Did Ridley Scott really ask Geena Davis to remove her top in ‘Thelma & Louise?’

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The enduring legacy of Thelma & Louise in Hollywood’s pantheon of classics almost didn’t come to fruition due to various hurdles throughout its production.

To begin with, getting the movie made was an uphill battle. Callie Khouri’s screenplay, now revered, faced rejection and dismissive attitudes in Hollywood, with critics reducing it to a simplistic description as “two b*tches in a car.” This initial reception posed a challenge to the film’s realization.

Another significant obstacle came in the casting process, which witnessed numerous actors considered for roles, many even signing on before eventually walking away. However, after grappling with these setbacks, filming for Thelma & Louise eventually commenced. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon’s remarkable chemistry on screen became the linchpin that transformed the film into a memorable masterpiece of the ’90s.

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While some might not have watched the film, its impactful ending remains ingrained in popular culture. Thelma & Louise earned recognition not only for its powerful conclusion but primarily for its overarching feminist themes. The movie subverted the traditionally male-dominated concept of a crime-driven road trip by centering on women reclaiming their agency. Its themes were so influential that the film secured a prominent place in Feminist Studies syllabi. However, these themes faced a potential derailment due to a significant misstep by director Ridley Scott.

Scott, renowned for showcasing strong female characters, nearly marred Thelma & Louise with a misguided decision. Post-release reports revealed Scott’s attempt to insert a topless scene into the movie. He approached Geena Davis with this request, initially met with hesitation. Davis was on the brink of agreeing to his demand when a timely lunch with Susan Sarandon intervened and saved the situation.

During their lunch break, Sarandon empathized deeply with Davis’s discomfort. Being a decade older and past the phase of tolerating such treatment (Sarandon was in her mid-40s during filming), she rallied behind Davis. Together, they reasoned that Hollywood’s objectification had no place in a feminist narrative. Upon returning to set, Sarandon boldly confronted Scott, making it unequivocally clear that Davis wouldn’t comply with the request. To Scott’s credit, he accepted their stance without further ado.

The outcome was a pristine feminist masterpiece, devoid of unnecessary nudity. Thelma & Louise remains unblemished by such controversies, featuring pivotal performances, including one of Brad Pitt’s early roles, and iconic scenes that resonate across cinema. Even if one knows the film’s major twist, experiencing Thelma & Louise is a must, if only to witness Susan Sarandon’s embodiment of assertiveness and strength that prevented a significant cinematic misstep from reaching the screen.