On Stage

Off the Cliff

Hollywood on the edge


What: Becky Aikman shares stories from Off the Cliff before a viewing of Thelma & Louise

When: 6 pm Thu., Jul. 13

Where: Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St.

Cost: $7.50-$10.75

Info: http://www.pickfordfilmcenter.org or www.villagebooks.com

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Spoiler alert: In the seminal 1991 movie Thelma & Louise, the titular characters don’t make it out alive.

However, anybody who’s watched the Academy Award-winning flick about two friends whose summer road trip goes horribly awry knows that by the time Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) fly their 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible off of a cliff and into the Grand Canyon, their sealed-with-a-kiss suicide can be viewed as an act of both defiance and courage.

What happened onscreen in Thelma & Louise was revelatory for its time. For its heroines, a weekend away from their disenchanted Arkansas lives takes a dark turn when Thelma is attacked outside of a roadhouse bar by a man she’d previously been dancing with. To protect her friend, Louise shoots the would-be rapist dead. What follows is a breathtaking flight for freedom. The women are fleeing the law and putting themselves in even more danger, but in doing so they find out that, especially together, they’re far stronger than they think.

In Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge, New York City-based author Becky Aikman went behind the scenes to discover how a movie about “two bitches in a car”—a quote from a nameless Tinseltown exec who first looked at screenwriter Callie Khouri’s script—was made.

In more than 130 interviews, Aikman shares stories from the actors, writers and filmmakers behind Thelma & Louise that show there was a lot more to the story than what audiences saw on the big screen. The minutiae of the production is chronicled—from lighting logistics to what it took to send the aforementioned Thunderbird into the great beyond—but it’s the conversations with the key players that illuminate just how much of a journey it was to get the movie made.

In addition to the lead actresses talking about how their roles had a correlation to fighting Hollywood misogyny, readers will also find out that the marketing department balked at selling the film, director Ridley Scott was hurt that Khouri didn’t initially trust him with her script, and that the part of J.D.—the parole-breaking thief who seduces Thelma and steals Louise’s life savings—nearly went to George Clooney instead of a then-unknown Brad Pitt.

When Aikman comes to Bellingham Thurs., July 13 to talk about her new book prior to a screening of the movie at the Pickford Film Center, she’ll likely share plenty of other stories about how the film with a decidedly feminist bent got made, and how it continues to spark conversations more than 25 years after it transformed the movie-making industry.

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