Before Geena Davis was cast as catcher and assistant manager Dorothy “Dottie” Hinson in A League of Their Own, Debra Winger had the role. In an 8.13 Telegraph interview, Winger says that she trained hard and took the part seriously, but decided to quit when director Penny Marshall cast Madonna as centerfielder Mae “All the Way” Mordabito.
Winger interpreted the Madonna casting as a sign that Marshall intended to make an insubstantial “Elvis film.”
If you ask me Winger was being a bit harsh in her assessment of the then-30-year-old pop singer and sometime actress. I had seen Madonna in the original B’way production of David Mamet‘s Speed-The-Plow in ’88, and while it was obvious that she wasn’t a gifted actress she wasn’t half bad. Another way of putting it is that Madonna held her own as well as she could. She certainly didn’t embarass herself of let down her costars, Joe Mantegna and Ron Silver.
Based on this performance alone, Madonna deserved at least a modicum of respect from Winger.
Winger’s final assessment of League: “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?’”