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George Clooney was furious he lost Thelma & Louise role to Brad Pitt, says Geena Davis

The A.V. Club 10/18/2022 Mary Kate Carr
George Clooney and Brad Pitt; Geena Davis © Photo: Michael Buckner; Craig Barritt (Getty Images) George Clooney and Brad Pitt; Geena Davis

George Clooney and Brad Pitt are one of Hollywood’s best-known bromances, but if there’s one thing that could come between them, it is–apparently–Geena Davis. In her memoir Dying Of Politeness (excerpted by The Times), the chapter on Thelma & Louise is called “The Blond One” in honor of Pitt’s memorable audition, amongst a sea of brunettes, to be her paramour in the film.

“Fast-forward a few years and I was boarding a flight from Geneva to LAX. A group of flight attendants were waiting at the aircraft door. When I got close, one of them said, ‘Guess who you’re sitting next to! George Clooney!’” Davis writes in the book. “For once in my life accomplishing the feat of saying the perfect thing at the perfect time, I replied, ‘Guess who he’s sitting next to?’”

Davis describes Clooney being “just as friendly as you’d hope him to be,” and after chatting together for a while he suddenly declared, “You know what, I hate that Brad Pitt.” Laughing, she replied, “‘No, you don’t. Isn’t he, like, your best friend?’ ‘No, no, I hate him,’” George said. ‘He got the part in Thelma & Louise,’” Davis recalls.

(Clooney has certainly gotten revenge on his pal, presumably several times over. In a recent interview with Jimmy Kimmel, the Oscar winner describes sending people prank letters on Pitt’s stationary. One went to Meryl Streep, alongside a “bunch of CDs” from a dialect coach: “Meryl said she avoided Brad for like five years!”)

Back on the plane, Davis replied, “‘Oh, I see. Did you want that part?’ ‘Well, yes–couldn’t you tell when I auditioned with you?’” Unfortunately, she didn’t actually remember the audition, especially because it was a pre-ER young Clooney. She didn’t want to say, “Oh my God, were you one of the guys with brown hair?” She writes, “Nope, too polite still. Instead I said, ‘Oh yes, I could tell. You were so great.’ Wimp.”

The premise of the book, of course, is the ways Davis’s politeness hindered her throughout her life (including a distressing encounter with Bill Murray). But Thelma & Louise was a landmark moment for her, not just because of its lasting success or because of Brad Pitt. It’s her co-star Susan Sarandon who made the biggest impression.

“It’s not overstating it to say that Susan has changed my life more than anyone I’ve known,” Davis writes. She remembers being astonished by Sarandon’s assertiveness in offering director Ridley Scott notes on the script, and being floored when she promised to bring Davis up on stage with her if she won the Oscar.

The Beetlejuice star elaborated on Sarandon’s impact in a recent interview with Good Morning Britain, saying, “It totally changed my life, because somehow in my sheltered life, I had never spent time with a woman who says what she thinks without qualifiers in front of it. I was used to living as somebody who says, ‘I don’t know if you agree with this or if this is a good idea.’ I was busy dying of politeness.

“As soon as I met Susan, oh my God, this was a whole different world,” Davis continued. “And it wasn’t that anyone reacted differently to her. Everyone loved her and everything. I was like, ‘Wow, you can actually be like that.’ She showed me what it’s like to live authentically and be in the moment.” The impact of Thelma & Louise truly is far-reaching.

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