Susan Sarandon: “I do speak five languages and Spanish is one of them”
Susan Sarandon is an extraordinary actress committed to her political views and her work in Hollywood.Fascinated with Spain, Susan bought a house in Majorca a few years back where she goes to relax. It was there, in Spain, where she started to learn Spanish and develop a passion for authors like Neruda and García Márquez. In Los Angeles we had the opportunity to talk with this actress about her work and her passion in life.
Q: How do you describe your personal style, your approach to fashion?
S: Look at the way I’m dressed…. Um do I have a personal style? I like to be comfortable. And borrowed clothing that I give back at the end.
Q: You played many roles about feeling pain, why do you like to play grief so much?
S: (Laughs) I’ve just been looking for good parts. You know, actually, in The Greatest, there was a whole other part of it where my character became very obsessed with finding out what happened in those last 17 minutes that she saw in the videotape. Unfortunately that didn’t make it into the hour and a half of the movie. I don’t know why they made that decision, because it was the writer who was also the director. But for me, that was the interesting part. I had already played the grief, but I was interested in that obsession. Because I know instances where, for instance, in Iraq, journalists have given tapes of someone being killed to the parents and they’ve watched them obsessively, over and over and over. So for me that was the element that I was interested in. So I was disappointed when it landed on the grief and they cut out the obsessiveness. But you know, when you’re an actor, unless you’re doing a play, you’re at the mercy of whoever, groups or people or testing or, I don’t know, decides these things. But I’m done with grief. I’m moving on! I’m moving onto… I’m looking for a comedy or a shoot-em-up or something. I think I’ve done grief.
Q: What are your memories from the 70’s?
S: I guess sex, drugs and rock & roll… And also, that was a really great time in terms of… believing that you could have an effect politically. Because of the issues, this was before corporate America took over the news media. So you had things on TV. You really saw what was happening in the South. You really saw what was happening in Vietnam. And when people took to the streets, even though I think I was less educated than the kids now, that take to the streets to protest, at that time it made perfect sense as a young person to be idealistic. And when the war actually stopped, you know, you thought, well that worked. So it was a very empowering time. And it was a time when the drugs were not as mean spirited as they are now. They were more expansive and more… searching, I think. And as naïve as… You know, taking off your bra and putting flowers in guns, I mean, it was pretty… simplistic (laughs), in a lot of ways. But my kids are very jealous that they don’t have the 70s. Their idea of what happened then, you know, is… is pretty special. And I… I’m happy… Even though that makes me very old, I’m happy that I was part of that. Because it was an empowering time. Even if you know the lashes and the hair was a bit much ultimately
Q: Do you remember that time?
S: Yeah, yeah, yeah… It was… I mean, now I think it’s hard because people don’t have information. It’s a lot of misinformation. It’s been very disillusioning to see, you know, all the assassinations, and elections stolen and so much violence and people taking to the streets and nobody listening in great numbers. And so I think that it’s been a time when people didn’t… now, when people don’t feel they’re part of their government. I mean, maybe Obama makes a difference because he’s such a change. I mean, lately, it’s a little disappointing, but… You know I think that it’s been harder to be a kid now and feel that connection. Than when I was coming of age. And of course there were huge breakthroughs in terms of birth control. So that really accounted for the sexual revolution. And I don’t know why the bra thing was such a big deal. But…
Q: Can Hollywood still surprise you?
S: I have a problem when there are a lot of, like, special effects. I find that hard. But not… Or occasionally I’ll look at something and go, oh my God that must have been horrible to shoot. Look they’re in that cold place. You know…. But um… If the actors are good enough. Like Vanessa Redgrave could sell me on anything, any place, anywhere. You know, she’s just… I don’t care what she’s doing, I would believe it. And jump.
Q: Tell us about your table tennis bar that you just opened in NY.
S: Ping pong? Ping-Pong is the only sport that little girls can beat grown men. And you can play until you die and you don’t get hurt. And it’s fast and… I was doing a documentary. There were these three guys that were living together. And they were giving Ping-Pong parties. And I had a film that I was… a documentary that I was doing that one of them edited for me. And in the course of that year, I became a Ping-Pong propagandist. Not necessarily a player of any worth. But I really grew to love the sport. And so we opened this bar – club called Spin in New York. And we’re going to do one out here. One of the reasons that they’re out here now with me is to look at some spaces and just find that it’s ridiculous and kind of funny. And it cuts across age and gender. And you know, makes all the geeky little kids in school have something to be proud about. And we’re trying to get it into schools in NY that doesn’t have money for sports because it’s actually the best thing for your right-left brain. Cause it uses both sides. So it’s really good. And you can lose weight. And it saves your marriage.
