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Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis played Thelma in the 1991 cult classic Thelma & Louise, starring opposite Susan Sarandon.
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"Women would come up to me and say, '[Thelma & Louise] changed my life. My friend and I call each other Thelma and Louise now.' It was eye-opening for me to realize the visceral impact a movie can have on people."
Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis was born on January 21, 1956, in Wareham, Massachusetts. There, she experienced some discomfort in her high school years because of her impressive height—she stands 6 feet tall. But her statuesque frame later helped her career. After graduating from Boston University in 1979, Davis moved to New York City and found work as a model.
Davis made her film debut in a small role in the 1982 comedy Tootsie starring Dustin Hoffman. Her acting career, however, really first started to take off with a recurring role on the popular sitcom Family Ties starring Michael J. Fox. Davis landed her own sitcom Sara in 1985, but the series proved to be short lived.
Davis went to become a huge success as a film actress. She made the now cult classic The Fly (1986) with Jeff Goldblum, her second husband. Davis soon became known for playing quirky characters, such as one of ghosts in Beetlejuice (1988). That same year, she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work on The Accidental Tourist. She played a woman who befriended a troubled travel guide writer (William Hurt).
In 1991, Davis and Susan Sarandon played the title characters in the hit film Thelma & Louise. This road trip movie about female friendship proved to be a profound influence on many who saw it. Davis later told Oprah magazine, "Women would come up to me and say, 'That movie changed my life. My friend and I call each other Thelma and Louise now.' It was eye-opening for me to realize the visceral impact a movie can have on people."
Davis won more acclaim in A League of Their Own (1992), a film about a women's baseball team. She co-starred with Rosie O'Donnell, Madonna and Tom Hanks in this popular sports movie. Davis later moved on such action films as Cutthroat Island (1995) and The Long Kiss Goodnight, both directed by her third husband Renny Harlin. By the end of the decade, her film career had faded with the notable exception of the children's film Stuart Little (1999).
In 2004, Davis founded what is now known as the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The institute has done extensively research into the portrayal of women in family films, discovering that there is, on average, only one female character for every three male characters. Davis and the rest of organization work to influence those who create content for children to correcting that imbalance.
Davis herself took on an important leading role in the television series Commander in Chief in 2005. She starred as President Mackenzie Allen on the show, setting her own example of a positive, strong female character.
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