Geena Davis is sharing her thoughts on the Independent Spirit Awards going gender-neutral for acting categories while also defending her 1995 film Cutthroat Island, stating that it “did not bring down” Carolco Pictures.
In a new interview with The New Yorker about her upcoming memoir, Dying of Politeness, the actress and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media spoke about the Spirit Awards’ decision to combine its actress and actor honors into two 10-nominee categories — one for best actor and best supporting actor. It follows similar moves by the Gotham Awards, Grammys and others, with other craft categories at major award shows like the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys and Film Independent Awards already gender-neutral.
While Davis acknowledged she hadn’t heard the news, she noted that “you’re losing half of the awards, which might not be desirable” and that the move might be “a little too soon.”
“In a perfect world where male and female actors got an equal number of roles and equally interesting and complicated roles, then I could see doing that, but it’s stacked against us from the beginning,” she continued. “I haven’t really thought about it that much, but it’ll be interesting to see if an equal number of times a woman wins as a man.”
When the topic of nonbinary and other gender-diverse actors who might not fit into the specific label of “actress” or “actor” was broached, Davis acknowledged this as an issue before noting how the label of “actor” or “actress” can also be an unnecessarily gendered thing she doesn’t like.
“By the way, the SAG Awards say ‘Best Female Actor’ and ‘Best Male Actor,’ as opposed to ‘Actress’ and ‘Actor,’” she explained. “The ‘-ess’ on the end — I’m just against that altogether. ‘Poetess.’ I hate when the real thing is male, but if you add a little something extra it can be female.”
Following news that the Spirits would make the pivot, Josh Welsh, president of Film Independent, told The Hollywood Reporter, “It’s something we’ve been discussing for a while. He noted that the decision follows many discussions that acknowledged how the craft categories have historically not been awarded by gender and that combining best actor and best actress into one is more inclusive of nonbinary and gender nonconforming actors.
“There’s a very legitimate concern that Hollywood is obviously not a level playing field when it comes to women in the industry,” he added. “But I don’t think the way to address that problem is by holding on to sort of antiquated award categories. I don’t think that’s the solution.”
Kirsten Schaffer, CEO of Women in Film, said she applauded the move and encouraged the show to re-evaluate after some time.
“Sometimes I think the thing that’s going to level the playing field for women is to change the dynamics around gender. So that if we all moved in direction of gender nonconformity or nonbinary-ism, maybe then we wouldn’t have such a problem,” she told THR. “If it ultimately hurts women, then I hope that they’ll readjust.”
At another point in the New Yorker interview, Davis also spoke about her 1995 film Cutthroat Island, which landed at one point in the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest box office bomb of all time. It was also reported that the film’s box office failure had shut down its studio Carolco Pictures, which was behind Rambo and Basic Instinct. Davis denied that.
“First, I want to clear up that it did not bring down Carolco because it was already facing bankruptcy before we even started making the movie. The company was pretty much finished. This was its last production,” she explained. “We were doomed from the beginning, unfortunately. When the film came out, there was no money to promote it, so it was guaranteed that it wasn’t going to be successful. Somehow people got fixated on how much it cost.”