19 Things You Might Not Have Known About Thelma & Louise for the Film's 25th Birthday
Example: George Clooney really, really wanted Brad Pitt's part
Thelma & Louise, which has managed to become both a quintessential girl power and road trip film, turns 25 this year. To help celebrate, we’re taking a look back down the long dusty road that Thunderbird traveled and rounding up some of the best bits of trivia from the iconic film.
1. George Clooney really wanted to play J.D.
And boy it haunted him. Clooney auditioned five times and obviously did not get it. Morose over the state of his career and the missed opportunity, he didn’t see the film for years: “I was really stuck doing a lot of bad TV at that time. And I had auditioned and auditioned, and it got right down to Brad and I, and he got it. And I just couldn’t watch that movie for a couple of years,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
2. It was Callie Khouri’s first screenplay
Khouri studied acting at Purdue University and then at the Lee Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles before deciding against acting. She wound up producing rock videos – for original “shock rocker” Alice Cooper and bluesman Robert Cray, among others – before writing the film’s script. A friend of hers passed it to Mimi Polk, then executive vice president of director Ridley Scott’s production company.
3. Davis opted to shoot her own sex scene with Pitt
Originally, Scott was going to use a body double for the pair’s sex scene. But Davis, who wanted Pitt for the role and admitted to flubbing her lines during his audition because of you know, it being 1991 Brad Pitt, insisted on doing the scene herself, because you know, 1991 Brad Pitt.
4. Sarandon and Davis got tipsy during the roadhouse scene
“We asked the prop guy, ‘Do you have any real tequila?’ Davis recalled to Vanity Fair. “‘Because it’s easier to act if we taste alcohol.’ So we pounded back quite a few, and we’re laughing between takes and both feeling, ‘We’re so drunk! This is great!'”
5. And Michael Madsen and Brad Pitt got high together
“I walked out of the motel in the morning, and Brad would be out smoking a joint,” Madsen explained to VF. “We got stoned together a couple of times. Every actor finds his way to make it work; that was his thing.”
6. Khouri initially wanted Holly Hunter and Frances McDormand as the leads
After Ridley Scott got involved, the names considered for the starring roles ratcheted up a bit. Jodie Foster, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn were all considered at points.
7. Geena Davis was originally Louise
Davis lobbied hard for the role of Louise, and once she had it, it took so long for the producers and Scott to find her a costar, she eventually had to sign a contract giving them permission to cast her in either role.
8. There’s a little baggage to Thelma and Darryl’s dynamic
Christopher McDonald – who gained 36 pounds for the role – was engaged to Davis before she met Jeff Goldblum. “We were together for a while,” McDonald told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. “We were playing house and we were going to do the old marriage thing.” Making Thelma & Louise, he joked, was “really cathartic.”
9. And he had to deal with some fallout from the role.
“There were these two girls driving along next to me,” McDonald said of his fame after the film. “I could tell they recognized me. One said, ‘Oh, my God. It’s that guy from Thelma & Louise! Shoot him!'”
10. There were five cars used in the film
A total of five identical 1966 Thunderbirds were needed for the film. There was one “star car,” one camera car, one back-up and two stunt cars. “I think we actually threw three cars off the cliff,” Davis told Harper’s Bazaar.
11. Not much of the film takes place where it’s supposed to.
The film ostensibly takes place in “Arkansas through Oklahoma and Colorado to Arizona,” but Scott shot most of the desert scenes in Utah. The roadhouse and motel were both in L.A.; the roadhouse in Long Beach and the motel south of downtown L.A.
12. Thelma was originally supposed to survive
Sarandon told The Hollywood Reporter that Ridley Scott told her, “I can tell you that you will definitely die. But I’m not so sure about Thelma. You may push her out of the car at the last minute.”
13. And some geniuses pushed for a sequel
“They did talk about a sequel at one point,” Sarandon continued. “I remember saying to someone, ‘I don’t understand what we would be doing.’ And he said, ‘You’d be getting a big check.’ But thank God we didn’t do that. Sanity reigned.”
14. The film inspired a Tori Amos song
In her early 20s, singer-songwriter Tori Amos offered a fan a ride home after one of her shows. He ended up kidnapping raping her. Years later, Amos broke down in a theater watching Thelma & Louise and wrote the song hours later.
15. The tanker explosion caught everyone off-guard
Scott rigged the tanker to blow-up mid-take, to try and get authentic reactions from his stars, instead of having them react after the fact. But when it did go off, they were so surprised they didn’t react, and Scott had to film their reactions separately anyway.
16. The last scene was filmed in just 45 minutes
Scott sent those three cars over the cliff with just 45 minutes of usable light. And in fact, two versions of the scene exist: One with the classic freeze-frame and the other where the camera actually follows the car down, which is slightly more depressing.
17. The pair’s kiss was Sarandon’s idea
In the documentary The Celluoid Closet, Sarandon says she added the kiss, telling Davis and only Davis that she was going to kiss her.
18. Thelma & Louise and Silence of the Lambs are strangely intertwined
Foster was originally slated be in the film, but turned it down for Lambs. She ended up beating both Davis and Sarandon for Best Actress. Scott lost Best Director to Jonathan Demme, and while Khouri won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Ted Tally won Best Adapted Screenplay for Lambs. Scott would then direct the Lambs sequel, Hannibal, in 2001, and in 2002, Harvey Keitel, who plays Detective Hal in T&<, would act in Red Dragon, a prequel to Lambs.
19. Some of the film’s best moments were improvised
Darryl’s slip and tumble over the building supplies was unscripted – Christopher McDonald actually fell and just stayed in character, which Scott loved. Similarly, when Louise grabs Thelma’s headphones off her head and scares her, it’s because Davis really had the volume on her Walkman up too high to hear her cue.