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Susan Sarandon’s outspoken progressive activism has taken center stage in recent years. (She famously outraged centrist Democrats — and especially Debra Messing — by suggesting ahead of the 2016 election that a vote for Donald Trump might “bring the revolution” faster than a vote for Hillary Clinton ever could.)
But beyond the Twitter beefs and campaign appearances, Sarandon, 74, remains a highly prolific movie star. In her latest film, Ride the Eagle, an indie filmed during lockdown and co-written and starring New Girl‘s Jake Johnson, she plays a less-than-stellar mom who abandons her kid to join a New Age cult. After she dies, she leaves him a video will consisting of a list of tasks to complete before he can inherit her Yosemite cabin. It’s the very definition of a shoestring film — but audiences may be surprised at just how moving this modest endeavor turns out to be.
Ahead of Ride the Eagle‘s July 30 release in theaters and VOD, Sarandon chatted with The Hollywood Reporter about her own experiences with motherhood, her ongoing political crusading and even reminisced about The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I thought Ride the Eagle was a very tender, sweet movie. I know it sort of had echoes of your own life. Didn’t you lose your mother recently?
Yes, I did, just right before [we shot it]. My mom was 97, and it was a very good death. I mean, as deaths go, I think we really lucked out, during this particular time, and she was ready. What for me resonated [in the film] was just the relationship you have with your kids and how, as a parent, certain stories are written. I love the fact that she admits that she did the best she could but that she wasn’t great and that now what [Jake’s character] has to do is just write a new story — that whatever happens to you is not who you are necessarily.
You have three kids. How did your own role as a mother inform this role?
I have a son who’s a musician, and I love the whole section [of the film where I urge Jake Johnson’s character to] play because you love it. Don’t play because you’re trying to be successful. This whole idea of gearing our present to whatever success means is such a tricky one, because you want to be productive, but you don’t want to lose the joy of life. And especially in the United States, we have a work ethic. And that’s so bad, because we work more hours, we have less fun, we have no healthcare.
And these days, it’s become very clear that we no longer can work towards any kind of a life that is stable, the way that we imagined. We don’t have a stable environment. We have absolutely unpredictable weather circumstances. We have an unpredictable economy. We have a huge gap between the rich and the poor. We have pandemics, which really limits and challenge your ability to travel. What the movie says is, you have to stop taking yourself so seriously and start to have fun and start to do the things that you love in a way that you love them, because we can’t any longer guarantee anything.
Speaking of healthcare, you and the drag queen Lady Bunny — both big Bernie Sanders supporters — staged a rally last week in New York City advocating for Medicare for all.
— Susan Sarandon (@SusanSarandon) July 24, 2021
Yeah, we did. Yesterday we went to [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez]’s office, and we did another gathering of people there. A lot of them had horrible stories of what’s happened to them, because they don’t have healthcare, because they had it, or they lost their job, like millions of people. And so they don’t have anything to replace it and just how scary it is to not have.
And even my union [the Screen Actors Guild] just unexpectedly kicked a whole bunch of older people off of their insurance and said, “You’re old enough now to go to Medicare,” which doesn’t have all the coverage that you used to have under SAG. And nobody knew that was coming. So the whole idea of having your insurance connected to your job or to your union is really bad. And the Affordable Care Act is impossible, the co-pays. It’s just too difficult.
You’re a very prominent person. Do you think you could get the ear of President Biden and change his opinions or effect some of that change now that Trump is out of office?
Biden took an enormous amount of money, more than Trump, from the insurance agents, from the insurance companies and from pharmaceutical [companies] for his campaign. So I don’t think that I could. I think my voice is not as strong as what they expect from him. I think the only way it’s going to change, especially since the parliamentarian seems to have gotten so much power all of a sudden, is from the bottom up. It’s never going to come from the top.
Bernie has been pushing and pushing and pushing, just trying to even expand Medicare to [include] glasses and hearing aids. And people just keep blocking that. We have a very, very corrupt system at the moment, in terms of these changes. Biden just said that you can get your drugs from Canada, because in Canada they’re very much cheaper. But why they are very much cheaper in Canada is because they won’t negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry.
I think the only way it’s going to happen is if some of our squad decide to band together and get a vote and people at the bottom or individual states start to step in and do something. But I don’t think the Nancy Pelosis and the Chuck Schumers and the Bidens of the world have any intention of helping with that. I mean, Nancy Pelosi’s been talking for 30 years about voting on Medicare for all, and she’s never yet brought it to be voted on.
Finally, with October creeping toward us, I’ve got Rocky Horror Picture Show on the mind. Or maybe it’s just always on my mind. How did you get cast as Janet?
Well, a friend of mine was in the stage show in L.A., so I knew Tim Curry. And one day, I went by, just to say hi, when they happened to be casting. And they asked me to read, because nobody had made Janet very funny, but they were all much better singers. And so, I said, “No, I can’t really sing. Actually, I’m kind of phobic about singing.” And they said, “Well, can you sing ‘Happy Birthday?'”
So I actually went against my better judgment, thinking that maybe I would finally get over this phobia that I had about singing out loud, because I realized that it was just all ego. And eventually, I did the recording session and I kind of got somewhat over it. But it was just a fluke that I did get cast.
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