Susan Sarandon’s Oscar winning film career has created a body of work so rich many of her peers would kill to have half her success. She has consistently worked with the best and most talented filmmakers in the industry and has even helped to produce some of her best known projects. She’s also very political and loves the outdoors, two things many wouldn’t associate with a Hollywood actress.
When we meet on this particular afternoon to discuss her latest movie she’s nursing a shattered ankle but still manages to be very charming and engaging despite the obvious discomfort. Her current film is The Meddler and she plays an overbearing mother trying to connect to her adult daughter despite obvious warning signs. It’s a role that shows a different side of the prolific actress and that’s exactly what drew her to the part. We discussed the process of making movies and some of her best working experiences on a film set. This is a transcription of that conversation.
Q:You have a cast on your leg, what happened?
Susan Sarandon: I have a shattered ankle. I fell down a mountain in Colombia hiking and fractured my ankle.
Q:At least that’s a cool story.
Sarandon: It’s a very cool story. Thank God it happened toward the end of our stay.
Q:You have obviously done tons of interviews like these over your career, how do you like to keep things fresh during the interview process?
Sarandon: I choose projects that I don’t mind talking about for four days. That’s definitely a consideration and it’s always easier when you’re doing a paired interview with someone. You’re lucky because this is the first day of this press tour.
Q: How do you handle the opposite of that, where the interviews might not be as pleasant?
Sarandon: If the film is about something important enough to talk about it’s not so bad but I’ll do a minimum amount of interviews if it was a bad experience making the movie or if the final product has turned out differently than what was intended. I haven’t had that experience often.
Q: This film centers on the bonds between parents and their children, how much or how little did you see of your own parenting experiences in the film?
Sarandon: I’m sure my kids would say I meddle but I’m very close with my kids. I don’t know everything that’s going on in their lives but I’m sure I’ve embarrassed them at times, I still make their Easter baskets and stockings at Christmas. But they meddle in my life too, they weigh in on who I’m seeing and call me all the time. But now that my daughter has a child I would never tell her how to parent, I have a lot of trust in her to know that if there was a problem she would know how to sort it out.
Q: As an actress what kinds of things do you look for in your directors to feel more comfortable on set?
Sarandon: Each job is like a new universe and that’s one of the challenges, you have to learn the language, you have to learn how the power structure works, your hair and make-up people, the list goes on. You have to form an alliance so you can trust them. I’m someone who likes to be playful because it keeps me loose and that’s when the magic happens. I’ve worked with a lot of directors but I’ve worked with some where you’re finishing each other’s sentences. Even with someone like Ridley Scott who isn’t known to be very collaborative, when we made Thelma & Louise together I found him to be very collaborative. Then you work with directors who are also actors like John Turturro and he’s very brave. I think the least successful directors I’ve worked with are the ones that have figured out everything beforehand.
Q: Is there a film in your body of work that you feel has been forgotten or overlooked that you would want people to rediscover?
Sarandon: Not for my performance but for the film being wonderful overall I would say John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes. That film got caught in a coup at the studio and it was an odd film anyway with an amazing cast. Every time I’m honored at a film festival and they ask what I want them to show they always dig up the ones you’d expect but I ask them for Romance & Cigarettes and people are flabbergasted. I’m the most boring character in that movie but when you see the entire film it’s very magical. I wish people would seek that one out more.
Q: That’s a good choice. You mentioned Ridley Scott earlier, I’m also a fan of your work in his brother Tony’s early film The Hunger.
Sarandon: Thank you.
Q: You’re going from city to city answering a lot of the same questions, is there one question you wish would go away?
Sarandon: No. I’ll just make up a different answer if it gets really boring. I think I should’ve started lying earlier in my career.
The Meddler is now playing in limited release.