Movie parenthood's no drag to Sarandon

Friday, October 18, 2002

TORONTO -- Actresses often bristle that as they age, they can only find film roles playing somebody's mother.

Susan Sarandon views movie motherhood as an opportunity, so long as she finds uncommon moms to play such as those in her three new films, "Igby Goes Down," "The Banger Sisters" and "Moonlight Mile," which all hit theaters three weekends in a row.

While raising her own three children and taking on non-maternal roles in such films as "Dead Man Walking" and "The Client," Sarandon has managed nicely playing a range of mothers in "Little Women," "Lorenzo's Oil," "Stepmom" and "Anywhere But Here."

"That's how I got to work so much. I did all those mother parts no one else wanted," Sarandon, who turns 56 in October, said in a recent interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Moonlight Mile" played.

'Very rich area'

"Everybody's got one, and there are all different kinds of mothers. But it was an unwritten stigma that once you played a mother, you lost your sexuality. Therefore, you lost the ability to be in a lot more leads. I'm sure there are people who still feel that. But parenting is a dynamic that has so many variables. It's a very, very rich area. So why would you want to rule out those roles?"

Sarandon's latest batch of moms could scarcely be more different. In the black comedy "Igby," she plays an overbearing, pill-popping mother who's too self-absorbed to form any real emotional connection with her troublesome teenage son.

In the goofy "Banger Sisters," Sarandon is a prissy, uptight mother whose hidden past as a fast-and-easy rock groupie resurfaces when her old party pal (Goldie Hawn) comes calling. (Sarandon's oldest child, Eva Amurri, plays one of her character's teenage daughters.)

In the comic drama "Moonlight Mile," Sarandon plays a former boozehound demonstrating grief over her daughter's murder with sarcasm, blunt honesty and unchecked anger, in contrast to the denial of her husband (Dustin Hoffman) or the dutiful empathy of her daughter's fiance (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Having three films opening on consecutive weekends had Sarandon worried about overexposure, though "Moonlight Mile" and "Igby Goes Down" are gradually expanding from limited debuts while "The Banger Sisters" premiered in nationwide release.

"I'm really anxious to see what's going to happen," Sarandon said. "They're all very different. The only thing they have in common is me, and I'm very different in all of them. In theory, it shouldn't make a difference."

Just as she's defied convention with a bonanza of unusual maternal roles, Sarandon has plotted an atypical career arc, building a solid body of work from 1970 to the late 1980s before shooting to superstardom with "Bull Durham" and "Thelma & Louise" in her 40s, an age when most actresses' careers are waning.

"What Susan is, is proof that people want to go see and will go see films that have women that aren't 18," said "Moonlight Mile" co-star Ellen Pompeo. "That women get more interesting as they get older."

Sarandon made her film debut in "Joe," 1970's provocative tale of bigotry and generational conflict, and worked steadily in television and movies for the next decade, including the cult hit "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" in 1975.

"Atlantic City" in 1980 brought Sarandon her first of five Academy Award nominations. After a run of more obscure films, she co-starred in "The Witches of Eastwick" in 1987 and a year later broke out as the sexually confident devotee of a hapless ballclub in "Bull Durham."

Sarandon lives in New York City with "Bull Durham" co-star Tim Robbins, who directed her to a best-actress Oscar in 1995's "Dead Man Walking." Besides Eva, her daughter with Italian director Franco Amurri, Sarandon has two children with Robbins.

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