MOVIES : Off-Centerpiece : Hey, Wait a Darned Minute! That Can’t Possibly Be Geena
When movies use flashbacks to tell a story, you can bet that at some point, you’re going to see the stars wearing a lot of makeup--for example, Bette Midler and James Caan in “For the Boys,” and Melanie Griffith and Michael Douglas in “Shining Through.”
But Columbia Pictures’ “A League of Their Own,” uses the flashback framing device without the makeup. Instead, director Penny Marshall cast 65-year-old Lynn Cartwright to play the character Dottie Hinson (portrayed during most of the film by Geena Davis) as a woman in her 60s, looking back on her years in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. Davis’ voice was dubbed in over Cartwright’s. The filmmakers also cast older women to double for the other actresses, including Lori Petty and Madonna, for the film’s closing scenes, when the old teammates meet at a Baseball Hall of Fame reunion many years later.
“We felt it was a gamble,” admits producer Elliot Abbott. “We didn’t know whether or not it was going to work, which scared us to death.” Apparently it does work: Many who have seen the film have been surprised to find out that’s not Davis made up to appear older.
Abbott says the decision to use the older actresses was made for a number of reasons. “For one thing, we had never seen anybody do any of the older makeup that looked very good,” he says. “Also because it was a time span of over 40 years later and the girls are so young in the picture, it just never would have been believable.”
Cartwright, a veteran of numerous films, including Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment,” was one of hundreds of hopefuls who auditioned. Abbott says the actress wasn’t chosen just because of the resemblance to Davis. “We weren’t just looking for someone who looked like her,” he says. “We also were searching for someone who had the same behavior, someone whose mouth moved the same way, who said the same words in the same way. Lynn’s mannerisms really matched up wonderfully with Geena.”
Abbot says they had to dub in Davis’ voice “because Lynn’s voice is so different, so deep, it would have pulled you out. It’s all you would have thought about.”
To prepare for the audition, Cartwright says, “I watched every Geena Davis movie I could get my hands on. I’ve always been a big fan of hers.”
Abbot says that once Cartwright and the other women were chosen, they were sent to Evansville, Ind., where much of the film was shot, to spend a day with the younger actresses and “study them.”
Cartwright was enthusiastic about the filmmakers’ decision to use older actresses instead of aging makeup. “I hope it starts a whole new trend,” she says. “We older actors would appreciate it. It would mean a lot of work for older actors.”