OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - On Memorial Day weekend 25 years ago, the movie Thelma and Louise debuted on the silver screen and broke box office records. After winning numerous awards and accolades in 1991, including an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Thelma and Louise went on to become one of the most popular films of all time. But most people may not know there's a local connection to this iconic film. A coast actor, Marco St. John, was an integral part of its success.
"You never know when you're going to hit the jackpot, but it struck a nerve with people. It was a watershed film," St. John said.
A watershed film the Ocean Springs resident says he's glad to have been a part of. Thelma and Louise created a path for women as lead characters in an action film, something that had never been done before.
"Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, now you had Thelma and Louise and that was a big deal back then."
And the bold move paid off.
"It's rated one of the top 50 films of all time, so there are a lot of fans."
And all of those fans remember the truck driver scenes. One of the characters viewers love to hate, played by the one and only Marco St. John.
"He's always trying to pick up the women. He's in an l8-wheeler big rig and he's the ultimate male chauvinist pig."
Marco spent three weeks in Arizona filming with actresses Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis.
"They were terrific and big emerging stars at the time. They were two self possessed women who knew where they were going. We had a great time making the film out in the desert in Arizona. It was really one of the best experiences I've had."
For Marco, Thelma and Louise was one in long line of films and TV shows he has starred in since the 80s. He has more than 50 films on his resume, including Tightrope with Clint Eastwood, The Package with Gene Hackman, and Monster with Charlize Theron. And there have been more television roles than he says he can remember; from Bonanza and Kojak to As the World Turns.
Marco is one of these rare actors who seems to have found the best of both worlds: living a quiet life at home in Ocean Springs, spending time with his wife and family, his yellow lab, even taking time out to feed the neighborhood turtle who stops by his front porch on a regular basis.
"Come on buddy. This is good."
But the bright lights of Hollywood are just a phone call away. Marco has managed to stay busy as a working actor even though he has lived on the coast since the early 80s.
"I still work pretty regularly, so that's good."
In fact, he's well known enough that many of his auditions happen in his home office, where he films himself and sends it off to Hollywood via email.
"I edit it here and I can send it off wherever, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta."
And his versatility as an actor is evident, from his early days as a stage actor on Broadway and in San Diego in roles like Hamlet, to the vulgar truck driver in Thelma and Louis. Marco is not one to shy away from tackling a new type of character.
"The trucker was a yahoo, over the top in some ways. But they blow up his damn truck and that's not subtlety; it's almost Shakespearean."
Marco has enjoyed seeing the spotlight back on Thelma and Louise during this 25th anniversary, and has recently been interviewed by an author writing a book about the movie and a documentary fan based film maker.
"It's getting a huge amount of attention."
But while he's enjoying that attention, Marco is off to his next film project. And he's not letting a recent knee replacement or a 77th birthday celebration slow him down.
"I don't think of 77 as being old. Seventy-seven is a good double number. Lucky 7s," he says laughing.
Marco has shot several films just in the past year. You can look for him later this year in a film he just completed in Nashville playing the role of Father Luca in Novitiate, starring Academy Award winning actress Melissa Leo.