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