When it comes to Geena Davis, most fans remember her for her role as Dottie in A League of Their Own, Thelma in 1991’s Thelma & Louise or as Barbara in Beetlejuice.
As one of the most popular actors in the 1980s and early 1990s, her career took a significant dip after starring in the action/adventure flick, Cutthroat Island in 1995. While her career has never reached the peak of the 1980s-1990s, it has seen a bit of a resurgence over the past few years.
Without further adieu, what really happened to Geena Davis?
Geena, whose real name is Virginia Elizabeth Davis, was born on January 21, 1956, in Wareham, Massachusetts. Her parents, who were both from Vermont, worked as a teacher’s assistant and civil engineer. She also has an older brother.
While attending Wareham High School, she often felt out of place due to her tall stature. In addition to being a cheerleader, she also participated in an exchange student program that took her to Sandviken, Sweden. It was during this trip that she became fluent in Swedish.
After returning home and graduating high school, she went on to study acting at New England College and then later transferred to Boston University. She didn’t graduate due to not having enough credits, and in 1977, she left New England for New York.
After doing a little bit of modeling, she was discovered by Sydney Pollack, who cast her in Tootsie in 1982. Geena was 26 years old at the time.
After starring as April Page in Tootsie, she had pretty consistent work throughout the early to mid-1980s. Her works included an episode of Knight Rider in 1983, 26 episodes of Buffalo Bill through 1984, two episodes of Family Ties, and 13 episodes of Sara in 1985. After a lengthy television career, she returned to the big screen in Fletch, Transylvania 6-5000 in 1985 and The Fly in 1986.
Her first big break would come in 1988 when she landed the role of Barbara in the cult classic, Beetlejuice, which was the 10th highest-grossing movie that year.
Acclaimed director, Tim Burton cast Geena as Barabra in Beetlejuice, which was a story about a recently deceased couple haunting their former home. She, along with Alec Baldwin, was one of the ghosts haunting the residence.
After Beetlejuice, she starred in the Accidental Tourist, alongside William Hurt. In the film, she plays an animal hospital employee who develops a bond with Hurt’s Macon Leary, who is grappling with the death of his 12-year-old son. Geena’s performance in the film earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Thelma & Louise
Geena’s career would hit another milestone when she starred as Thelma, alongside Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise in 1991. Now considered a “landmark feminist film,” Geena was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Thelma, as they go on the run from the police.
A League of Their Own
A year later, in 1992, she earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Dottie in A League of Their Own, a film about a Midwestern all-female baseball league that comes to prominence during World War II.
A Fall From Grace
Despite having major box office success, Geena’s career came to a crashing halt after starring as Morgan Adams in Cutthroat Island in 1995. The film, which holds the Guinness World Record for having the “largest box office loss,” ruined her career, so Hollywood no longer thought she was bankable.
Four years after Cutthroat Island, she starred as Mrs. Little in Stuart Little, which was her most successful film performance over the next decade. Between 2004 and 2014, she appeared in an episode of Will & Grace, 19 episodes of Commander in Chief as President Mackenzie Allen, two episodes of Coma, and an episode of Doc McStuffins. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these are just a few of the more well-known performances she did during this timeframe.
What is Geena Davis Doing Now?
Geena started to see a slight resurgence in her career in the late 2010s. Between 2014-2018, she had a guest-starring role as Dr. Nicole Herman on Grey’s Anatomy. In 2019, she appeared in six episodes of GLOW, as Sandy Devereaux St. Clair, and in three episodes of She-Ra and the Princess of Power. As of 2023, she has a new film called Fairyland.
Outside of acting, she published a memoir, titled Dying of Politeness: A Memoir in October 2022. She has an upcoming event, titled An Evening with Geena Davis, at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in New Jersey in October 2023. This event offers a screening of Beetlejuice and an audience Q&A. Tickets start at $55.
Though she is not on social media, you can follow the Geena Davis Institute on Instagram at @geenadavisorg, which advocates on behalf of eliminating stereotypes in the media.
As Founder and Chair, she recently was a keynote speaker at several events in El Paso, Texas, and Australia.
Geena has been in several serious relationships. In 1977, she started dating Richard Emmolo, but later divorced him in 1984. She was engaged to her Thelma & Louise co-star, Christopher McDonald, and then in 1987, married her Transylvania 6-5000 co-star Jeff Goldblum. They filed for divorce in 1990.
In 1993, she married Renny Harlin, who directed her in Cutthroat Island. She filed for divorce in 1997 after he fathered a child with her personal assistant. A year later, in 1998, she started dating Reza Jarrahy, a plastic surgeon. They were married in 2001 and had three children together: a daughter, Alizeh in 2002 and twins, Kian and Kaiis in 2004. They split up in 2018.