Written in 1988 by first-time screenwriter Callie Khouri [who later went on to write The Divine Sisters of the Ya Ya Sisterhood and Nashville], Thelma & Louise hit theaters on May 24, 1991 to critical acclaim and widespread criticism– forever etching its place in cinematic history.
Produced in an era when female-driven films were virtually non-existent, Thelma & Louise’s groundbreaking, career-defining lead roles were years before their time [as well as cinematic predecessors of the #metoo movement].
From its Oscar-nominated performances [and Oscar-winning screenplay] to its unforgettable ending, Thelma & Louise has transcended its humble beginnings to become part of the cultural landscape– And it’s only improved with age.
And while you think you know everything about Thelma & Louise, we’ve gathered 10 intriguing facts you might not…
1. Jodie Foster & Michelle Pfeiffer were almost Thelma & Louise
Despite their iconic performances, Geena Davis & Susan Sarandon weren’t the writer and director’s first choice. Actresses Jodie Foster and Michelle Pfeiffer were initially offered the parts of Thelma & Louise but took other projects [Silence of the Lambs and Love Field] when they ran into scheduling conflicts.
2. Screenwriter Callie Khouri initially had misgivings about director Ridley Scott.
After directing Blockbuster Sci-Fi films like Alien and Blade Runner, Ridley Scott wasn’t an obvious choice and Khouri had her concerns. But all doubts vanished when she met Scott, who was looking for a change of direction. Khouri sensed he “not only understood what she was trying to say but also, more importantly, understood the script’s rich, Southern-spiced humor.”
3. Meryl Streep & Goldie Hawn vs. Geena Davis & Susan Sarandon
Back in 1991, Meryl Streep & Goldie Hawn were seeking out a feature project to work on together. They initially considered the script, but ultimately opted for the dark comedy, Robert Zemeckis’ ‘Death Becomes Her’ — opening the door for Geena
Davis and Susan Sarandon.
4. Geena Davis insisted on performing her love scene with Brad Pitt.
When Geena Davis learned that Director Ridley Scott planned to use a body double for Thelma’s steamy sex scene with Brad Pitt’s ‘J.D’, Davis set out to use her star-power to ensure she got to play the part to the fullest once the cameras were rolling.
5. Brad Pitt nearly lost the role of J.D. to a Baldwin brother.
The breakout role of J.D. that launched Brad Pitt’s career was initially given to Billy Baldwin. But when Billy Baldwin dropped out to take the lead role in Backdraft (another roleBrad Pitt auditioned for and lost out to Baldwin), the role was recast and Pitt stepped in.
6. George Clooney auditioned multiple times for the role of J.D.
After struggling through a series of forgotten pilots and sitcoms, 1991-era George Clooney read for the part of J.D. four separate times… and lost out to his future best man, Brad Pitt.
7. Thelma & Louise’s is the last film to feature two Best Actress Academy Award nominations.
As of 2018, only four films have featured performances with two Best Actress Academy Award nominations: All About Eve, Suddenly Last Summer, Terms of Endearment, and Thelma & Louise. In 1992, Jodie Foster beat out both Davis & Sarandon for her performance in Silence of the Lambs.
8. Callie Khouri was an assistant when she wrote Thelma & Louise.
After studying at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute, Callie took a job as an assistant at a video production company. It was at this ‘bottom of the rung’ position where Callie wrote the initial draft of the screenplay that would go on to become Thelma & Louise.
9. Brad Pitt only made $6,000 for his role.
Despite his work in independent film, back in 1991, Brad Pitt wasn’t a household name. Long before he became Hollywood royalty, Brad Pitt was just another actor in need of a gig. Along came Thelma & Louise and his fateful reading with Geena Davis who thought Pitt was ‘so cute’ that she kept messing up her lines, which led to Pitt getting cast.
10. Thelma & Louise had an alternate ending.
Callie Khouri had to fight for the dramatic ending that everyone knows and loves. Concerned with how audiences would react to a downbeat finale, the studio sought a different ending. But without an effective alternative, the drive off the cliff made the cut. Ridley Scott filmed a different, longer ending that shows the car’s descent into the canyon while a B.B. King song plays– but, instead, opted for the freeze frame over Hans Zimmer’s score, giving us the ending we all now know and love.