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Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993)

1:13 | Trailer
Sissy Hankshaw (Uma Thurman) is born with enormous thumbs that help her hitchhiking through the U.S. from a young age. She becomes a model in advertising, and her New York agent, "the ... See full summary »


Gus Van Sant (as Gus Van Sant Jr.)


Tom Robbins (novel), Gus Van Sant (screenplay)
4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Uma Thurman ... Sissy Hankshaw
Lorraine Bracco ... Delores Del Ruby
Pat Morita ... The Chink (as Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita)
Angie Dickinson ... Miss Adrian
Keanu Reeves ... Julian Gitche
John Hurt ... The Countess
Rain Phoenix ... Bonanza Jellybean
Ed Begley Jr. ... Rupert
Carol Kane ... Carla
Sean Young ... Marie Barth
Crispin Glover ... Howard Barth
Roseanne Barr ... Madame Zoe (as Roseanne Arnold)
Buck Henry ... Dr. Dreyfus
Grace Zabriskie ... Mrs. Hankshaw
Treva Jeffryes Treva Jeffryes ... Young Sissy


Sissy Hankshaw (Uma Thurman) is born with enormous thumbs that help her hitchhiking through the U.S. from a young age. She becomes a model in advertising, and her New York agent, "the Countess" (Sir John Hurt), sends her to his ranch in California to shoot a commercial, set against the background of mating whooping cranes. There, she befriends Bonanza Jellybean (Rain Phoenix), one of the cowgirls at the beauty ranch. The cowgirls take command of the ranch from the Countess and drug the cranes with peyote. The Police besiege the ranch. Written by Pieter van Scherpenberg <mediavis@netland.nl>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


There have been many great drivers but only one great passenger.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality and some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | German

Release Date:

20 May 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Até as Vaqueiras Ficam Tristes See more »

Filming Locations:

Terrebonne, Oregon, USA See more »


Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$676,978, 22 May 1994

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Gary Oldman was originally cast as Julian Gitche. See more »


Narrator: Usually she preferred to hitchhike without a fixed destination hitching for hitching's sake for freedom and movement and that alone. But something was pulling her to the Rubber Rose, something softer than money and stranger than work.
See more »

Crazy Credits

At the beginning, lot of stars rise in the sky. One, aside and slower than the others, writes the words "For River". [River Phoenix] See more »

Alternate Versions

Gus Van Sant's original version was first shown at the Toronto Film Festival in 1993 before the film was pulled at his own request and reworked. The most significant differences are described in a N.Y.Times article from May 15 1994: "The New York scenes, and Sissy's relationship with an urbanized Mohawk Indian (played by Keanu Reeves), were cut back in the interest of beefing up the ranch scenes and focusing more attention on the relationship between Sissy and Bonanza Jellybean, a straight-shooting cowgirl played by Rain Phoenix. The novelist William Burroughs survived the editing. Audiences will see him cross a Manhattan street, look at the traffic and utter three syllables: "Ominous." Roseanne Arnold, however, will see her cameo as a gypsy fortuneteller whittled down to a mini-cameo. Most dramatically, Mr. Van Sant shed an entire subplot, about the mysterious Clock People, keepers of the keys to cosmic consciousness, and the source of the original film's final image (as well as the clock on the paperback cover). In the first version, Sissy became pregnant after making love to the Chink, a loony visionary played by Pat Morita, who tells her she will bear a race of large-thumbed children who will roam the earth in love and peace after surviving an apocalypse. In the final frames of "Cowgirls I," Sissy's child, seen in the womb, makes hitchhiking gestures toward the audience, an invitation to the future." Van Sant is quoted in the article, that he doesn't know which version is better. See more »


Referenced in The Sugarcube Critic: Elements of Harmony (2014) See more »


String Quartet in G Minor; Opus 10
By Claude Debussy
Performed by Hollis Taylor, Lori Presthus, Kim Lorati and Karen Bryan
See more »

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User Reviews

crap on a stick. crap on toast. crap plus crap.
26 April 2003 | by xairhilSee all my reviews

i love this book. i think it may be my favorite among the robbins books ive read. but shit -oh-goodness, that movie was total crap. i have to tell anyone reading this review... i stopped midway through. i just plain couldnt take it. anyways, in an effort to clarify why it was so crappy, lets start at the beginning: Uma. uma dear, the character's personality does not rely on her accent. and perhaps this is my personal interpretation of the book, but you seem a bit weak-hearted for sissy; sissy in my mind had a reverberating presence. shes not rough-and-tough like bonanza, but is instead a pleasant mix of curiosity, fertility, wisdom and ignorance; everythign a strong robbins female lead should turn out to be. i simply didnt get the impression that you did justice to the depths of her personality... nor did the other actors to their respective roles, really... and a comment on casting: the sallow-faced, sunken-eyed, limp-haired uma did not fit at all with the pink-cheeked, sparkle-eyed, wind-tossed hair sissy that mr robbins seemed to convey. it dampens sissys chacterization even more. i know having a big name as a lead helps it get seen, but um. come on. put some spunk in her.

Next: rain phoenix, where the heck is your zing!? you *cant* be bonanza and *not* have an unquenchable thirst for life, excitement, and dare! it felt like you were on pot or prozac. get INto it. this would be an inCREDibly fun role to play, but youve GOT to have fun. bonanza *knows* things; shes a step or two down from the chink, but occasionally shes somewhere on his level, and you need to recognize that. she has a thirst for life because shes smart enough to do so; she PLAYS GAMES with life because, well, why the heck not? Third: delores: wheres the badass from the beginning? right away you let out the coke-fiendish interp. of this gal, and thats not how robbins set it up. get that badass up front; we are not supposed to know you right off the bat. you need to gradually reveal yourself, not right from the start. delores is full of mystery and black clouds; her whip is like a tantalizing c'mere-and-figgure-me-out cat's (or snake's) tail or something. yes, you do convey parts of delores' personality we learn of later in the book, but slow down girl. Fourth: the rest of you guys. i guess the chink was okay, but not as vulgar as he should be. i know intruducing vulgarity into the movie would *really* screw with the minds of the masses coming to see uma, and eh, itd probably scare em a bit. but um. wouldnt that be kindof fun? :) anyways, one constant theme through mr robbins' books is that sex is HUMAN, and GOOD, and ohhhh. yum. (this is more to the director...) you give us a few scenes, but you cut things out (julian? husband? hello?) or shorten them (scene with the couple in julians apt) or hide them (the chink looking on the girls making out from afar rather than from their own eyes). i know you dont want it to cross into the realm of pornography, but well. sheesh. to the director: dangit man. try again. and not a movie, maybe a television series or something. maybe just a series, screw the tv crap. but to make this movie successful, you really do need almost all of the substance of the book to shine forth. you cant take things out ad-hock... im sure it wasnt all that random, but the deletions you made did seem inappropriate; the lack of important information created a throughly disjointed feel. if you wanted to make a movie out of a robbins book, you probably really liked the book, and probably had a really good idea of what each character seemed to be. well, fer cripes sake, stick to yer guns. find people who you know fit the roles; encourage them to READ THE BOOK... infact, make it mandatory... maybe read it with the cast like it was an english class, so you get class discussions and debates going back and forth. it should be a learning experience and rocking fun time for the actors, the crew, and the director... and it *should* be somethin similar for the viewers too. thats my two cents.

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