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Susan Sarandon talks kids, ‘Cloud Atlas’ and Karlovy Vary

Arriving in Karlovy Vary, Susan Sarandon was in a positive mood and keen to talk about here past present and future.

Sarandon is partly attending the festival to introduce the film Jeff Who Lives At Home, the latest comedy drama from the cult US filmmakers The Duplass Brothers. She plays Sharon, the mother of two sons one of whom – at the age of 30 – still lives at home.  Sarandon is convinced that the film has a particular resonance in this day and age.

“I have a son who’s 23, who finished college and lived at home for a little while, and my youngest son is 20 and he’s in and out with an enormous amount of his friends. It’s a very understandable phenomenon with the economy as it is. I think it’s a great opportunity to get to know your kids as adults,” she said.

She’s also convinced that films such as Jeff Who Lives At Home are going to need a drastically changed distribution system in order to have a fighting chance at reaching audience

“I think that it’s like the music business: it’s going to re-invent itself and a lot of things are going to be delivered through the internet. Right now Hollywood is very unimaginative, and had been for a long time. Jeff Who Lives at Home they didn’t know how to release it. If a movie is made for a very low budget then they just drop it. They have three kinds of films they know how to distribute and anything outside the big blockbusters have a difficult time. I think little films do better if they play less theatres but for a longer time.

She’s also in town to pick up a Crystal Globe for Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema and is clearly enjoying her stay.

“I’ve only been here a couple of days and it seems very welcoming. I don’t really like going to Cannes. And now that I’ve said that I’m sure they’ll never invite me,” she says with a smile “But for me Cannes is like being in an amusement park and I’m the ride.”

It’s also given her the opportunity to reflect on her career, especially her Academy Award winning role in Dead Man Walking as Sister Helen Prejean. “It was very difficult because I had a responsibility to her as a living person. We were afraid it would be boring with some many scenes between the two of us. But Sean [Penn] was so incredible, he had that hairdo and it was such an interesting character. I had to surrender to the idea that I just went around saying “I’m so sorry,” and “Let’s pray,” all the time. I had to hope not to become competitive as an actor with him, which can happen. It was very difficult. I was nominated [for an Academy Award] five times and if I was going to win once I was happy it was for that one.”

It’s less well known that she also produced Dead Man Walking. “As a woman used to producing a family I’m used to producing, because you have to think ahead and manage people.  I’ve produced several films without credit – including Dead Man Walking – and its fun to cast it and to choose the people who are going to be doing the costumes and the sets. What thrills me most about working in film is the collaboration. I’m the eldest of nine children so it’s understandable from me to live in chaos,”

And she’s nonchalant about just how tough acting is. “The hardest thing about acting is learning how to pack to go places and surviving in a business that does not want you to get old or fat,”

She echoes the sentiments of Dame Helen Mirren – in Karlovy Vary at the beginning of the week – about the role of women in the industry and is annoyed when women actors are constantly being portrayed as fighting each other. “I wish sometimes that female executives who are women would be more supportive of women but I think female actors are very supportive of each other. I think if you’re talking about the Lindsay Lohans and the Paris Hiltons that’s a whole different phenomenon but not real actors who are working.”

New projects for Sarandon including Arbitrage, a movie about a Bernie Madoff type character in which she stars with Richard Gere, the film Robot & Frank with Frank Langella and a new film that sounds intriguing to say the least. “I did a few parts in The Waschowski Brothers new film ‘Cloud Atlas’ which is going to be quite something. Everyone plays different ages, in different eras and different genders. I play an Indian man.”

It will be a long line of interesting and mixed career choices from Sarandon. But she’s jokingly modest about what brought her to where she is now: “I’ve done everything wrong and there’s no real explanation of why I’m still around. I’ve made movies everyone told me I shouldn’t,  I’ve taken years off to have children, I’ve been outspoken politically. But here I am. I’m the last person you should ask [for advice about how to succeed in the industry. I’m here because all my plans failed.”


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