Geena Davis

Geena Davis

Davis first registered on TV in 1982 in the briefly recurring role of the guileless maid Karen Nicholson hired by precocious young conservative Alex P Keaton (Michael J Fox) on the hit NBC sitcom "Family Ties". Davis' slightly daft domestic enchanted both her diminutive employer and a huge primetime audience. She next surfaced as Wendy Killian, an ingenuous research assistant, providing one of several foils to Dabney Coleman's titular detestable talk show host "Buffalo Bill" (NBC, 1983-84) in that short-lived but highly acclaimed sitcom. Davis graduated to sitcom lead as "Sara" (NBC, 1985), a young single attorney sharing a San Francisco storefront apartment with three other lawyers. This failed but inoffensive attempt to recreate "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" for the 80s boasted a sterling supporting cast that included Alfre Woodard, Bill Maher and Bronson Pinchot. But success and stardom for the actress would come in the movies. Davis made her feature debut as a scantily clad soap-opera performer who innocently shares a dressing room with the cross-dressing Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie" (1982). She graduated to leads with David Cronenberg's ickily transcendent remake of "The Fly" (1986), cast opposite Jeff Goldblum whom she married the following year. Rarely has film offered a more convincing depiction of two bright and interesting people falling in love. Offscreen, Goldblum and Davis made for a great celebrity couple: both were long, lean, a little loopy and seemingly very much in love and they gave memorably entertaining interviews. The pair seemed like a Nick and Nora Charles for postmodern times. (Their marriage, however, faltered and they filed for divorce in 1990.) Davis surprised many by winning an Oscar for her portrayal of the kooky dog-trainer who wins the heart of a traumatized William Hurt in Lawrence Kasdan's comedy-drama "The Accidental Tourist". She made a much greater impact--and earned her first Best Actress nod from the Academy--as Thelma, an oppressed and none-too-brainy housewife who finds notoriety, liberation and herself on an outlaw road trip in Ridley Scott's seminal "Thelma & Louise" (1991). Filmed shortly after Davis' divorce from Goldblum, this female buddy movie became a cult favorite for many feminists and Davis and co-star Susan Sarandon assumed the status of a distaff Redford and Newman. She rose capably above the material in Penny Marshall's popular period baseball comedy-drama, "A League of Their Own" (1992). Impressively serious amid the sentimental shenanigans, Davis won kudos for her portrayal of Dottie Hinson, a softball player in rural Oregon awaiting the return of her husband from overseas in WWII. Additionally, she proved convincing as the catcher and star player of a pro women's ball team. Davis fared less well that same year as a career-driven reporter tracking down the "Hero" (Dustin Hoffman or Andy Garcia) who saved a plane full of crash survivors from death by smoke inhalation. The screenplay of this attempt at contemporary Capra-corn, though, received more criticism than the female lead. In 1993, Davis married transplanted Finnish action flick helmer Renny Harlin and the pair formed Forge Productions the following year. "Angie" (1994) offered a bit of a stretch for the striking WASPish leading lady as she played a working-class Italian-American Brooklynite who gets pregnant out of wedlock yet refuses to do the conventional right thing. Davis garnered reasonable reviews for her deft handling of a role conceived for Madonna but audiences steered clear of the light comedy-drama. Nor did they cast their vote later that year for "Speechless", a romantic comedy set in the world of politics. Starring opposite "Beetlejuice" co-star Michael Keaton as competing speech writers who fall in love, Davis also made her co-producing debut (with Harlin) on this project. She moved up to executive producer on the made-for-cable courtroom thriller "Mistrial" (HBO, 1996). Married as she was to an action specialist, Davis cannot be faulted for trying her hand at the genre. The potential boost in international box-office clout seemed a worthy prize as the producing duo joined forces for the lavish pirate adventure "Cutthroat Island" (1995). Helmed by Harlin, the film boasted elaborate stunts, vibrant lensing, meticulous production design and impressive battle sequences. On the other hand, the conventional derring-do and lame scripting all but neutralized Davis' quirky appeal. That flaw, along with poor pacing and an all but irrelevant male lead (Matthew Modine), helped sink this $100 million white elephant at the box office, which also took a movie studio--the already troubled Carolco--down with it to the ocean floor. In the plus column, Davis performed her action chores with considerable aplomb. She and Harlin sprang into action again with "The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). Armed with a hot Shane Black script, ace supporting player Samuel L. Jackson and some $70 million, the film delivered the action goods and a breezy tone but disappointing box office. Still, Davis charmed many with her initially tongue-in-cheek portrait of a suburban housewife whose amnesia prevents her from remembering her past as a top-ranked government assassin. Her attempt to transition back into television with the ABC sitcom "The Geena Davis Show" (2000-2001) playing a materialistic woman whose whirlwind romance takes her from singlehood to being the married mother of two after only six dates also failed to score with audiences. Despite these commercial and critical setbacks (not to mention personal--she and Harlin ultimately divorced in 1998), Davis found a hit with the popular children's film "Stuart Little" (1999), charming audiences as the winsome wife and mother Eleanor Little, who is perfectly nonplussed that her adopted son is a talking white mouse. She would also reprise the role for the 2002 sequel, "Stuart Little 2" and thr animated, direct-to-video "Stuart Little 3" (2006). The actress would then give television yet another go, taking the lead in producer Rod Lurie's political-minded series "Commander in Chief" (ABC, 2005-06) as Mackenzie Allen, a political independent who became vice president as a lure for women voters who, after the death of her running mate, takes to the Oval Office as president despite strong opposition from both her allies and her enemies. The series only lasted one season, after which Davis took a break from Hollywood for several years. The family comedy "Accidents Happen" (2009) was followed by a supporting role in the acclaimed indie comedy "In A World. ." (2013), about the life of a trailer voiceover artist. In 2014, Davis joined the cast of Shonda Rhimes' medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC 2005) for two seasons as a visiting surgeon. Davis next co-starred in the comedy "Me Him Her" (2015) before starring in the first season of a TV reboot of "The Exorcist" (Fox 2016-18). Davis next starred in Michael Almereyda's science fiction drama "Marjorie Prime" (2017) opposite Jon Hamm and played a version of herself in the indie comedy "Don't Talk To Irene" (2017). Davis executive produced and appeared in the documentary "This Changes Everything" (2018), a condemnation of sexism in the TV and film industry, In 2020 for her work promoting gender equality in Hollywood and the world, Geena Davis received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards.


Guest Appearances