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With an army of police officers over their shoulders, guns drawn and sirens blazing, and dust from the Grand Canyon swirling throughout their 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible, Thelma offers a shocking suggestion to literal partner in crime Louise.
“Let’s keep going,” says a breathless Thelma, played by Geena Davis, in the final seconds of Ridley Scott’s 1991 film Thelma & Louise. “What do you mean?” asks Susan Sarandon’s Louise, aware that the options are urgently limited to life in prison or one with a shorter life expectancy waiting at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. “Go,” she says. They kiss, and Louise hits the gas as they clasp hands and drive off into the sunset. The final frame freezes with the Ford Thunderbird suspended in mid-air, bringing an end to Thelma and Louise’s wild journey.
Screenwriter Callie Khouri won an Oscar for the film, which earned a total of six nominations and went on to have “a life of its own” over these past three decades, she told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday night at MGM and Cinespia’s 30th anniversary drive-in screening event at the Greek Theatre. And while her main characters may not have made it past the end credits, Khouri said that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from lobbing requests as to whether or not there could be more life in Thelma & Louise.
“There have been queries over the years, but I didn’t really want to see it. I just felt like they nailed it,” she says, referring to her two leading ladies, Scott and the team. “I’m not a big reboot person, anyway.”
But Khouri, as it turns out, is a musical person and Broadway could be the right venue to resuscitate Thelma & Louise after all these years. Khouri confirmed to THR that she and a handful of collaborators are in the “very early stages” of development on a musical version based on the iconic film. Theater director Trip Cullman (The Rose Tattoo, Choir Boy, Lobby Hero and Six Degrees of Separation) is attached to direct with Halley Feiffer on board to write the script that will feature original songs from indie singer-songwriter Neko Case. Feiffer, a playwright, TV writer and actress, recently wrapped as a co-executive producer on the upcoming Apple TV+ series Dear Edward for Jason Katims and is developing The Guru for Apple and Wondery, as well as a Joan Jett project for FX.
Khouri declined to offer specifics about the story or what fans of the film should expect from a stage musical, but she did describe it as a reimagination of her original story, which followed two best friends who set off on a road trip only to see it change course following a sexual assault and murder. “It’s a completely different animal,” she explained. “We’ve got a book and we’ve got music but because of the pandemic, we all haven’t been together in a very, very long time. So, it’s still in its nascent stages, but it’s very promising. I don’t want to say too much about it.”
She was more open to talking about life during the pandemic, which has included an extended break from juggling multiple projects. “Over the last six months, I just kind of decided that I didn’t want to decide what I was going to do next. I wanted to stop, and see what happened. I wanted to live my life,” said Khouri who has worked as a writer, director and producer on such music-themed projects as Nashville, Patsy & Loretta and Hollis & Rae. She has a credit on the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic Respect starring Jennifer Hudson. “It’s been kind of great to not feel like I have to go from one job to the next to the next to the next. You get so burnt out. I have a lot of projects that are sitting there simmering, waiting for me to come back and you know, I will, but right now I’m purposely trying not to work.”
She’s been enjoying the time off from a home base in Nashville, a city she loves after having lived there while working on the ABC series she created. With COVID-19 restrictions lifted and much of life returning to normal — including on Broadway, which could speed up the development process for the musical — Khouri was able to travel to Los Angeles for the Thelma & Louise anniversary screening, complete with a detour down memory lane.
“I feel like one of the luckiest people ever to roll through this town,” she said of life after her Oscar-winning debut. “I also can’t believe it’s been 30 years. It’s just amazing to be here.”
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