Entertainment

It became ‘an Elvis film’


Debra Winger says she left “A League of Their Own” after music superstar Madonna was cast as center fielder. The Penny Marshall-directed sports movie became “an Elvis film.”

Debra Winger has set the record straight over why she quit her starring role in director Penny Marshall’s beloved 1992 baseball film, “A League of Their Own.”

The three-time Oscar nominee Winger, 66, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph she objected to Madonna‘s casting, because it made the project “an Elvis film.”

Madonna, coming off her role as Breathless Mahoney in 1990’s “Dick Tracy,” signed on as center fielder Mae Mordabito in the story of the first female professional baseball league.

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

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Penny Marshall directed Madonna in "A League of Their Own," the first movie directed by a woman to gross $100 million at the box office.

Penny Marshall directed Madonna in “A League of Their Own,” the first movie directed by a woman to gross $100 million at the box office.

In one of her most celebrated roles, Geena Davis took over Winger’s role as catcher Dottie Hinson, the heart of “League.” The sports comedy-drama stars Lori Petty as pitcher Kit Keller, Rosie O’Donnell as Doris Murphy and Tom Hanks as manager Jimmy Dugan.

Winger said she was ultimately dismayed by the film. In her opinion, the story did not appropriately honor the original, real-life players.

“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.

Winger, who had trained with the Chicago Cubs for three months for the role, said the actors did not train long enough to look convincing playing baseball onscreen — except for Petty and Davis who “did OK,” she admits.

“I certainly don’t begrudge any of them,” Winger said.

“A League of Their Own” made history as the first movie directed by a woman to gross $100 million at the box office and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2012.

Marshall, who died in 2018, said she had considered Demi Moore for the lead role, but Moore was pregnant at the time and could not take the part.

Davis told USA TODAY in 2017 that she, too, had questions about the Madonna casting before filming. “She was Madonna. We wondered if we were going to be able to talk to her. Was she going to have an entourage? Were they going to put up walls around her where she stands?” Davis recalled feeling of the “Material Girl” co-star.

Ultimately, Madonna was a team player who worked hard and slid head-first into bases for the camera. “That was painful. But she was so game. She was a trooper,” Davis said.

As for the ultimate performance, Winger was slightly less direct in criticizing Madonna, whose last major film role was 2002’s “Swept Away.”

“I think (her) acting career has spoken for itself,” Winger said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Debra Winger quit ‘A League of The Own’ after Marshall cast Madonna



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