Susan Sarandon plays Sharon in JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME, from Paramount Pictures and Indian Paintbrush. 036_JLH-03721
Updated: April 12, 2012 9:49AM
LOS ANGELES — “It’s been a long day,” sighs Susan Sarandon, who at dusk in the City of Angels is mulling over The Big Stuff.
It’s not your usual before-dinner conversation, but she’s always game and will never censor herself. “I never thought about death or dying until I had kids,” Sarandon says, looking at the lights of the city from her hotel balcony. “I did some crazy-ass stuff when I was young that I wouldn’t think of doing now.
“Honestly, I’m more proud of myself at this age. I know who I am,” she says. “I’m more in tune with my own voice.”
The girl who sang “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” in 1975’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and hit the gas in 1991’s “Thelma & Louise” is now a 65-year-old icon and a role model known for never censoring her point of view.
The Oscar winner points out that she is more vulnerable than most people believe.
“I spent some time with Jane Fonda. Now, there’s a gal who has been up, down and all around,” Sarandon says. “She was ‘Barbarella’ and then reinvented herself countless times including acting on Broadway, which isn’t easy.
“You’re very vulnerable on stage. But that’s the idea. You have to challenge yourself and put your heart on that platter. You need to stay vulnerable. You can never stop.”
She will never stop acting, which is why Sarandon has a slew of films coming out in 2012, including Robert Redford’s thriller “The Company You Keep,” the Adam Sandler-Andy Samberg comedy “That’s My Boy” and the drama “The Wedding,” where she will star opposite Diane Keaton.
First up this Friday is “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” the story of slacker Jeff (Jason Segel) who lives in his mother’s basement while trying to find his destiny. His life changes when he spends the day with his brother (Ed Helms), who is looking for his cheating wife.
Signing on to play the long-suffering mother was a no-brainer. “Most scripts I read, I can figure out what’s going to happen in the first five pages,” she says. “I still love a film that keeps you guessing. And I adore a film that poses interesting questions.”
This script called for her to share a kiss onscreen — with a woman.
“I didn’t think that was a big deal,” she says. “There is a huge trend where this is happening to women later in life. They find a relationship where they least expect it. I applaud that because it’s a celebration of life.”
As a mother of two sons with ex-partner Tim Robbins — Jack and Miles, ages 19 and 22 — and also a daughter (actress Eva Amurri, 26), Sarandon says she understands how women can be marginalized in midlife. “As a mother, it’s easy to get into that slot. Everyone else’s needs are paramount. It’s the same thing even when you have good husband who wants to help out.”
It’s the age-old battle of the sexes, and she understands it. “Even when the dad wants to help out, they’re good at playing with the kids while the mom is the one making sure there is law and order.
“I was the one going, ‘It’s 11 o’clock at night. Did you do your homework? Don’t eat that candy. It’s too much sugar. Don’t go out without your coat,’ ” she says with a laugh.
“You’re the drag!”
Sarandon is finding an odd thing happening with her grown children. “When your kids can cut their own meat, they rediscover you,” she says. “You rediscover them. You really get to know them apart from your needs as a parent and child.”
Just like in “Jeff,” she says that a grown child staying with you is tricky business. “They come home and it’s hard not to jump up and do their laundry,” Sarandon says with a cackle. “But you have to put down that fabric softener and learn to treat your children as adults.”
There are (still) heart-stabbing moments. “I look at pictures of my kids when they were little and it’s hard not to take a bite out of them,” she says with a sigh. “They were so luscious and cute. But it’s a thrill to see them as adults developing into the people they were meant to be as men and women.”
As for aging on screen, Sarandon has the dual edge of maturing not just as an actress, but also as someone who has always been outspoken about her political views. That doesn’t change with age — although it has evolved.
“I’ve had a lot of answers over the years, but sometimes now I forget the questions,” she jokes.
As for living in a Botox nation, she just sighs. “I know physically your imperfections make you perfect. They make you who you are. Don’t strive for perfection. Embrace your imperfections.”
These days she lives alone in New York City and insists she doesn’t need the trappings of success. “As I get older, I spend so much time giving things away. I’m not as interested in clothing and makeup. I don’t want all the stuff around me.
“I just want to simplify, simplify, simplify. I think you get to a stage in life where you really want to make for a lighter footprint.”
Sarandon laughs when you mention her role model status for women who admired her no-holds-barred voice. It begs the question: Who are her female role models?
“Vanessa Redgrave. Helen Mirren — so very cool. I always loved Katharine Hepburn, but I don’t know if she was that happy,” she says. “I do love Vanessa, who is not afraid to invest herself in the issues.”
Sarandon still gets that rush from doing good work. “You can sense when people love the movie. I’ve been fortunate where many people are like, ‘I like you, Susan.’ That’s wonderful. But it’s a deeper thing for me to hear, ‘I was really moved by your work.’
“Those words still surprise me.”
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