Thursday, October 13, 2005

Face time with Susan Sarandon

October 13, 2005

Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon was in Chicago last week to pick up a career achievement award from the 41st Chicago International Film Festival. Beforehand, the veteran actress sat down with us to reflect on a wide range of topics -- from her enduring popularity to her controversial political stands to still being sexy at age 59 to her new film, "Elizabethtown," which opened the film festival's two-week run and opens nationally on Friday.

Q. You and your partner, Tim Robbins, have never been secretive about your political beliefs. Has there ever been an issue you've refused to speak out about?

A. Not that I can remember. If it's something I think needs attention, you'll hear from me. Or if it's something that infuriates me because it's evil or causing harm to people, I'm going to let people know it. ...

While we're on this subject, I want to mention something. It really blows my mind how the media is using language these days. When Renee Zellweger married Kenny Chesney after only knowing him briefly, I couldn't believe how many people said they were "stunned" she would do something that impulsive. Stunned! I'll tell you what I find stunning: how many thousands, if not millions, of people are dying in Darfur [in the Sudan] and there's barely any press coverage of that carnage. Now that's stunning.

Q. In "Elizabethtown," you play a woman dealing with the unexpected death of her husband. You and Tim have been together for a long time. How do you think you would react if you lost him without warning?

A. You don't even know. I was just reading Joan Didion's new book about grief. I don't know if you know how you'll react. In my life, I don't go by plans. My life is pretty chaotic. So if that happened, I don't think it would be as obvious as it seems in my character Hollie's life [in "Elizabethtown"] because she thinks she knows how her life is going to unfold over the next few decades. She has a plan. She has their vacations, her husband's retirement -- the whole thing figured out. Then, bam! The whole thing is rewritten in an instant when he drops dead. I don't live my life that way. My life is kind of improvisational.

Q. You just turned 59, and in many of your films you bring strong sensuality to your performances. What do you find sexy in others?

A. Humor and intelligence are the big ones. Someone who makes me laugh -- a lot of coupons for that. And someone who's smart and has something of a twinkle in their eye. For me, age, gender, physical stuff doesn't weigh in, until those things happen first. And I also like someone who has some kind of passion about something and some kind of strength of character. Also, if someone says, "Don't worry about it, I'll take care of it" -- I'm there!

Q. Sounds like a description of Tim Robbins!

A. [Laughs.] You got it. One-stop shopping.

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