Almost two decades after it birthed one of the most iconic catchphrases in sports film history (“There’s no crying in baseball!”), Debra Winger is opening up about her decision to drop out the beloved 1992 Penny Marshall-directed baseball film A League of Their Own.
Kajillionaire star Winger told Britain’s Daily Telegraph that she was against the casting of Madonna in the film about the nation’s first professional women’s baseball league, fearing the addition of the pop star in the role of sassy center fielder Mae Mordabito would turn it into an “Elvis film.”
“The studio agreed with me because it was the only time I ever collected a pay-or-play on my contract,” Winger claimed of Columbia Pictures. “In other words, I collected my pay even though I did not play, and that’s very hard to get in a court.”
Winger was replaced by Geena Davis, who turned catcher Dottie Hinson into the emotional center of the film that also starred Tom Hanks, Rosie O’Donnell and Lori Petty. It became the first movie in history directed by a woman to gross more than $100 million.
In the end, Winger — who said she prepped by training with the Chicago Cubs for three months — was happy exiting the project on her terms because she felt it did not properly pay homage to the real female ball players who inspired the story. “As entertaining as (the final film) was, you don’t walk away going, ‘Wow, those women did that.’ You kind of go ‘Is that true?’ ” Winger said, noting that she felt the cast did not put enough time in on the diamond to look like credible ball players. She added, “I certainly don’t begrudge any of them.”
Winger’s biting comparison to the King — who appeared in more than two dozen films in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, some acclaimed, but many kitschy drive-in movie schlockfests — is an especially pointed dig at Madonna, who has worked to balance her music and film careers for nearly four decades. After making her starring debut in 1985’s well-received Desperately Seeking Susan, Madonna see-sawed between flops (Shanghai Surprise), frothy fan favorites (Who’s That Girl) and critical missteps (Dick Tracy), before scoring a hit with her 1991 confessional biopic, Madonna: Truth or Dare.
In the end, Winger’s assessment of Madonna’s acting in the film was equally dismissive: “I think her acting career has spoken for itself,” she said.
Billboard has reached out to Madonna for comment.
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