Before she was fearless and fierce as the gun-wielding Thelma in Thelma and Louise, Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis had a little problem: She was the tallest girl in class.
“I was all gangly and awkward, and my fondest dream was to take up less space in the world,” Davis, 54, said at SPARK Summit, an event to promote the women’s advocacy organization, in New York on Friday.
Had Davis been more comfortable with her self-image, perhaps she would have taken a different career path – as a professional basketball player. Instead, she was hesitant to play sports because of her insecurities about her body, despite the efforts of her school’s basketball team to recruit her.
” ‘Well just stand there,’ ” she says the team would respond when she said she couldn’t play basketball. “‘You’re the tallest girl in the country!'”
The Academy Award-winning actress says her self-image breakthrough came only after learning to play baseball for A League of Their Own, her 1992 film about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
“Learning a sport affected how I saw my body,” the actress says. “I started to feel that it’s OK to take up space, to use my body. For most of my life, I never truly felt comfortable with myself or that I deserved to be successful until I dramatically improved my self-image through sports.”
And she has a support system.
Although the movie that made her famous, Thelma and Louise, was first released nearly 20 years ago, Davis says she is still “very good friends” with costar Susan Sarandon, who played fellow baddie Louise Sawyer.
“We had an incredibly bonding experience,” Davis says. “She’s my hero. I just worship her.”
Davis is also still friendly with Brad Pitt, who famously played Thelma’s thieving love interest.
“I see Brad every once in a while at some award show or event, and it’s always so great to see him,” she says. “We had a great time making the movie, and he’s so sweet.”