Name: Geena Davis
DOB: 21 January 1956
Acting Appearances: 46
Academy Awards: 1
Legendary actress Geena Davis celebrated her 62nd birthday earlier this month, and to celebrate we are looking back at her colourful career and how she carved her way into Hollywood royalty. Avoiding getting too involved in the big budget Hollywood production line, Davis is a cult favourite who has currently turned her acting chops to television, starring in the reboot of The Exorcist as a grown-up Regan MacNeil.
Having started her career as a model, Davis soon turned to acting and made it big quick. Using her position, Davis has become an activist in gender representation in media and sports. Her most recent venture was launching an annual film festival in Arkansas which celebrates diversity in film, focusing on minorities and women in the cast and the crew. Also a member of MENSA, Geena Davis is a true role model for women in the entertainment industry.
FIRST FILM APPEARANCE: TOOTSIE (1982)
Davis’ acting debut was in the critically acclaimed Tootsie when she was just 26 years old. Appearing alongside the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray and Jessica Lange, Davis was among some of the best in the industry of the time. Whilst only a supporting character in the film, Davis was casted by director Sydney Pollack himself whilst she was progressing her career as a model. No doubt opening the door for Davis to a bright future in the film industry, Tootsie was an incredible opportunity and paved her way into the quirkier side of cinema.
OSCAR WINNER: THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST (1988)
Davis’ first nomination at the Academy Awards was also her first win and, being only 6 years after her first appearance on the big screen, her career was cemented early on. She took the Best Supporting Actress award for The Accidental Tourist, but it wouldn’t be long until she was playing the leading lady. With her character Muriel, described as being the reason behind the film’s (and the original novel’s) success, Davis was able to play the eccentric and goofy character. This played well into her look – a beautiful model and actress no doubt, but big wide eyes and a slight overbite takes her out of that conventional beauty bracket, widening her scope for interesting characterization.
CULTURAL ICON: THELMA & LOUISE (1991)
Thelma & Louise is the film that will come to mind for just about everyone when they think of Geena Davis, and it was a film of epic proportions for women, director Ridley Scott, and Geena Davis in her career. Gaining a further Oscar nom, this time for Best Actress, Davis’s performance in this cultural classic was second to none.
Playing the eponymous character Thelma, Davis perfected the transition from naive and innocent housewife to feminist anti-hero with complete finesse. The combination of Davis and Susan Sarandon was unlike any other ‘buddy movie’ seen on screen at that time, and the depiction of these women as complex characters rather than polished and glamorous makes it a powerful female statement.
Thelma & Louise is an unforgettable, iconic movie, and remains Davis’s biggest performance to date.
GUILTY PLEASURE: A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992)
Perhaps less a guilty pleasure and more a forgotten gem, A League of Their Own was completely of its time in that some of the most critically acclaimed films of the 90s were major cheese-fests that don’t stand up to par against those of other decades. However, Davis’ performance in this baseball classic gained her a further nomination, this time at the Golden Globes.
This film is a true feel-good movie and another in Davis’s career that focuses on women, and she stars as the first recruit of an all-female all-American baseball league during World War II.
Having undergone intensive training on set to get her baseball skills up to speed, Davis discovered a previously unfound athletic ability. Later that decade, she would go on to compete in the US Olympic trials for archery.
There’s no doubt that Geena Davis’s acting career is merely the tip of the iceberg of her inspirational life as a feminist and activist. She became known for her roles in quirky cult films, but is remembered for her ability to put women in the spotlight. She is a true role model for anyone, especially young women and aspiring actresses.