Though she doesn't address their age difference, Sarandon admits she does worry "now and then" about getting older. "I'm getting that sagging thing," she says, pointing to the skin under her eyes, which, she confesses, she had suctioned 10 years ago to remove the fat. She says she's personally opposed to fillers — "they make everyone start to look alike" — and hasn't had Botox. She's maintained her good Italian (on her mother's side) skin tone by avoiding the sun — "not because I was thinking of my skin, but it bored me to lie there baking" — and eschews smoking, except for marijuana. "I would much rather my kids smoke weed than drink, except that it's illegal," she begins, launching into a discourse about cartels, victimless crimes and mandatory minimum drug laws that crowd our prisons.
Catching herself, she steers back to the topic of wellness. Yes, she's more forgetful than she used to be, she concedes, but she tries to counter that with a healthy diet and exercise. She boxes to stay in shape. "And I laugh a lot." Often at herself.
"No, I'm really funny," she insists, sensing disbelief. "I know people would like to believe that I'm just someone walking around making everybody feel guilty. But I'd like to do a myth-busters thing and tell you that people who are serious about social change are very joyful."
Actress Melissa McCarthy, 43, who stars with Sarandon in the coming summer film Tammy, says her new friend's upbeat spirit and stamina are virtually unmatchable. "I do not have the energy to keep up with her," she says. "I was in New York, and we made plans. Susan's like, 'Dinner at 10:30! Then we're going to the club to play Ping-Pong, and then probably we'll go to another club afterwards.' I'm like, 'Are you serious? I can't even go to dinner with you. I'm too tired.' "
As the night grows longer, Sarandon becomes reflective. For all the romantic heartaches she's suffered — and backlash she's endured for her political activism — she says she has no regrets: "It's better to have made decisions that turned out badly and learn from them than to feel as if you had no choice and are resentful of the turns that your life takes." She believes the quest of her lifetime is still to be authentic and kind, and though Sarandon says that's never easy, she's better at both now " because I'm not as distracted."
She's excited about the future. Thanks to some new management hires, Sarandon will soon dial back on her work duties at SPiN. "I've learned so much about business," she says, "but I don't like being the one who's policing the bathrooms."
She and Bricklin just announced the formation of a cause-related film production company. And her daughter, Eva, recently created a sitcom called Growing Ivy, which would star her and Sarandon. It will go to pilot in March, and if NBC picks it up, Sarandon may be temporarily moving out west. "I wasn't anxious to be on TV for a potentially long commitment," she says, " but I can't imagine anything more interesting than getting to work with your grown child." Further down the road, Sarandon envisions being part of a film project that would involve not just Eva but film-school grad Jack Henry and Miles Guthrie, who works as a DJ and plays guitar in a rock band.
Through the years, Sarandon has become braver. "The only thing I'm really afraid of is death," she says. "I still haven't gotten to the point where I think that's cool." She begins to laugh. "My life has been filled with happy accidents. The thing that's served me well is being able to change onto a different track when it's presented itself."
With that, she makes her way toward the crowd gathering around SPiN's center court and cheerfully kicks off the dance contest.
Meg Grant is West Coast Editor of AARP The Magazine.
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