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Susan Sarandon: Living It Up for Adventure

The 'Thelma & Louise' star on aging well and playing moms both good ('Little Women') and baddish

spinner image Susan Sarandon on September 5, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.
Isaiah Trickey/Getty Images

Susan Sarandon, 73, tells AARP about Xavier Dolan's The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, starring Game of Thrones heartthrob Kit Harington as a tragically closeted TV actor, with her as his mom — her 64th role since turning 60.

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On playing a tormented star's alcoholic stage mother

The director, Xavier Dolan [an ex–child star whose film Mommy took the Cannes Jury Prize in 2014], puts his mom in every movie. I was honored to join that group of women with blue eyeshadow that are surrogates for his mom — he told me they have a much better relationship now.

The courage of Jon Snow

It was such a great thing to see Kit Harington [the Games of Thrones heartthrob] taking the chance to play someone closeted in the entertainment business, assaulted by the tabloids, having to decide what price to pay to be authentic, fun and interesting. And the cast! [Natalie Portman, 38; Kathy Bates, 71; Thandie Newton, 47; Michael Gambon, 79.] When Philadelphia was filming, nobody wanted to play someone gay — it was a huge thing that Antonio Banderas and Tom Hanks were in it. When Chris [Sarandon, her first husband] did Dog Day Afternoon and was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor as the person whose sex change operation Al Pacino robs the bank to pay for, that really did put a stop to his career. But now there's so much pressure against you to play gay if you're not gay, though it didn't seem to hurt Catherine Deneuve and me [in the hit The Hunger].

spinner image Susan Sarandon poses at the opening night of the new play "The Sound Inside" on Broadway at Studio 54 Theatre on October 17, 2019 in New York City.
Bruce Glikas/WireImage

Susan's Stats

Hometown: New York CIty

Her start: Joe (1970), with Peter Boyle

Oscar kudos: Best actress nominations for Atlantic City, Thelma & Louise, Lorenzo’s Oil, The Client; win for Dead Man Walking

AARP Movies for Grownups Awards honors: The Meddler, The Lovely Bones, Shall We Dance?, Moonlight Mile nominations; 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award

Emmy nominations: Feud, You Don’t Know Jack, Bernard and Doris, Malcolm in the Middle, Friends

Upcoming project: Bad Moms’ Moms, with Christine Baranski, 67, and Cheryl Hines, 54

Representing all moms

I played Marmee in Little Women [1994]. Louisa May Alcott's mom, who inspired Marmee, doesn't get enough credit. She was involved in the Underground Railroad, a homeopath, she pushed her husband to educate escaped slaves and paved the way for Jo and all those gals. I don't know how you can be a mother and not be complicated. The emancipation of women in film means that you can play all kinds of parts, not just Marmee but also bad mothers or alcoholic mothers, like in Xavier's film. It's such a primal position.

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Her own favorites of her films

Bull Durham and Thelma & Louise.

Retirement plans

My kids said, “You keep working so much, Mom. Don't you want to stop?” And I said, “Well, and do what?” You know, I can't do scrapbooks my entire life. I love joining a community making a film or a TV thing. If it's not a big part, it doesn't really matter to me; I just appreciate the engagement. So as long as that serves me and I'm having fun, then, you know, I'm down.

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Gravity-defying tips

You go out for lunch with your girlfriends, and people are discussing a lot of their aches and pains when everybody's in their 70s. I do yoga, and I'm starting to really pay attention to my diet in terms of my joints. Definitely, my face is falling. I mean, gravity is definitely getting hold of everything. But I think the way to stay vital is, again, engagement. Also, I'm lucky because I've never been interested in cigarettes or alcohol really, or a lot of stuff. Those things take a toll. Living in New York, you just walk and walk — you find all kinds of things that surprise and challenge you.

Live for adventure

The tendency as you get older, I think, is to try to control everything and just keep it at that level. But I'm still very interested in going forward and learning and questioning and going on adventures. And I'm interested in people that are in the same mindset.

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