There are only a handful of actors who have multiple films in their portfolio that made a major mark on culture as a whole. Susan Sarandon is one of the elite few, with a robust catalog that includes everything from a cult classic like The Rocky Horror Picture Show to the major moment in cinematic history that is Thelma & Louise.
As it turns out, Sarandon played a role in shaping the film, and not just on screen. Discussing her career for Vanity Fair, she recalls, “I initially got involved with Thelma & Louise because [director] Ridley Scott asked me to, and kind of said ‘Which part would you like to play,’ 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.”
One change she made? The iconic ending. “[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.’ 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 explains. “And that’s when 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.’”
So we have Sarandon to thank for making movie history as Thelma and Louise sail off the cliff together. But she gives Scott plenty of credit for turning a “tiny little film” into an “iconic, bigger than life story” by placing the outlaw women into “John Wayne’s backdrop.” She adds, “[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. 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 [Davis] and I were like, ‘I’m sure we’re not even gonna be in this movie.’” Thankfully, it all worked out for the best.