Behind the Making of 'Thelma & Louise'

Jul. 26, 2017
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offthecliff

The statistics were against the green-lighting of Thelma & Louise, much less its chances of becoming a hit. As recalled by Becky Aikman in her book Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge, in the year before it was filmed, only seven of the top 50 movies featured women as lead characters. In that same year, only two Hollywood screenplays were written by women without male collaborators.

Aikman’s thesis is that writer Callie Khouri didn’t entirely understand the odds, even though she was already working on the periphery of Hollywood as a music video production manager. Working in Khouri’s favor was the visceral excitement her screenplay generated among women inside the industry, including agent Diane Cairns.

Apparently, Khouri wrote the script while contemplating escape from the dead end of her life and career and the emotional headiness and uncertainty of breaking out permeates the film. The protagonists embodied a feminist message. As Khouri put it, “they’d stopped cooperating with things that were absolutely preposterous and just became themselves.”

The project gained momentum when Mimi Polk, who ran director Ridley Scott’s American production office, pitched the script to her boss. “I could see the film almost immediately as I was reading,” he said. He didn’t think he was the person to direct Thelma & Louise but he thought he knew just the guy, his brother, Tony Scott. Ridley wound up directing nonetheless.

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