Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise was released in theaters on May 24, 1991, which means its been exactly 25 years since Geena Davis (Thelma) and Susan Sarandon (Louise) decided to “just keep going” and drive their Thunderbird into the Grand Canyon. But though the movie is probably best known for that tragic final scene, I wouldn’t call it the movie’s best—or even its most emotional.
In an interview with screenwriting expert Syd Field, Callie Khouri spoke about the process of writing the film (for which she won an Oscar), and discussed the history of Louise’s character. During their chat, Khouri said:
“I knew something had to have happened to Louise, something she wasn’t going to expose... And she was never going to expose it, never going to open herself up like that again. Which is why she’s sometimes hostile with Thelma, because she felt that if she had really tried, the whole thing could have been avoided, which is really how society fells.”
That “something,” writes Field, was rape.
“I wouldn’t let myself say she had been raped. I never said it in the screenplay. We added a reference to it toward the end because Ridley Scott, felt that people would come out of the movie going, ‘Well, what did happen?’ It doesn’t really matter what happened to Louise. What happened to her happened to her. There are thousands and thousands of women walking around that have something in their past we don’t know about, and they deserve to be treated with respect, whether we had anything to do with it or not.”
That palpable sense of Louise’s past trauma—of her “something”—is part of what makes the scene below so powerful. As she stares at herself in the mirror and the old women in the cafe, we see her reflect on a lifetime of “somethings.” And by the time Davis’s wide-eyed Thelma runs out with that bag of stolen cash, Louise has already figured out how this is all going to end.
It’s just one of many tiny little moments that make Thelma and Louise as impressive as it was a quarter-century ago. That and, you know, this:
Image via screengrab.