Susan Sarandon & Geena Davis on Thelma & Louise: ‘It didn’t [change] sh*t’

Harper’s Bazaar has a special with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis on the 25th anniversary of Thelma & Louise. I actually didn’t realize it was directed by Ridley Scott shameface but that makes a lot of sense. I was in high school when Thelma & Louise came out and it seemed to play on HBO constantly around that time. My favorite part was when Thelma hooked up with Brad Pitt’s character at the motel. When things went south for them they had each other until the end, which disappointed the hell out of me. It wasn’t the ultimate triumph of girl power that they deserved, but maybe the ending didn’t matter as much as their journey. The fact that we’ll still talking about that incredible movie is a testament to that.

In Bazaar, Susan and Geena drop a lot of interesting factoids about the movie and they also speculate on where Thelma and Louise might be if they were able to evade the law and survive. Geena actually runs a nonprofit dedicated to raising representation of women and girls in the media, and she how women in the industry are now talking about those issues which were taboo 20 years ago. If you have some time, check out the brief video of their photoshoot, below. They look like such badasses and you can tell that they’re still close.

Susan on the resonance of Thelma & Louise
When we did Thelma & Louise, I really didn’t think it would have the kind of resonance it had. We thought it was fun, and we were cast in the kinds of roles usually played by guys. It wasn’t seen as any feminist statement.

Susan on her character
I was very concerned that it wouldn’t be seen as a revenge film. The real thing Louise is asking throughout the movie is, “Why do guys think this is okay? Why would they think that sticking their tongue out is sexy or interesting, and would they want someone to do that to their mother or their daughter?” I added some of those lines. That’s what I was just concentrating on, and having a good time.

Susan on where Thelma & Louise would be if they’d lived
Where would they be now, if they’d lived? Well, Thelma’s definitely not with her husband anymore! One would only hope she found Brad [Pitt] again. [Laughs.] Maybe Louise became a lesbian. That would be fabulous. Maybe she continued her trip and ended up running an Airbnb. I certainly could drive better by the end of the movie, so maybe I became a driver of some sort.

They want to do a tour of campuses to raise awareness of rape
For Thelma & Louise’s 25th anniversary, we want to do a tour on campuses because there’s this huge movement now to expose rape and make sure people are accountable. You don’t have to go off a cliff. I’m curious about having that conversation.

Geena on the film striking a nerve
We really didn’t know the movie was going to strike a nerve; nobody had any idea. It was very shocking, the reaction we got. When the movie came out, there was negative stuff like, “It’s so man-hating,” and “Oh, God, this is not the solution.” There was all this talk about how it was so violent—and this was after Lethal Weapon came out!

Geena on how it really didn’t open doors for women in Hollywood
One very common theme in the press was, “This changes everything. Now there are going to be so many female buddy pictures, so many female action figures. This just completely rewrites everything,” and it didn’t. The really short answer is, it didn’t do sh*t.

We’ve been stuck in this world where Hollywood operates under the assumption that women will watch men, but men won’t watch women. We never get any momentum because everything’s a one-off. Callie Khouri, who wrote Thelma & Louise, had a friend who was a writer, and around three years after it came out, she went to a studio to pitch a movie with two women in the leads. It wasn’t anything remotely like our film, but the studio turned around and said to her, “Oh, no, there’s been Thelma & Louise.”

[From Bazaar]

Geena went on to say that she loves the “young girls” like Lena Dunham and Jennifer Lawrence for being outspoken and bringing up important topics about women’s representation in their industry. She said that “even just a few years ago” this wasn’t happening and that if you brought up a lack of parts for women “it would have sounded like you were complaining.

As for the interesting facts, Susan said that there is still one of the Thunderbirds at the bottom of a cliff in Moab, Utah where they filmed and that the idea for using the Polaroid camera in the film was hers. (Also, I just found out that the Thelma and Louise screenwriter, Callie Khouri, writes the TV show Nashville which makes so much sense because that show is awesome.)

Geena also gushed about Susan and said that she changed her life by being just confident and herself. It was a really nice read and made me nostalgic, as did the video of the two of them. They need to do another film together and I hope they do that campus tour they’re talking about. I would drive for hours to see Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis give a talk.

Here’s the video! Susan has an alternate theory about where Thelma and Louise might be today (not the same one from the print interview) and I’m digging it.



photos credit: Jason Schmidt for Harpers Bazaar and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

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36 Responses to “Susan Sarandon & Geena Davis on Thelma & Louise: ‘It didn’t [change] sh*t’”

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  1. Stella in NH says:

    I watched this movie just recently with my college-aged daughter. It was amazing how nothing has changed since then. My daughter loved it, btw.

  2. Timbuktu says:

    I’m actually not sure why they’d tour campuses talking about rape, is it just because they played someone who was raped? How is this not just as problematic as Meryl Streep saying “I understand middle eastern films because I played people of various ethnicities”? I find the assumption that women would want to talk about something this sensitive and traumatic just because 2 famous people ask them surprising at best.

