How Susan Sarandon changed the ending of ‘Thelma & Louise’

If it weren’t for Susan Sarandon, Thelma just might have survived.

Indeed, the Oscar-winning actress — who played Louise to Geena Davis’ Thelma in the 1991 road-trip classic “Thelma & Louise” — came up with 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 set to die in the end.

“[Scott] said, ‘Well, you definitely will die, but I’m not sure about the other character. Uh, you may push her out of the car,’ ” Sarandon told Vanity Fair. “By the time we got to that, the very end of shooting, the one take that we had, we had earned that moment to be together.”

Sarandon had other key input for the movie’s memorable final scene at the Grand Canyon: “I said to Ridley, ‘I want to cut a lot of this dialogue, and by that time we’re finishing each other’s sentences, and I wanna kiss her. And he said, ‘Great.’ ”

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in "Thelma & Louise."
Both Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis earned Best Actress Oscar nominations for “Thelma & Louise.”

After getting involved with the project because “Ridley Scott asked me to,” there was a question about whether Sarandon would play Thelma or Louise. “[He] kind of said, ‘Which part would you like to play?’ ” she said. “And I had a lot of questions because I told him, ‘I don’t want to do a revenge film, I don’t think that’s what it’s about.’ And so I changed a few things in terms of the way it was played.”

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

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis
Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis at a 30th anniversary charity screening of “Thelma & Louise” in 2021.
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“[The] joke was while we were filming that we would find out that we were just a voiceover, and it was all these great shots of everything,” said Sarandon. “Because that’s what we would be doing every morning, every sunset — we would be shooting exteriors with Ridley, with his guys all bare-chested with their shirts on their heads and smoking cigars. And Geena and I were like, ‘I’m sure we’re not even gonna be in this movie.’ ”

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