It was on Bull Durham that Sarandon met Tim Robbins. "Tim had a sense of morality that I hadn't found in any actor," Sarandon says. "And he was very good as an actor. I definitely thought that he was pretty special." Though they never married, Sarandon and Robbins became partners not just of the heart but on numerous film and social-activist projects. They had two sons together, Jack Henry, now 24, and Miles Guthrie, 21.
Soon Sarandon was doing some of the best acting work of her career, in Thelma & Louise (1991) and Dead Man Walking (1996), on which Robbins served as screenwriter and director and for which Sarandon won the Oscar for her portrayal of anti-death penalty crusader Sister Helen Prejean. (Just two years earlier, she and Robbins had been banned from the Academy Awards stage after they had made an impromptu plea for the release of HIV-infected Haitian refugees at Guantánamo during an awards telecast.)
Still, Sarandon immersed herself in being a mom, the role she says she most loves. "I was very hands-on," she says. With three kids under age 7, she determinedly hauled them with her to work. "I might have been smarter to get more help," she says. "I was cleaning out the office the other day and found a list — Pampers, apple juice, Cheerios — all these things I had to have ready ahead of time when I went on location. I look back now and go, 'How did I do it?' But it was worth it."
Sarandon's daughter, Eva, an actress now living in Los Angeles, stands in awe at her mother's ability back then to balance work and parenting. "She made our Halloween costumes and was at our basketball and soccer games," Eva says. "And she exposed us to a lot of people and the idea of giving back."
That was a choice Sarandon and Robbins made together. "Raising them in the city, being around so many different kinds of families, languages and religions — the whole thing has paid off, because my kids are very grounded, adaptable and not judgmental, which gives them a huge advantage," Sarandon says. "And they're funny, so funny."
Perhaps that is why as her nest empties (only Miles still lives at home), Sarandon is struggling with the change. "It's been hard for me to let go of thinking of dinner at 6 o'clock," she says. She's going through her household items to give what she can to her kids to help them live better on their own. "I want to see them in places where they can pay the rent, and then I'll feel that's done." Meantime, she's trying to be comfortable with having unstructured quiet time for herself, something she's never been good at. She long ago gave up on organized religion, but she nurtures her spiritual self. "I can't say I meditate twice a day," she says, " but I definitely use meditation, because my mind is fast and full, and I fight that all the time."
It's approaching 12:30 a.m. at SPiN. The Dirty Dozen tournament, in which Ping-Pong pros compete, has wrapped up, and a dance-off is about to begin. "We invite the audience to get up," Sarandon says. "It's fun, like a wedding or something."
She walks over to the bar, where her friend Jonathan Bricklin, wearing khakis and boat shoes, stands nursing a drink, looking collegiate. Sarandon puts her arm around his waist and whispers in his ear. She is coy when asked about the status of their relationship. "Jonathan and I collaborate on different things," she says. "That means a lot of things." When asked if that might mean romance, she says, "Yeah, I think so."
Next page: At 67, a braver Susan Sarandon. »