I think hav­ing a heart and putting that on the page Is what makes a movie great — SU­SAN

WKND - - Hollywood Keeping It Real -

CREDIT REEL: 1 In her Os­car- win­ning role in Dead Man Walk­ing, as a nun fight­ing to save a con­victed mur­derer ( Sean Penn) 2 In Peter Jack­son’s 2009 fan­tasy The Lovely Bones Play­ing a free- spir­ited grand­mother in Tammy 4 As the sec­ond half of the ad­ven­tur­ous Thelma & Louise duo 5 Op­po­site Kevin Cost­ner in Bull Durham 6 In her break­through role as Janet in the cult clas­sic The Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show a grown daugh­ter — ac­tress Eva Amurri Martino — and a young grand­daugh­ter, as well as two sons in their 20s. “In my life, I want to be there and present for my daugh­ter, but this is her jour­ney through moth­er­hood and life. I want her to take on the chal­lenges.”

One of the chal­lenges for Marnie is find­ing love again. She soon finds that there are two men ( Michael Mck­ean and JK Sim­mons) who want to court her. “There’s a won­der­ful scene, af­ter I meet JK, where I call my daugh­ter and ex­plain that I’m go­ing to the desert fi­nally,” she said. “You’re not re­ally sure if she’s go­ing to stay overnight. Dur­ing in­ter­views, JK al­ways says, ‘ Oh, she’s stay­ing overnight.’ He’s so won­der­ful.”

In a sep­a­rate in­ter­view, Sim­mons didn’t dis­ap­point. “Oh, she’s stay­ing overnight,” he said.

Work­ing with Saran­don, Sim­mons added, was en­tirely en­joy­able. “She’s such a lovely lady,” the Os­car- win­ning ac­tor said, “and it was a treat from be­gin­ning to end. Very shortly be­fore I got this script, I said, ‘ I re­ally want to do a love story be­tween 60- year- olds.’ To do one with Su­san Saran­don was a dream come true.”

Born Su­san Abi­gail To­ma­lin, Saran­don grew up in New York City, un­cer­tain what she wanted to with her life. She still hadn’t made up her mind when her then- hus­band, ac­tor Chris Saran­don, brought her along on his au­di­tion for Joe ( 1970). He didn’t get a role, but she did.

Act­ing caught her fancy, and a few years later Saran­don won a cult fol­low­ing when she played the naïve Janet in The Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show ( 1975). She went on to a string of clas­sic films, in­clud­ing Pretty Baby ( 1978), At­lantic City ( 1980), Bull Durham ( 1988), Lorenzo’s Oil ( 1991), Thelma & Louise ( 1991) and Dead Man Walk­ing ( 1995), in which her per­for­mance as a nun fight­ing to save a con­victed killer on Death Row earned her an Academy Award as Best Ac­tress.

Her off- screen life has also been high- pro­file: di­vorced from Saran­don since 1979, she had a 21- year re­la­tion­ship with ac­tor/ direc­tor Tim Rob­bins, 12 years her ju­nior and the fa­ther of her sons, 26- year- old Jack and 23- year- old Miles. He di­rected her Os­car- win­ning per­for­mance in Dead Man Walk­ing, and the two were prom­i­nent ac­tivists for lib­eral causes as well. Since break­ing up with Rob­bins in 2009, Saran­don has worked steadily, while con­tin­u­ing to ad­vo­cate for lib­eral causes and to fo­cus on her role as a par­ent of three and, since 2014, as the grand­mother of Mar­lowe Mae Martino. A sec­ond grand­child is re­port­edly on the way. “I think the im­por­tant thing in parenting is to raise peo­ple you want to have din­ner with,” she said.

And in grand­par­ent­ing? “At my house, the grand­chil­dren will be al­lowed to do what they’re not al­lowed to do at their houses,” Saran­don said cheer­fully. “Other than that, I re­mem­ber ask­ing my youngest, years ago, what a grandma should do, and he said, ‘ Spoil us.’ That’s a very good idea.”

As she ap­proaches 70, Saran­don is still healthy, vig­or­ous and in no mood to think about re­tire­ment. These days, she said, her work fu­els her more than ever. She’s al­ways on the look­out for an ap­peal­ing script. “I’m of­ten asked if I look for movies writ­ten by women, since Thelma & Louise was writ­ten by a woman,” the ac­tress said. “The truth is, I’m look­ing for a script that tells a real story. I do find that cer­tain screen­writ­ers, male and fe­male, are able to get into the mind of a mo­ment. That’s what I feel pas­sion­ate about when I look at roles.

“Look at Bull Durham, which was one of the strong­est fe- male char­ac­ters I’ve ever played,” Saran­don con­tin­ued. “Ron Shel­ton wrote her. He’s a guy who loves women and re­ally gets them. I’ve also read some bad scripts by women who don’t get women,” she added, laugh­ing. “I think hav­ing a heart and putting that heart on the page is what makes a movie great. Hav­ing a bunch of hearts is even bet­ter,” she said. “Bull Durham was his story and her story. Thelma & Louise was her story and her story. In real life, it wasn’t any­body’s story, thank God!”

Saran­don does grav­i­tate to­ward roles based on real peo­ple, whether ac­tual biopics or films that, like The Med­dler, are fic­tion­alised treat­ments of real peo­ple. She won her Os­car, which she keeps in her bath­room, for play­ing Sis­ter He­len Pre­jean in Dead Man Walk­ing.

“There is a re­spon­si­bil­ity that comes from play­ing some­one who is still alive,” she said. “In many ways, you have this road map, but then you still must fall into the role with your own fears and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.

“What I’ve learned from play­ing all of these char­ac­ters, real and imag­ined, over a long ca­reer is that, at the end of the day, every­body fears the same things and wants the same things,” Saran­don con­cluded. “All of us just fill it in as we go.”

— New York Times Syn­di­cate

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