Q: It’s true that you speak Spanish?
S: I think I do speak five languages and Spanish is one of them.
Q: When you started with Spanish?
S: In school. But later I fell in love with Spain. I went to Michael Douglas house in Majorca and since then I decided to move there. But I couln't for my family so I bought a place there and I spend some holidays in Spain. I love it there.
Q: Are you able to read in Spanish?
S: I prefer to read in English. But yes I know many Spanish authors like Neruda o García Márquez.
Q: When you watch yourself in the big screen are you always satisfied with your performance?
S: I think the reason that acting is so seductive is because you’re never satisfied. And not because of what they do to you, but because I see myself and I think, Oh, I knew what I was doing and I was not brave enough. I didn’t commit completely. I wish I’d done that… You know, you never… I never feel like I really get it right. So I… I wouldn’t say I feel satisfied. I try to get satisfaction from the day that I’m doing it. I’m trying to surrender to that character and to the experience and to be connected to the other actors. And then I kind of give it up. That’s the only way I’m not a bitter alcoholic after that many shoots S: What’s amazing about being an actor is that given a set of circumstances you can feel and imagine yourself doing things you never thought you could. And there but for the grace of God go me, because we’re all capable and afraid of the same things. So I think that’s… that’s where you start from.
Q: Are you still supporting Obama?
S: I think war is… doesn’t accomplish anything. It never has. I don’t think it… I think a lot of people are going to die. A lot of civilians have already died there. And I think that that doesn’t help us solve any problems there. And so I’m disappointed that.. That he took that road. I think health care… I blame the congress and the senate as much as him. I mean they’ve really, really been… I used the word pussy the other day and someone got very offended. But… A feminist in Stockholm got very offended. Because she said that that… If I was a feminist… I’m not a feminist. I’m a humanist. So I won’t use that word. But I find them very disappointing because I think they’ve been without courage. And that we deserve health care and it isn’t happening. And… And if we had a draft, I don’t think we’d be in Afghanistan. So maybe we need the draft again so everybody pays better attention. But I’m not… I’m not supportive of war to support… as a means of making us safer. I don’t think it works.
Q: Do you feel the pressure of age in Hollywood?
S: I think it also helps to not live in Los Angeles, because in New York there are so many different businesses. You know, when I’m in LA I feel like if I go to the supermarket and I’m not wearing makeup and I’m in my sweats, which is usually the way I look, that I’ll be losing work. You know, right? In NY you can walk around and you don’t have that expectation. And I don’t feel older in NY. I just know that I’m not part of the youthful market when I’m here. So for me it really helps to live in a city that’s about more than just the business. And so my [funnel?] is a lot bigger.
Q: Susan are you optimistic about the way the world is going?
S: Major question. I mean, I am optimistic. What’s the alternative? You know. Be a fisherman in some remote island? I think that people are very… I would like to be awake in my life. Whatever that entails, I would like to be more present, more awake. I’m hoping my children take responsibility for themselves and the earth and the future. At the rates we’re going I think that we’re, you know, some massive changes are going to happen. But maybe that’s part of what will lead to a consciousness change also. You know, I mean, sometimes it’s hard for us to tell, when things that seem disastrous … the longer view maybe something more interesting will come about. When people don’t have money to spend or oil for their cars, maybe we will invent something else and our value system will change. I don’t know. I am optimistic. But in terms of what I’d like to see happen? I mean, I think that Jesus was a socialist and I think he set a very good example. And I wish we would go more in that direction. And I don’t quite know how we’ve ended up in this direction. Um… A lot of greed and fear. It’s a fear based culture now. I think that’s really sad. But I don’t know. Don’t you think that there’s more. I think people are searching for spiritual things now. Besides some of these movies about the end of the world, I think that there is resurgence.
Q: Do you think movies have a role in our cultural society?
S: I think that movies…Every movie is political. They call movies that challenge the status quo political. But ones that reinforce ageism, sexism, racism, are as political. But we don’t notice them as much. And I think that we as actors and directors and whatever has to, for those reasons are really careful about what you do. Because you are putting it out there. And I don’t know what kind of change, but movies definitely can start… The best kind of movies challenges your perspective and start dialogue. They don’t come up with the answers but they start a dialogue. Rachel just finished something which really sheds light… You’ve done a few films that really shed light on real political… real situations that exists that people don’t pay enough attention to. In that sense they can start dialogue.
(c) America Reads Spanish