Thirty years ago, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon starred as Thelma and Louise respectively in the groundbreaking movie that shattered stereotypes of women and portrayed the power of female friendship. The actors recently celebrated Thelma and Louise’s milestone anniversary at a screening in Los Angeles and they couldn’t help but share their love for each other and the film that changed everything for them (and women everywhere). Read on to see Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon’s sweet kiss at the celebration and to hear what they had to say about the movie’s lasting legacy.
Davis, 64, and Sarandon, 74, reunited at a Thelma and Louise 30th anniversary drive-in screening, hosted by MGM and Cinespia, at The Greek Theatre on June 18 in Los Angeles. For the special occasion, they also wore matching shirts: Sarandon’s read, “She’s my Thelma & I’m her Louise,” and Davis’s said, “She’s my Louise & I’m her Thelma.”
They also got together for a photo-op in their characters’ legendary turquoise Ford Thunderbird. Sarandon grabbed Davis’ face and went in for a kiss, just like her character does in the final scene of the film before the women drive the car off a cliff into the Grand Canyon.
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The original kiss in Thelma and Louise wasn’t scripted. It was a suggestion from Sarandon, and she had one chance to get it right. “We had one take as the sun was going down,” Sarandon told Entertainment Tonight in a recent interview with Davis.
“There had been a lot of other dialogue in the scene, and we just took that out and put that over a chase scene, because by this time, it seemed like we should be finishing each other’s sentences rather than going on a long discourse,” Sarandon recalled. “I just said to Ridley [Scott, the film’s director] and Geena, I said, ‘I’d really like to kiss you,’ so that’s what we did. One take. One juicy romantic take and then off we go into Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid area.”
Davis added the moment was “really magical” for her. “When I turned to look at Susan, the characters are saying goodbye to each other but [it was] the end of this incredible experience,” she explained. “It was not acting. It was just reality for me.”
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In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter (THR) ahead of the screening, Sarandon said Thelma & Louise was “revolutionary” because it featured two women who “weren’t enemies and were having fun together on screen.” She added: “I think that’s been one of the biggest breakthroughs—today there are so many brilliant female actors making films where women aren’t adversarial to each other and have the power to determine their own destiny.”
Sarandon shared a similar sentiment with Entertainment Tonight: “Most films I’ve been in if there was more than one woman, they were automatically your enemy. If there was an older woman and a younger woman, they hated each other because one was older and one was younger. Very rarely were the two women friends. There weren’t very many films [like that].”
Davis told THR she’s always been struck by people’s strong reaction to Thelma and Louise. “Thelma and Louise end up driving off a cliff, and still viewers felt exhilarated by their story. It made me realize how few opportunities we give women to come out of a movie feeling inspired and empowered by the female characters,” she said. “It changed everything about how I chose roles moving forward.”
In the Entertainment Tonight interview, Davis said the movie inspired her to take action. In the decades since Thelma and Louise‘s release, both Davis and Sarandon have become staunch advocates for gender equality in Hollywood; Davis even founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which some of the proceeds of the 30th anniversary Thelma and Louise screening event will go to.
“When my daughter started watching little kids shows, I immediately noticed that there were profoundly more male characters than female characters in what kids see,” Davis told Entertainment Tonight. “So, I’ve been working to get more female characters in TV and movies made for kids. That’s what we research and work on.”
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