Geena Davis Recalls The Time She Rejected Jack Nicholson’s Advances

From left to right: Geena Davis on Late Night with Seth Meyers and Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List.
(Image credit: NBC and Warner Bros)

With Geena Davis’ new memoir Dying of Politeness out now, the actress has been discussing her advocacy and research regarding women in film, her array of skills, and her iconic acting career. She’s worked with some of the best in the business from Tom Hanks to Susan Sarandon to Michael Keaton. She has also worked with Dustin Hoffman multiple times, and said she used some of the Rain Man star’s advice to reject Jack Nicholson’s advances. 

What led to this story coming up was a New Yorker journalist asking Davis about the advice she’s received from Dustin Hoffman. The actress had mentioned that Hoffman told her on the set of Tootsie to always read a lot of books and to try to get the rights to the stories she liked. He also gave her advice to never sleep with her co-stars, which led her to this story about Jack Nicholson. She reflected on the advice Hoffman gave her, saying: 

Say, ‘Well, you’re very attractive. I would love to, but it would ruin the sexual tension between us.’ And I saved that advice away. After Tootsie, my modeling agent took me and a couple of other actor-slash-models to Hollywood to meet casting directors. He happened to know Jack Nicholson, and every single night Jack Nicholson had dinner with us. Then one day there was a note under the door that said, ‘Please call Jack Nicholson at this number.’ I was, like, I can’t believe it! So I said, ‘Hello, Mr. Nicholson. This is Geena the model. You called me?’ He said, ‘Hey, Geena. When is it gonna happen?’ I was, like, Oh, no—why didn’t I realize this is what it was going to be about? But it immediately came into my head what to say: ‘Uh, Jack, I would love to. You’re very attractive. But I have a feeling we’re going to work together at some point in the future, and I would hate to have ruined the sexual tension between us.’ He was, like, 'Oh, man, where’d you get that?' So it worked.

Davis said the advice worked. The two actors have not made a movie together, but some of their best-known work did come out around the same time in the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

The actress has had quite a career since Tootsie, which was her first movie. She went on to star in Fletch, Beetlejuice, Thelma & Louise, and A League of  Their Own. All these movies are iconic but she’s likely best known for the last two mentioned. The incredible baseball movie is considered one of the best sports films, baseball movies, and one of the best women-led comedies

Along with her work on screen, Davis has had a phenomenal career behind the scenes. She founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and created a documentary called This Changes Everything (which can be watched with a Netflix subscription) that discusses the research she's done and dives into gender disparity in Hollywood. 

Adding onto all this research, Davis has remained a constant on-screen presence. She’s had roles on the shows Grey’s Anatomy and GLOW, and will be in the cast of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities

You can read more stories about Davis’ early days in Hollywood, similar to the one about Nicholson in the actress’ memoir Dying of Politeness. You can also catch her on-screen on October 25 when Netflix’s Cabinet of Curiosities

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She has written for national publications as well as daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Spokane, Washington, Syracuse, New York and Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with her master’s degree in arts journalism and communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Since joining the CB team she has covered numerous TV shows and movies -- including her personal favorite shows Ted Lasso and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also has followed and consistently written about everything from Taylor Swift to Fire Country, and she's enjoyed every second of it.