How Susan Sarandon changed the ending of Thelma & Louise

Without Susan Sarandon, Thelma might have survived.

In fact, the Academy Award-winning actress, who played Louise in Geena Davis’ Thelma in the 1991 road trip classic Thelma & Louise, made some last-minute changes to the script that sealed the deadly fates of both characters. Until Sarandon intervened with director Ridley Scott, only Louise was to die.

“[Scott] said, “Well, you’re definitely going to die, but I’m not sure about the other character. Uh, you can push her out of the car,'” Sarandon told Vanity Fair. “When we got to the end of filming, the one take we had, we earned this moment to be together.”

Sarandon had another key input for the film’s memorable final scene in the Grand Canyon: “I said to Ridley, ‘I want to cut a lot of this dialogue away, and at that point we’re going to finish each other’s sentences, and I want to kiss her.’ And he said, ‘Great.’”

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis will be there "Thelma & Luise."
Both Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis were nominated for Best Actress Oscars for Thelma & Louise.

After committing to the project because “Ridley Scott asked me to do it,” the question arose as to whether Sarandon would play Thelma or Louise. “[He] Art said, ‘What role would you like to play?'” she said. “And I had a lot of questions because I said to him, ‘I don’t want to do a revenge film, I don’t think that’s the point.’ And so I changed a few things in terms of how it was played.”

In the end, however, Sarandon credits Scott with making the film “the iconic, larger-than-life story” that earned both her and Davis Oscar nominations for Best Actress. She said that he elevated Thelma & Louise from a “tiny little movie” by putting the two female outlaws in “John Wayne’s set.”

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis
Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis at a charity screening to celebrate Thelma & Louise’s 30th anniversary in 2021.
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“[The] Funny thing was we found out during filming that we were just a voiceover and it was all these great shots of everything,” Sarandon said. “Because that’s what we did every morning, every sunset – we shot outside with Ridley, with his boys, all shirtless with their shirts on their heads and smoking cigars. And Geena and I were like, ‘I’m sure we’re not even going to be in this movie.'”

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