Debra Winger Quit This Movie Because of Madonna

It’s almost impossible to imagine the iconic sports movie A League of Their Own without its original cast members. But the thrice Academy Award nominated actor Debra Winger recently claimed she was originally cast in Geena Davis’ role — and dropped out because Madonna was cast in the movie. 

Debra Winger trained for 3 months with the Chicago Cubs

In an interview with The Telegraph, Winger said that she had trained with the Cubs for three months to prepare for the role of Dottie Hinson, which ended up being played by Geena Davis. 

Per Today, when director Penny Marshall announced that she’d be bringing Madonna onto the cast to play Mae Mordabito, Winger balked. She didn’t want to be part of an “Elvis film,” she told the newspaper. 

Further, once the 1992 film was released and Winger had moved on to other things, she felt that all the preparation didn’t translate to a believable movie. 

“As entertaining as (the final film) was, you don’t walk away going ‘Wow, those women did that,’” Winger told the paper. “You kind of go, ‘Is that true?’”

The Oscar-nominated Terms of Endearment star appeared in a number of other high-profile films in the 1990s, including Forget Paris with Billy Crystal, Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins, and Leap of Faith with Steve Martin. 

Debra Winger was paid for ‘A League of Their Own,’ even though she didn’t appear in it 

Winger said that when it was all said and done, the studio agreed with her on the Madonna casting. While she ultimately refused to appear in the movie due to Madonna’s presence, she was nonetheless paid for the gig. 

“The studio agreed with me because it was the only time I ever collected a pay-or-play on my contract,” Winger told The Telegraph. “In other words, I collected my pay even though I did not play, and that’s very hard to get in a court.”

At the time, if anybody could have gotten away with it, it would have been Winger. Long before 1992, she had back-to-back Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar nominations for two films.  An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), in which she plays the down-to-earth love interest of Richard Gere’s Zack Mayo; and Terms of Endearment (1983), in which she played a young, cancer-stricken mother opposite a legendarily dramatic Shirley MacLaine

Two years after her brush with A League of Their Own, the actor was still proving she was worth the “pay-or-play.” Her 1993 performance in Shadowlands earned her yet another Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar nomination. 

Debra Winger said Geena Davis did ‘OK’ in her role

Debra Winger wearing a black dress
Debra Winger attends the 2018 New York Film Critics Circle Awards | Theo Wargo/WireImage

Once Winger had dropped out of the cast, the role of Dottie went to Geena Davis; an athlete in her own right, who was so competitive in archery, she nearly made the 2000 Olympic team. 

While Winger’s comments on the movie and cast were reserved, she said Davis did “OK.”

 “I certainly don’t begrudge any of (the cast members,)” Winger told The Telegraph. 

Given that the movie became a feminist classic, they probably don’t begrudge her, either. 

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