Geena Davis: What Killed Her Movie Career

By Rick Gonzales | 8 months ago

Geena Davis

Beetlejuice. Earth Girls Are Easy. Thelma & Louise. A League of Their Own. These are just a few of the big feature film hits from actress Geena Davis. With all that goodwill, you’d would think that it would carry some weight as her career continued. Instead Geena Davis seemed to fade away as she got older, ending up in guest spots and minor television roles. Here’s how it happened.


Geena Davis

Geena Davis got her start on an iconic movie. It was 1982 and that film was the Dustin Hoffman-led film Tootsie. In it, she played a soap opera star who spent much of her time in her bra and underwear. What a way to break into the biz.

Davis turned Tootsie into a bunch of TV roles. She was on Knight Rider and then was a regular on the series Buffalo Bill. She grabbed roles on Fantasy Island, Riptide, Family Ties, and Remington Steele before she was the lead in the TV series Sara. That series lasted one season before Davis returned to her feature film roots.


Geena Davis

The hits began to arrive for Geena Davis. Fletch was the first, then came a modest one in Transylvania 6-5000. But her first real big blockbuster as a lead came in the Jeff Goldblum movie, The Fly. The David Cronenberg remake of the 1958 classic was known for its stomach-churning gore but also gave Geena Davis the spotlight she needed.

Speaking of Goldblum, Davis met him on the set of Transylvania, then reconnected with him on The Fly. The pair married (Davis’ second) in 1987 and then starred in one more movie together, Earth Girls Are Easy, before the two divorced in 1990.

Earth Girls
Geena Davis in Earth Girls Are Easy

The hits kept coming for Davis. She was blowing up at the box office as she co-starred in the Tim Burton classic Beetlejuice along with Michael Keaton and Alec Baldwin. The movie pushed her star into the stratosphere.

She moved on to The Accidental Tourist, Quick Change, and then the female empowerment focused and immensely popular Thelma & Louise. The ultimate road-trip movie she starred in, along with Susan Sarandon, continued Davis’ popular run.


She took that role and turned it into this author’s favorite Geena Davis movie, A League of Their Own. A truly comedic and heart-warming look at the life of two sisters who join the very first women’s professional baseball league.

She then reunited with her Tootsie co-star Dustin Hoffman for Hero and then starred in Angie and Speechless before the Hollywood world came crashing down on her.


Geena Davis

Not only was Geena Davis’ misses big, but they were also world record-breaking big. The beginning of the end came when Geena Davis married director Renny Harlin. The initial idea was a good one. Banking on Davis’ rise in the Hollywood ranks, Harlin wanted to turn his then-wife into an action-movie star.

Their first film out was the unbelievably massive box office flop Cutthroat Island. Davis led the movie as pirate Morgan Adams and was joined in the cast by Matthew Modine, who’s star was also fairly big at the time. The result, well, at one time it was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest box office loss in the history of film. Ouch.

Geena Davis
Geena Davis in Cutthroat Island

Maybe the movie wasn’t all THAT bad, looking back. Unfortunately, Harlin doubled down and teamed up with his wife for their next bomb, The Long Kiss Goodnight. A title befitting Davis’ career at the time. This time the duo brought along Samuel L. Jackson for the massive failure and it would end up being the last movie Harlin and Geena Davis would work on together.

Geena Davis divorced Harlin, filing for it on the day after Davis’ personal assistant gave birth to a child fathered by Harlin.

Stuart Little
Geena Davis in Stuart Little

Whether it was the box office failures, Harlin’s cheating, or the combination of both, Geena Davis took some much-needed time away from show business. When she returned, it was more modest fare. She came back starring as Mrs. Little in Stuart Little. She also reprised that role two more time in Stuart Little 2 and Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild.


Geena Davis

Geena Davis began to transition more to the TV side of the business after her three-year hiatus. She found a guest spot on Will & Grace and then was the lead in Commander in Chief, starring as the first female president of the United States. Between that series and her next, 2016’s The Exorcist, she had some very minor success on a few feature films.

After The Exorcist, which lasted only one season, she continued a recurring role that she had found on Grey’s Anatomy. As her time on Grey’s came to an end, Geena Davis moved onto another series, GLOW. This was in 2019 but since her time ended on Grey’s, her output has been minimal at best.

Geena Davis on Grey’s Anatomy

For her part Geena Davis seems to blame her lack of acting output on her age. Speaking of turning 40 to The Guardian she says once she had, “a four in front of my age, I fell off the cliff. I really did. In the early stages of my career, I was blithely going along thinking, ‘Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange and Sally Field, they’re all making these great female-centric movies. And I’m getting these great roles, really tippy-top roles, so things must be getting better for women.’ But suddenly, the great roles were incredibly scarce. It was a big difference.”


Geena Davis real passion has always been in sports. She took it to the next level in 1999 when, after learning archery two years previously, she competed for a spot on the US Olympic Archery team.

Ultimately Davis did not make the team but she says of her time competing, “It was the most out-of-body experience I’ve ever had, it was fabulous. I will never forget about it.”


Now 64-years-old Geena Davis seems less focused on acting. She gives her support to the Women’s Sports Foundation and equality in sports opportunities.

She has also launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Her non-profit is a research organization that researches gender equality in the media arts and advocates for equal representation. Geena Davis continues to fight for women in media.

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