Geena Davis Shut Down Jack Nicholson’s Sexual Advances Using Dustin Hoffman's Advice
"'I have a feeling we’re going to work together at some point in the future, and I would hate to have ruined the sexual tension between us,'" Davis told Nicholson.
REPOST The New Yorker (https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-new-yorker-interview/geena-davis-is-ready-for-the-geenaissance) / Samantha Bergeson (IndieWire)
Geena Davis steered clear of Jack Nicholson post-“Tootsie” fame.
Davis, who worked as a model before being cast in a bit part in “Tootsie” opposite Dustin Hoffman, revealed to The New Yorker that Nicholson propositioned her after a dinner with casting directors. As a newly-minted actress, Davis channeled advice her co-star Hoffman had told her about becoming intimately involved with actors.
“Say, ‘Well, you’re very attractive. I would love to, but it would ruin the sexual tension between us,'” Davis recalled Hoffman telling her about how to navigate a co-star’s lust. “And I saved that advice away.”
The “Thelma & Louise” star continued, “After ‘Tootsie,’ my modeling agent took me and a couple of other actor-slash-models to Hollywood to meet casting directors. He happened to know Jack Nicholson, and every single night Jack Nicholson had dinner with us. Then one day there was a note under the door that said, ‘Please call Jack Nicholson at this number.’ I was, like, I can’t believe it! So I said, ‘Hello, Mr. Nicholson. This is Geena the model. You called me?’ He said, ‘Hey, Geena. When is it gonna happen?'”
Davis said, “I was, like, Oh, no — why didn’t I realize this is what it was going to be about? But it immediately came into my head what to say: ‘Uh, Jack, I would love to. You’re very attractive. But I have a feeling we’re going to work together at some point in the future, and I would hate to have ruined the sexual tension between us.’ He was, like, ‘Oh, man, where’d you get that?’ So it worked.”
Davis also detailed a toxic workplace experience with co-star Bill Murray on 1999 film “Quick Change” in her memoir, “Dying of Politeness.” Davis claimed that Murray tried to inappropriately use a massage device on her; there are multiple allegations against Murray on recent productions, including the shelving of Aziz Ansari’s directorial debut “Being Mortal” after sexual assault claims against Murray. (more here: https://www.indiewire.com/2022/10/bill-murray-sexual-assault-being-mortal-1234771685/)
Hoffman later was accused of exposing himself to a minor and assaulting two women; the decades-spanning allegations came to light in 2017. Murray defended Hoffman’s actions, calling him a “crazy” flirt but a “really good guy.”
More on Hoffman: https://www.indiewire.com/2017/12/dustin-hoffman-accused-exposing-himself-sexual-assault-1201907842/
More on Murray defending Hoffman: https://www.indiewire.com/2018/09/bill-murray-dustin-hoffman-sexual-harassment-1202007858/
Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, shared that the curse of turning 40 as a woman in Hollywood impacted her career in terms of sexualization onscreen.
“When I started out, I’d hear that after 40 you stop getting roles. But I was getting these giant roles, and I thought, Well, obviously that’s not going to happen to me. And so it was stunning to realize that it did,” Davis said. “It was absolutely stunning and heartbreaking. It felt like forced retirement.”
She added despite the “Stuart Little” films, the “work just dried up” and it was an “incredibly painful” gendered double standard in the industry.
“I have a theory about why it happens. I think many male screenwriters put a female character in if they need to — a girlfriend or a daughter or whatever — and then, when they’re casting all the other roles in their minds, the go-to is always male. And so the really cool parts for people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, whatever, always go to men,” the “A League of Their Own” alum said. “It’s not fair, because they get to soldier on and have ever-younger co-stars. I always say, ‘Go through and figure out who could be female, or who could be a person of color, and change the first name.’ I said at one point to my agent, ‘Can we find out what Liam Neeson is turning down and go for those parts?'”
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