    • mimi says:

      Statistically, there is a HUGE chance that one of them has been raped. Don’t assume.

      Also: Geena runs a non-profit focussing on gender representation in media and they’re both feminists, both in their actions and words. Why wouldn’t they address one of the biggest feminist issues?

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      They said they were going to raise awareness, not give therapy.

      • Magnoliarose says:

        No kidding. We have no idea if I it happened to them and that is not the important part anyway. The important part is the discussion. If one of them cares to reveal then that is their prerogative, but it doesn’t change that it is a women’s issue of major significance.

    • Lucy2 says:

      I’m assuming it’s an issue they care a lot about, and feel they can make a difference.

    • Jaded says:

      Rape is a huge problem on campuses – here in Canada sexual assaults get pretty much swept under the carpet by the college/university bigwigs (men of course) and the police have this “well you were drunk at a party whaddya expect?” attitude. So the more this gets exposed the better. If it’s by Thelma and Louise even better!

      • Chris says:

        Brandon University got called out because they were having victims of assault sign non disclosure papers saying they would only talk about what happened with a therapist and not family or friends. I know some people have a hard time talking about something that terrible sometimes-but to make them legally agree to never share with someone they care about is disgusting.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      So the only people who can discuss rape are those that have actually been raped? That doesn’t seem very logical. Rape exists on multiple levels, a physical act, a threat, a societal issue, a health risk and etc. Many of the discussions on rape that I’ve experienced as a student likely came from many people who weren’t raped but were very informed on the topic. They knew the facts and information and were able to talk about it in multiple layers.

      I can’t really see how it’s the same as someone trying to say they perfectly understand how an immigrant feels while they sit pretty with white privelage.

      That being said they seem like smart women (Geena anyway, got my doubts about Susan lately) and I imagine they’d be able to do what others have done in the past. Host the topic but get actual rape survivors as well as doctors and etc. to also speak in depth.

      • Bettyrose says:

        Eternal Side-Eye,
        Nicely put. Every woman looks over her shoulder walking alone at night. Every woman keeps close watch of her drink at bars. Every woman has to consider whether the guy she’s taking home tonight might become violent behind closed doors. It’s a constant in our lives. We love and admire men, but always know one of them can change the power dynamic on us with no warning. It’s something we live with and negotiate daily regardless of having first hand experience of sexual assault. This, we’re all qualified to discuss it.

    • B says:

      How do you know what they have, or not have, experienced in their personal/private lives and why does it matter if they are raising awareness? Look at the big picture perhaps, and see the good.

  3. Pinky says:

    I watch it every time it’s on anywhere. It changed my impression of Geena as an actress. But they’re so right about how little we’ve progressed since it debuted.

    I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that these actresses are such outspoken feminists and pioneers in entertainment. But which came first, the chicken or the egg?


  4. oliphant says:

    geena davis is so unbelievably stunning just love her- fell in love with her in ‘the long kiss goodnight’ and have had a soft spot for her ever since.

  5. Esmom says:

    What a sad statement from the studio that turned down the film with two female leads just because T & L had already been done. Sigh.

    • Lucy2 says:

      I’ve heard so many versions of that excuse when it comes to female-centric films. So many writers, directors, and actresses have been given that line when trying to pitch a project. Yet no one turns down another superhero film because we already have Iron Man, or another car film because we already have what, 7 or 8 Fast and Furious?

      • LAK says:


      • Kimbers says:

        I stopped going to d#ck flicks a long time ago. You see one car chase/15 min fight scene u see them all. The stories were never original and very boring. Not into superhero either anymore bc they’re not special or fun bc there’s so many. Loved the resident evil franchise(vidgame inspired) bc Mila was awesome in the 2k’s too bad people forget the women who have gotten kickA roles that are usually done by male characters.

      • Dee Kay says:

        I am a woman of color and I love the fast and furious films. From the very start, two of the leading characters have been played by women of color, and there are now three women among the “main” cast. Some supervillains have also been women. F&F have consistently had strong female representation.

        F&F also is majority non-white. The only regular white cast member in fact was the late Paul Walker. Several installments of the franchise take place in the Global South. So many of us who feel underrepresented by Hollywood films have many, many reasons for being fans of the F&F franchise.

  6. Eleonor says:

    Love these two.

  7. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I wasn’t crazy about Thelma and Louise. It was, I suppose groundbreaking, in that it was an action movie about two women, but in the end they were punished for being independent. Two men would most likely have shot or scammed their way out of the situation. Except for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – didn’t they commit suicide to escape prison by running into the gunfire? Anyway, they were criminals. I thought Thelma and Louise had mitigating circumstances because the Geena Davis character was being raped. She didn’t do anything wrong but run. So I hated that she died in the end just because the other one was stupid. Obviously I forget who was Thelma and who was Louise.
    Another thing – this lack of interest in female characters is fairly recent. Bette Davis starred in movies about a female lead all the time and her movies were popular. I just don’t think T&L was that great of a movie.

