Susan Sarandon, Hollywood survivor

Susan Sarandon and Jonathan Bricklin

Susan Sarandon with boyfriend of two years Jonathan Bricklin.
Source: News Limited

Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins

Susan Sarandon with ex Tim Robbins in Hollywood in 2008. Picture: AFP

GOOGLE ‘Susan Sarandon’ and an interesting list of topics pops up.

Unsurprisingly, ‘Actress’ appears first, then the list diversifies pretty quickly: ‘Activist’, ‘Sex symbol’, ‘Plastic surgery’, ‘Tim Robbins’, ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘Academy Award’ all make an appearance. I wonder how I’m going to cover everything in a 30-minute interview.

It turns out I needn’t have worried. As soon as Sarandon comes on the line from her home in Manhattan, it’s clear she likes to talk.

Our interview is ostensibly because she has a small role in Robert Redford’s new thriller, The Company You Keep, but, actually, it seems she just wants to chat.

She took the role “as a favour” to director and friend Redford, who also stars in the film.

“I said to him, ‘Are you sure you’re not going to cut this scene?’” she recalls. “It’s always terrible when you do someone a favour, then you see the movie and it’s down to nothing. Why would they need me for that?”

After Redford assured her she’d make it onscreen, she agreed to play the role of an anti-war activist because, “as a woman, to have principles and want to effect change, then to have children – it’s very hard to figure out how that works.”

She’s talking from experience. Well-known for her work as an activist, Sarandon has lent her voice to causes ranging from the Iraq War to Occupy Wall Street. She’s been arrested several times for her efforts.

“I’ve never dragged my kids along,” she says of her involvement in protests while her children, Eva, 28, Jack, 23, and Miles, 20, were growing up.

“They were definitely frightened by some of the threats against me [in the lead up to the 1993 Iraq War]. But it was important for them to get a lot of different information from different people, then I let them make their decisions. They’ve found their own way.”

Acting was a detour from Sarandon’s original plan; in 1969 she accompanied her then-husband, actor Chris Sarandon, to an audition, and while he didn’t get a role, she did.

When they split in 1979, she kept his name and continued to reel in the acting gigs – highlights include Thelma & Louise, an Oscar for Best Actress in Dead Man Walking, as well as four other nominations.

But it was her role as the (eventually) sexually enlightened Janet Weiss in the hit 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show that set Sarandon up with the sex-symbol mantle she still holds today as a 66-year-old.

“I love it,” she says of her regular appearance on Hollywood’s ‘Sexiest Women’ lists. “I don’t have any problem with it at all. I mean, my friends this age are sexual.

“It’s not like I’m a freak. I think age is a myth that has to be revisited. Just as people have seen 40 isn’t the end of life, 60 isn’t the end, either.”

The actor believes sex appeal is simply down to attitude. “For years I was trying to decide whether or not to be in Playboy,” she recalls.

“Every year they’d ask me, and the money would go up. I’d try to figure out why the women in that magazine didn’t seem to be people; it was all about the big breasts.

“Then I looked at Jeanne Moreau [a French star who was big in the 1960s] and thought, why are you so compelling? You don’t look anything like you’re supposed to. I realised there’s something about her that says ‘Yes’ to life.”

Sarandon wishes fewer people conformed to the stereotypical Hollywood look. “I think people give up [saying ‘yes’ to life] at a certain point out of fear,” she explains.

“You get the strange burns-victim looks when people have had too much plastic surgery; to me that looks like some kind of fear. It’s not just about keeping your body intact or your chin-line preserved, it’s about engagement with life – that can be very attractive.

“A lot of people are starting to look alike,” she adds. “I can’t do Botox because I need to be able to move my face. I have lines, I have wrinkles, I have some creases.

“A number of years ago I had some lipo under my chin, then I had [the area] under my eyes taken out a little bit, but I’m afraid of anything major.

“I don’t like watching people who look like impersonators of themselves. When your lips are twice the size they’ve ever been, you’re not recognisable. I think that’s a betrayal of yourself.”

She’s also a firm believer in what she calls “pro-noia”. She explains: “I believe the universe is definitely conspiring for me. Even the things that have fallen apart all turned out to be very positive for me.”

She’s referring to her 2009 split from actor Tim Robbins, her partner of more than two decades and father to her two sons. “I’m not saying it wasn’t incredibly difficult and sad,” she adds.

“But relationships are like organisms, evolving and changing. The minute you get stuck, you have to try and retrieve it. That’s what’s difficult about being with someone for 23 years.”

She believes her years of experience helped her deal with the situation.

“While you’re going through it, it’s always tough. But having crashed and burned over and over again, you know you can survive. As much as that was a difficult time, it definitely turned out to be for the best.”

She has a tattoo on her wrist so she doesn’t forget it. “It says ‘ANDAND’ which stands for ‘A New Dawn, A New Day’,” she explains.

“It’s there to remind me that every day, the world starts again. As you get older you start to see the bigger picture. You realise there are certain basic things and the rest is all detail. Don’t sweat the details!”

She’s a woman of her word – the “details” of her almost two-year relationship with boyfriend Jonathan Bricklin are as follows: he’s her business partner in a chain of ping pong social clubs called Spin Galactic, and he’s three decades younger than her.

“The secret to life is finding your audience; you have to find the people who get you and appreciate you – it’s a waste of time to be going after anyone else,” she says.

“There are men who value and who aren’t threatened by interesting women, whatever their age. They don’t need to be with a blank slate.”

Sarandon’s new movie The Company You Keep (Madman Entertainment) is in cinemas April 18.

Follow Katherine on Twitter @KatChatfield

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