I was so bummed because I thought somebody is going to get to play that part.”

Davis ultimately did get to play that role in Lawrence Kasdan’s 1988 comedy-drama, The Accidental Tourist, winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

Davis, like other actress, had encountered sexism in Hollywood, a topic up for discussion at Friday’s “In Control of Her Own Destiny” panel held during the second annual  Bantonville Film Fest, which Davis co-founded and that aims to increase diversity and gender parity in media.

“One day, on the set of  Thelma & Louise, as we’re walking to lunch, director Ridley Scott says, ‘Hey, Geena, I’m thinking later in the scene today, what if you were to just sit up in the back of the chair in your car and just take your shirt off?’” Davis told the crowd.

“And I run over and find Susan Sarandon and I tell her there’s a scene this afternoon and Ridley wants me to take my top off and she says, ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake.’

She throws her silverware down and goes over to Ridley and says, ‘Ridley, Geena’s not taking her top off.’

“It was like, oh, wait a minute. Women are actually allowed to say what they think and express what they want.”

Meg Ryan, Nia Vardalos and Kimberly Williams-Paisley joined Davis for the event, which took place at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansau.