Virginia Davis in Wareham, Massachusetts, 21 January 1957.
Married 1) Richard Emmolo (divorced); 2) the actor Jeff Goldblum
(divorced); 3) the director Renny Harlin (divorced).
Attended Boston University, BFA, 1979.
Began acting on stage with the Mount Washington Repertory Company in New
Hampshire, late 1970s; moved to New York to break into theater, 1979;
worked as a model, early 1980s; made screen debut in
, 1982; appeared in TV sitcom
, 1983–84; had title role in TV sitcom
, 1985; had breakthrough screen roles in
The Accidental Tourist
, 1988; established her own production company, Genial Pictures, 1990s;
placed 24th out of 28 semi-finalists for the United States Olympic Archery
Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, for
The Accidental Tourist
, 1988; Best Actress National Board of Review, for
Thelma & Louise
Paramount Communications, 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019, U.S.A.
Tootsie (Pollack) (as April)
Fletch (Ritchie) (as Larry); Transylvania 6–5000 (DeLuca) (as Odette); Secret Weapons ( Secrets of the Red Bedroom ; Sexpionage ) (Don Taylor—for TV) (as Tamara Reshevsky)
The Fly (Cronenberg) (as Veronica "Ronnie" Quaife)
Beetlejuice (Burton) (as Barbara Maitland); The Accidental Tourist (Kasdan) (as Muriel Pritchett)
Earth Girls Are Easy (Temple) (as Valerie Dale)
Quick Change (Howard Franklin and Bill Murray) (as Phyllis)
Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott) (as Thelma Dickinson)
Hero ( Accidental Hero ) (Frears) (as Gale Gayley); A League of Their Own (Penny Marshall) (as Dottie Hinson)
Angie (Coolidge) (as Angie Scacciapensieri); Speechless (Underwood) (as Julia, + co-pr)
Cutthroat Island (Harlin) (as Morgan Adams)
The Long Kiss Goodnight (Harlin) (as Samantha Caine/Charly Baltimore)
Stuart Little (Minkoff) (as Mrs. Little)
"Accidental Ingenue," interview with Michael Musto and Dan Lepard, in Interview (New York), December 1988.
Interview with Martha Sherrill, in Washington Post , 12 May 1989.
Interview with Johanna Schneller, in GQ (New York), June 1989.
"20 Questions," interview with David Rensin, in Playboy (Chicago), October 1989.
"An Interview with Geena Davis," interview with S. Royal, in Premiere (Los Angeles), no. 3, 1991.
"An Interview with Geena Davis," interview with Tom Hanks, in Interview (New York), March 1992.
Interview with S. Banner, in Time Out (London), 2 September 1992.
"The Brainy Bombshell," interview with George Kalogerakis, in Vogue (New York), May 1994.
DiNicolo, David, "People Are Talking About: Movies," in Vogue (New York), April 1988.
Sherman, Jeffrey, "Tour Divorce," in Vogue (New York), November 1988.
Rasenberger, Jim, "Dreams of Geena," in Vanity Fair (New York), January 1989.
Handy, Bruce, "What's So Strange about Geena Davis?," in Rolling Stone (New York), 23 March 1989.
Ferguson, K., "Geena Davis," in Film Monthly (Hemel, England), June 1989.
"Women We Love," in Esquire (New York), August 1989.
Current Biography 1991 , New York, 1991.
Jerome, Jim, "Riding Shotgun," in People Weekly (New York), 24 June 1991.
Schickel, Richard, "Gender Bender," in Time (New York), 24 June 1991.
Diamond, Jamie, "Geena: The Goddess Next Door," in Vogue (New York), September 1992.
Sessums, Kevin, "Geena's Sheen," in Vanity Fair (New York), September 1992.
Abramowitz, R., "Geena Soars," in Premiere (New York), February 1994.
Clark, J., "Renny Harlin Gets the Girl," in Premiere (New York), March 1995.
* * *
Had Paula Prentiss been working in movies in the 1980s, she would have been up for the same roles as Geena Davis. The two talented actresses shared lanky, long-legged good looks and the ability to project appealing, offbeat personalities. Because neither was mistaken for Marilyn Monroe or Michelle Pfeiffer during her early career, the ingenue roles in which the young actresses were cast suggested capricious types. Prentiss's film career lost steam in the early 1970s as she entered her mid-thirties; however, the increase in solid, three-dimensional film roles for women a decade-and-a-half later allowed Davis's career to thrive at the same point.
Her screen debut came in an eye-opening supporting role in Tootsie , playing a soap opera actress who shares a dressing room with Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman), an unemployable character actor secretly taking on a woman's identity in order to work. After ongoing roles in two television series, Davis returned to making movies. She co-starred with then-husband Jeff Goldblum in three films. The first was Transylvania 6–5000 , an unfunny Dracula-themed spoof in which she appeared as a sex-crazed vampiress. But her talent was apparent. According to New York Times critic Janet Maslin, Davis "appears to have wandered in from another, much better movie." In The Fly she is underutilized as a journalist who has an affair with the fly/man played by Goldblum. And in the imaginative Earth Girls Are Easy she is a harebrained Valley-girl manicurist who falls for a space alien.
The films with Goldblum proved Davis could be credible in fantasy-world films. The most outstanding and appealing of her
Lawrence Kasdan's The Accidental Tourist provided Davis with a more substantial role, one which allowed her an opportunity to develop a personality of full measure. From the pages of Kasdan's adaptation of Anne Tyler's best-selling novel, Davis brings to life the character of an ingenuous dog trainer whose free-flowing personality unlocks the emotions of a pent-up travel writer she comes to love. The clarity and feeling she applied to the role earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
However, the outstanding role in Davis's career to date is that of Thelma, an Arkansas housewife who takes to the road with her waitress friend (Susan Sarandon) in the highly-touted female buddy film Thelma & Louise. Callie Khouri's original script presents the full-blooded character of an unhappy ditzy housewife who develops into a determined criminal. Feminist viewers were enthralled as they watched the two women characters travel across the Southwest in their '66 T-bird. In Paula Prentiss's 20-year career, she never once had such a solid role.
The year after Thelma & Louise , Davis gave a well-rounded performance in A League of Their Own as a farm girl who becomes a star baseball player in a women's league during World War II. Here, her rangy build gave credibility to the character's athletic prowess. She then played a pair of independent women who face romance and marriage with some amount of trepidation. She has the title role in Angie , playing a free-spirit who is on the verge of marriage and parenthood. In Speechless , she is seen in the timely comedy of a political speech writer who falls for a man who writes speeches for opposing candidates. Critics noted the strength of her performances in both these films.
In the mid-1990s, it could have been said that, with the support of several above-average scripts, Davis had gone from playing zany but one-dimensional characters to winning multifaceted star roles in motion pictures that were both critical and box-office successes. So powerfully did the actress carry off well-written roles that she was able to create a new and different look for female film stars. Unfortunately, she then chose to appear in two high-profile genre films, the action thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight and the swashbuckler Cutthroat Island. Both were directed by Davis's now ex-husband, Renny Harlin. Not only did they fail to establish the actress as a celluloid action heroine but impeded on her very stardom and marketability. Then, after a three year absence from the screen, Davis reemerged as the mother/homemaker in the kiddie fantasy Stuart Little : a colorless role that might have been played by any number of pleasant-looking, anonymous thirty-fortysomething actresses.
—Audrey E. Kupferberg