Debra Winger has no regrets about walking away from “A League of Their Own.”
The three-time Oscar nominee was originally set to star as catcher Dottie Hinson in the 1992 comedy, which chronicled the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that started during World War II. Though she’d trained with the Chicago Cubs for three months before filming was slated to begin, she left the project and accused director Penny Marshall of making “an Elvis movie” after Madonna joined the cast as center fielder Mae Mordabito.
Nearly three decades later, Winger’s views on both the movie and the Material Girl haven’t changed, as evidenced by a new interview with The Telegraph.
“The studio agreed with me because it was the only time I ever collected a pay-or-play on my contract,” said the actor, who can currently be seen in the Apple TV+ series “Mr. Corman” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. “In other words, I collected my pay even though I did not play, and that’s very hard to get in a court.”
Geena Davis took over the role of Dottie Hinson after Winger’s departure, and “A League of Their Own” became both a box office and critical smash. The movie, which also starred Tom Hanks and Lori Petty, was added to the National Film Registry in 2012 by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Winger, however, remained unimpressed. In her interview with The Telegraph, she said she felt none of the actors trained long enough to appear convincing as baseball players and that the movie as a whole didn’t fully honor the real-life league on which it was based.
“As entertaining as [the final film] was, you don’t walk away going, ‘Wow, those women did that,’” Winger said. “You kind of go, ‘Is that true?’”
And as for Madonna’s performance, she added, “I think [her] acting career has spoken for itself.”
Winger’s likening of Madonna to Elvis Presley is particularly apt, in that both music icons never fully succeeded in transferring their talents to the big screen. Four years after “A League of Their Own,” Madonna went on to deliver a Golden Globe-winning performance as Eva Perón in “Evita,” a movie musical that relied heavily on her singing and dancing skills.
Interestingly, Davis also admitted to having doubts about Madonna’s casting.
“We wondered if we were going to be able to talk to her,” she told USA Today in 2017. “Was she going to have an entourage? Were they going to put up walls around her where she stands?” Ultimately, however, she found the pop singer to be “a trooper” who was “so game” for training hard.