Geena Davis was not aware she was making screen history as baseball standout Dottie Hinson in 1992’s A League of Their Own with co-stars Tom Hanks, Madonna, Lori Petty and Rosie O’Donnell.
When Hanks, as the gruff manager of the fictional team from the first professional all-women baseball league, called out to one of his despondent players, “There’s no crying in baseball,” it didn’t strike Davis as an immortal moment.
“We knew it was hella funny,” Davis, now 61, recalls. “But I didn’t know that was going to be a classic. That line is a signature, right up there with ‘Hasta la vista, baby.’”
League has earned its place as one of America’s best sports comedies, selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2012.
As the film celebrates its 25th anniversary on July 1 (with a new special edition Blu-ray out now), Davis recounts her memories from the League set.
Her audition was simple: Director Penny Marshall insisted League actors truly play ball. Davis’ audition consisted of demonstrating her baseball prowess in Marshall’s backyard.
“(Marshall) wanted to make sure I could throw a ball, so that happened,” says Davis. “I threw the ball to her, competently got it to her, she caught it and said, ‘Okay.’ That was the whole audition.”
Without an athletic upbringing, Davis trained intensively to flesh out her game and ultimately impressed the real baseball coaches onset.
“When the coaches would say, ‘You have real untapped athletic ability’ it was like, ‘Oh my God, I am coordinated.’ It just took me (until I was) 36 to find that out.” (She would go on to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials in archery in 1999, two years after taking up the sport.)
Davis excelled at batting and that stare. “I wanted people to say ‘Uh-oh’ when I came to bat.”
Pitches were hard, balls were soft: Special precautions were required for close-up batting shots. Sponge-filled balls were used — not for the batters, but the crew.
“You’re actually hitting in the direction of the camera crew,” says Davis. “For close-ups, those balls were squishy. They looked like real baseballs, but they were all spongy inside so we wouldn’t clock anyone.”
Davis did the on-camera split: As catcher, Hinson pulls an acrobatic split when catching a foul ball, which Davis performed.
“Penny asked if I could do a split. I said to put it later in the shooting schedule to give me time to work up to it. It’s hard to learn that quickly. But I did,” says Davis.
She soaked in a hot tub to loosen up before the scene and nailed the split.
“The thing I did not do was get up from it. My character does a Chuck Berry split and then hops right back up,” says Davis. “There was no popping up happening. I was stuck there and had to be helped up.”
Madonna was a question mark: Davis admits she wasn’t sure what it would be like to work with Madonna, then in her prime.
“She was Madonna. We wondered if we were going to be able to talk to her. Was she going to have an entourage? Were they going to put up walls around her where she stands?” Davis recalls.
Ultimately, Madonna was a team player who trained hard and insisted on sliding head-first into bases. “That was painful. But she was so game. She was a trooper,’ says Davis.
Source : UsaToday