You may have heard that George Clooney had a disastrous audition for the part of J.D., who seduces Thelma (Geena Davis). Every other young actor in Hollywood, including Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr., auditioned too.
"The J.D. contenders mostly fell into two camps," Becky Aikman writes in "Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma and Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge," which is out today. "Some adopted the spikey, tousled hair and winning charm of star of the moment Tom Cruise, while others went for the more retro effect of a shuffling, mumbling James Dean. Most fell short." Especially in Downey Jr.'s case,
According to Aikman, the future "Iron Man" star was deemed too short to woo the 6-foot-tall Davis. Despite being by then a more established name than any of his contenders -- he'd already starred in "Less Than Zero," "Chances Are" and "Air America" -- and being willing to "take [the role] for whatever we have in the budget," director Ridley Scott ruled him out because of his height.
William Baldwin actually landed the part, but opted to do "Backdraft" instead.
Then last-minute contender Pitt -- who had done a few films and a guest stint on "Dallas" -- read with Geena Davis. Their chemistry was off the charts, with Davis being so nervous, she flubbed her lines. "I'm so sorry, I'm screwing up your audition," she recalls in the book. When Scott and casting director Louis DiGiaimo discussed who should play J.D., Davis weighed in: "Would you be interested in what my impression was?" She told them to "go with the blond one," and Pitt got the job that made him into a '90s heartthrob.
Interestingly enough, one of Pitt's early roles was an uncredited bit in one of Downey Jr's classic '80s films, "Less Than Zero," as "Partygoer/Preppie guy at fight."