    • Eden75 says:

      I’m with you. I’ve seen it a couple of times and I still can’t remember who’s who. It’s never been a fav of mine.

      As for all the hate on “dickflix” some of us happen to enjoy them and my absolute favorite female lead character is from what would be considered a guys movie. No one will ever top Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, ever. Toughest lead female role on screen.

    • siri says:

      I actually disliked Thelma & Louise. Never got the idea behind the whole adventure, least of all the ending, since it doesn’t solve anything. There was another film with a very similar subject released one year later, Leaving Normal, with Meg Tilly and Christine Lahti. And although it does have it’s flaws (and I’m not crazy about Tilly in particular), I very much preferred the two women still alive at the end, trying to find a new lease on life in the wilderness of Alaska. It’s not some ‘tough’ girls against the rest of the (male) world, but two women looking to belong somewhere, and finding their place. Ridley Scott versus Edward Zwick.

    • tealily says:

      I get what you’re saying, but I always thought that the story they were telling was that there was no place in the masculine world for strong, independent women. I read it as an allegory.

  8. Calcifer says:

    Thelma & Louise was my favorite film for a long time. When it came out here in Europe, I went to see it three times! I loved the way their friendship was brought to life on the screen. I liked that Louise was older than Thelma, which made their friendship seem more real. I remember disliking the part where Thelma and Louise blew up the truck belonging to the lewd truck driver, though. To me it felt like a man’s fantasy of what a woman would do in that situation.

  9. Sixer says:

    “We’ve been stuck in this world where Hollywood operates under the assumption that women will watch men, but men won’t watch women.”

    Didn’t I just see some Netflix research that said their subscribers do NOT watch on a gendered basis? Also, by far the most-watched TV drama in the UK is Call The Midwife, about as female-centred as you can get.

    It really is the crusty old (stupid) money men that perpetuate it all, isn’t it?

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      Tbh when she said that I remembered how someone from the NBA (someone in charge, didn’t pay attention to his title) admitted that he thought the WNBA would be more popular by now. I.E. that men would value these women as athletes more and not be so caught up purely on a gender basis.

      I do think we have issues with society saying it’s okay to find men as a surrogate for everything but that men in turn have to have a reason or excuse for why they’re watching a purely female genre. Even Disney did this changing the title of their newest films from Rapunzel and Snow Queen (names that evoke femininity) to Tangled and Frozen in an effort to appeal to more boys. It’s definitely something we have to keep changing and fighting against, that purely women anything is lesser.

      • Sixer says:

        I think you are probably right. Sigh.

        On the other hand, I do think – in the UK at least, purely on the basis I live here! – that attitudes and willingness to consume sport and culture in an ungendered way are much more prevalent than the providers are prepared to admit. Perhaps it’s a risk-based thing so they stick with proven profits. Or perhaps the people at the top are more backward in their attitudes than the people at the bottom. I do think we are changing more quickly than the people who finance what we consume are changing.

  10. Ann says:


  11. Murphy says:

    I need those sunglasses in my life

  12. Nancy says:

    Thelma slouching down in passenger’s side of car with unlit cigarette pretends to take a drag: “I’m Louise.” Hated the ending but it had to be that way. Love the movie.

  13. Size Does Matter says:

    Loved this movie so much I wrote a paper about it in college. Did not include in said paper that Brad Pitt became my forever dong because of it.

  14. Keaton says:

    I remember Geena talking about this film when she was on “Inside the Actors Studio”
    She was asked who her favorite leading man was and she named Susan. I thought that was so sweet.
    Also Ridley asked her to do something that made her incredibly uncomfortable – something along the lines of pulling her shirt off and waving her arms around in the convertible. Geena was completely terrified of speaking up and telling Ridley how she felt so Susan spoke up for her. I’ve always loved Susan Sarandon after hearing that story 🙂

  15. tealily says:

    Did you know that Callie Khouri is married to T-Bone Burnett? Imagine that!

  16. Carol says:

    I loved this movie when it came out. The friendship between these two characters really resonated with me more than the feminist aspect of the movie. It’s really is hard to find a movie where women have each others’ back and not fight over a man or something else. Plus, the sunglasses were pretty amazing.

  17. Kasey says:

    “Thelma and Louise” is one of my fave movies ever. Some hysterically funny lines in there, gorgeous scenery and yeah, the ladies make the men look kind of dumb or neanderthal for the most part. It’s also sort of heart breaking…

  18. Mango says:

    This was the film that got Brad Pitt noticed. It wasn’t a great film but at least it was about two women lead characters. I read that originally they had T and L escaping safely to Mexico but test audiences made them change the ending.