Debra Winger Reveals Why She Exited ‘A League of Their Own’ After Madonna Was Cast

by Jacklyn Krol

Why did Debra Winger pull out of A League of Their Own?

If you didn’t know, Winger was originally supposed to star as Dottie in the iconic 1992 film. However, after Madonna was cast, she pulled out of the project despite already training with the Chicago Cubs for three months. When she learned that director Penny Marshall cast her, she bowed out and Geena Davis took her place.

Winger told The Telegraph that she thought it would become “an Elvis film.” She didn’t want it to be all about the singer, who she thought would use it as a platform to get into another facet of entertainment.

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

The movie was a major success among fans, critics, and had impressive box office numbers. Despite this fact, Winger believes that it could have been a better movie.

“As entertaining as [the finished film] was,” she said, “you don’t walk away going, ‘Wow, those women did that.’ You kind of go, ‘Is that true?'”

Madonna and ‘A League of Their Own’

She added that Davis “did OK” in the role. She clarified, “I certainly don’t begrudge any of them.”

When asked about Madonna‘s performance, she didn’t have much to say.

“I think [her] acting career has spoken for itself,” she concluded.

Winger took a hiatus from acting following her exit from A League of Their Own. She explained that she stopped because she wasn’t being challenged with any of the characters. The roles that were offered to her were mostly a “pretty boring” mother or just an overly supportive spouse.

She has returned to the acting world in the current Apple TV+ original series, Mr. Corman.

Producer Robert Greenhut spoke to ESPN about Madonna’s casting. Her record label “wanted to do this whole package thing, which we could market.” He noted that she was popular at the time and she was already athletic.

“Madonna just really wanted to do this film,” he shared. “And I told her, ‘You know, it’s very little money.’ She explained that she wanted to be diverse in her career. And she took it seriously. She might have come in late a few times, and maybe I had to bring her to the principal’s office kind of thing. But ultimately, she was a sweetheart. She was just so enthusiastic about doing a good job.”

Madonna’s Work Ethic

Ironically, that wasn’t his first time working with the pop superstar. Ten years before the movie, when she was an unknown, he was a production manager for a musical film, Hair back in 1979. They had open tryouts in New York City. Madonna attended the tryouts and came to the theater forty hours in advance to line up. Over a thousand people showed up and she was one of the first.

“That’s just a great example of her ambition. I wish I had kept that sign-in sheet,” he said.

He revealed that Madonna had trouble with one aspect of filming. Her hardest moment was sliding into the third base which took a while to perfect.