Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis reflect on gender roles in Hollywood while celebrating the 25th anniversary of Thelma & Louise at Cannes

By Michael Miller
Updated May 16, 2016 04:45 PM
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Credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty

Thelma & Louise

was heralded as a feminist landmark when it premiered in 1991, but stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis say not enough has changed since their film hit theaters 25 years ago.

Speaking at the Cannes Film Festival to celebrate the movie’s anniversary, Sarandon and Davis told reporters that they’re disappointed with the lack of roles for women in Hollywood. Asked if she thinks Thelma & Louise would be made today, The Telegraph reports Sarandon said, “Maybe as an animation?”

She added, “I mean everybody thought that they were going to be so many more buddy films [afterwards]. Well I don’t think the studios have fallen off their horse and had some kind of epiphany about women in film. After Thelma & Louise, they predicted there would be so many films starring women. But it didn’t happen.”

Speaking at a Kering Women in Motion event, Davis added, “And that’s one of the really uncomfortable things, because when they said that, I believed it. It didn’t happen. The thing about film is it can change overnight. It isn’t like real life, where it takes so long to get women to be half of Congress or boards or CEOs. The next movie somebody makes can be gender-balanced. We don’t have to sneak up on it, just do it.”

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Asked to identify the root of the problem, Sarandon said, “There are still many more male executives making these decisions. Hollywood has become more and more corporate and the kind of people making those decisions and the basis on which they’re making those decisions. Whereas women can see a woman or a man in a leading role, I don’t think it’s as easy for a guy to see a woman in a leading role and say ‘I’ll get behind that.’

“I think it’s a cultural thing, and that’s part of what slows it down: a lack of imagination on the part of men. It’s done in a very formulaic way.”

On the subject on equal pay, she argued that actors are “all paid preposterously considering what we do. But why should we not be paid as preposterously as men?”

Sarandon also spoke about the reaction to Thelma & Louise at the time of its release, saying some audiences felt uncomfortable watching two women on the run from the law. The film’s ending, in which Thelma and Louise drive their car over a cliff to avoid capture by the police, was also considered controversial.

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“I don’t know if you remember, but there were a lot of people who were very offended by the movie,” she explained. “Because women having those kind of options got people upset, suddenly we were accused of condoning suicide, which was ridiculous.”

Despite the film’s reception as a statement on feminism, Sarandon said the filmmakers did not intend to send a message. “I can’t say that when we made it we were making a feminist film,” she admitted. “We were making a buddy film where we had power and choices, but I certainly didn’t anticipate that it would be such an affront, that we had backed into this white, male, heterosexual landscape that had been that long held.”

She added, “Really we were just having a good time.”