Debra Winger dropped out of 1992’s A League of Their Own because she didn’t want to act with Madonna.
The straight-shooting actress, 66, gave a wide-ranging interview to The Telegraph, including discussing how she was supposed to be a Rockford Peach — specifically Dottie Hinson — and spent three months training with the Chicago Cubs for the role. However, when the Material Girl was cast as “All the Way” Mae Mordabito, the three-time Academy Award nominee bailed, accusing director Penny Marshall of “making an Elvis film.” Winger’s role went to Geena Davis, but she collected a paycheck anyway.
“The studio agreed with me,” Winger said of her infamous “Elvis film” line, “because it was the only time I ever collected a pay-or-play on my contract. In other words, I collected my pay even though I did not play, and that’s very hard to get in a court.”
Winger said she met the real-life baseball players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), which the fictionalized script was inspired by, and didn’t think the film – also starring Tom Hanks with his famous “There’s no crying in baseball!” line — honored them.
“As entertaining as [the final film] was, you don’t walk away going ‘Wow, those women did that,’” she said of the real-life players in the league, which ran between 1943 and 1954 after many men’s minor league teams disbanded due to the World War II draft. “You kind of go ‘Is that true?’”
Winger said she feels the actresses in the film — also including Rosie O’Donnell, Ann Cusack, Tracy Reiner and Anne Ramsay — didn’t train long enough to look convincing. Lori Petty was cited as a possible exception.
Winger went on to say she thinks Davis “did OK” in the role she was supposed to play, adding, “I certainly don’t begrudge any of them.”
As for Madonna, who took the role when actress Lindsay Frost — mother of Chicago White Sox player Lucas Giolito — dropped out because a TV pilot she shot was picked up for to series, Winger said, “I think [her] acting career has spoken for itself.”
Winger has always marched to her own beat, whether it was “leaving Hollywood” amid her career success, or shooting from the hip in interviews.
During her Telegraph talk, she recalled her An Officer and a Gentleman co-star Richard Gere reacting to her calling him “a brick wall.”
“I probably could have come up with something nicer,” Winger said. “[When] I run into him [now] he says, ‘Are you still saying those things about me?’” Though she noted she just made the one remark.
And while she remains “loving friends” with her Terms of Endearment mom Shirley MacLaine, she responded to MacLaine writing in her memoir that Winger once farted in her face.
“Well, I have never known Shirley to tell the truth about anything,” said Winger, who noted she never read the book. “If my children heard that story, they would laugh it out of the room since I’m the one that forbids such behavior.”
Winger, who appears in the new Apple TV+ series Mr Corman, also gave her unfiltered take on the #MeToo movement, saying she feels “in some ways” it “has gone ridiculously too far.”
“Part of it is that I’m the mother of three young white males,” she said, “so I’m looking at things that they’re experiencing, and things that my girlfriends of all different backgrounds are experiencing [and] it hasn’t quite found its steady point yet where there’s room for everybody.”
But, she noted, “I’m a bad one to ask. I always found my way. Is that privilege? It didn’t feel like it at the time, because I felt like I was in very abusive situations, but it was my responsibility to buck up, get strong.”
She exhibited that strength when handed a bottle of water retention pills to help her lose weight while filming Officer and a Gentleman.
“I was so young I didn’t even know what it was, and I just handed it back and said ‘I’m not taking that,’” she said. “It just sounded ridiculous to me. But somebody else could have really succumbed. … I just felt strong [enough] to say no to these f***ing assholes.”