Susan Abigail Sarandon (; ne Tomalin; born October 4, 1946) is an American actress and activist. She is an Academy Award and BAFTA Award winner who is also known for her social and political activism for a variety of causes. She was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1999 and received the Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award in 2006.
Sarandon began her career in the 1970 film Joe, before appearing in the soap opera A World Apart (197071). In 1975, she starred in the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for Atlantic City (1980), Thelma & Louise (1991), Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), and The Client (1994), before winning for Dead Man Walking (1995). She has also won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for The Client, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress for Dead Man Walking. Her other films include: Pretty Baby (1978), The Hunger (1983), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Bull Durham (1988), White Palace (1990), Little Women (1994), Stepmom (1998), Enchanted (2007), The Lovely Bones (2009), Tammy (2014), and The Meddler (2015).
She made her Broadway debut in An Evening with Richard Nixon in 1972 and went on to receive Drama Desk Award nominations for the Off-Broadway plays, A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking (1979) and Extremities (1982). She returned to Broadway in the 2009 revival of Exit the King.
On television, she is a six-time Emmy Award nominee, including for her guest roles on the sitcoms Friends (2001) and Malcolm in the Middle (2002), and the TV films Bernard and Doris (2007) and You Don’t Know Jack (2010). In 2017, Sarandon portrayed Bette Davis in the first season of FX‘s anthology series Feud.
Sarandon was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City. She is the eldest of nine children born to Lenora Marie (ne Criscione; b. 1923) and Phillip Leslie Tomalin (19171999), an advertising executive, television producer, and one-time nightclub singer. She has four brothers: Philip Jr., Terry (deceased May 19, 2016), Tim and O’Brian and four sisters: Meredith, Bonnie, Amanda, and Missy. Her father was of English, Irish, and Welsh ancestry, his English ancestors being from Hackney in London and his Welsh ancestors being from Bridgend. On her mother’s side, she is of Italian descent, with ancestors from the regions of Tuscany and Sicily. Sarandon was raised Roman Catholic and attended Roman Catholic schools. She grew up in Edison, New Jersey, where she graduated from Edison High School in 1964. She then attended The Catholic University of America, from 1964 to 1968, and earned a BA in drama and worked with noted drama coach and master teacher, Father Gilbert V. Hartke.
In 1969, Sarandon went to a casting call for the motion-picture Joe with her then-husband Chris Sarandon. Although he did not get a part, she was cast in a major role of a disaffected teen who disappears into the seedy underworld (the film was released in the summer of 1970). Between 1970 and 1972, she appeared on the soap operas A World Apart and Search for Tomorrow, playing Patrice Kahlman and Sarah Fairbanks, respectively. In 1975, she appeared in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That same year, she also played the female lead in The Great Waldo Pepper, opposite Robert Redford. She was twice directed by Louis Malle, in Pretty Baby (1978) and Atlantic City (1981). The latter earned Sarandon her first Academy Award nomination.
Her most controversial film appearance was in Tony Scott‘s The Hunger in 1983, a modern vampire story in which she had a lesbian sex scene with Catherine Deneuve. In 1987, she appeared in the hit comedy-fantasy The Witches of Eastwick alongside Jack Nicholson, Cher, and Michelle Pfeiffer. However, Sarandon did not become a “household name” until her A-list breakthrough opposite Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins (who became her real-life partner) in the 1988 film Bull Durham, which became a huge commercial and critical success.
Sarandon was nominated for an Academy Award four more times in the 1990s, as Best Actress in Thelma & Louise (1991), Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), and The Client (1994), finally winning in 1995 for Dead Man Walking. She was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award in 1994. Additionally, she has received eight Golden Globe nominations, including for White Palace (1990), Stepmom (1998), Igby Goes Down (2002), and Bernard and Doris (2007).
Her other movies include Little Women (1994), Anywhere but Here (1999), Cradle Will Rock (1999), The Banger Sisters (2002), Shall We Dance (2004), Alfie (2004), Romance & Cigarettes (2005), Elizabethtown (2005), and Enchanted (2007). Sarandon has appeared in two episodes of The Simpsons, once as herself (“Bart Has Two Mommies“) and as a ballet teacher, “Homer vs. Patty and Selma“. She appeared on Friends, Malcolm in the Middle, Mad TV, Saturday Night Live, Chappelle’s Show, 30 Rock, Rescue Me, and Mike & Molly.
Sarandon has contributed the narration to two dozen documentary films, many of which dealt with social and political issues. In addition, she has served as the presenter on many installments of the PBS documentary series, Independent Lens. In 1999 and 2000, she hosted and presented Mythos, a series of lectures by the late American mythology professor Joseph Campbell. Sarandon also participates as a member of the Jury for the NYICFF, a local New York City Film Festival dedicated to screening films made for children between the ages of 3 and 18.
Sarandon joined the cast of the adaptation of The Lovely Bones, opposite Rachel Weisz, and appeared with her daughter, Eva Amurri, in Middle of Nowhere; both films were made in 2007. In June 2010, Sarandon joined the cast of the HBO pilot The Miraculous Year, as Patty Atwood, a Broadway director/choreographer. However, the series was not picked up. In 2012, Sarandon’s audiobook performance of Carson McCullers‘ The Member of the Wedding was released at Audible.com. Sarandon was the voice actor for the character of Granny Rags, an eccentric and sinister old lady, in the stealth/action video game Dishonored, released in 2012. She appeared in the films Arbitrage (2012), Tammy (2014), and The Meddler (2015). In 2017, Sarandon portrayed Bette Davis in the first season of FX‘s anthology series Feud.
Political views and activism
Sarandon is noted for her active support of progressive and liberal political causes, ranging from donations to organizations such as EMILY’s List to participating in a 1983 delegation to Nicaragua sponsored by MADRE, an organization that promotes “social, environmental, and economic justice.” In 1995, Sarandon was one of many Hollywood actors, directors and writers interviewed for the documentary The Celluloid Closet, which looked at how Hollywood films have depicted homosexuality. In 1999, she was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. In that capacity, she has actively supported the organization’s global advocacy, as well as the work of the Canadian UNICEF Committee. During the 2000 election, Sarandon supported Ralph Nader‘s run for president, serving as a co-chair of the National Steering Committee of Nader 2000. During the 2004 election campaign, she withheld support for Nader’s bid, being among several “Nader Raiders” who urged Nader to drop out and his voters offer their support for Democratic Party candidate John Kerry. After the 2004 election, Sarandon called for US elections to be monitored by international entities.
Sarandon and Robbins both took an early stance against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with Sarandon stating that she was firmly against war as a pre-emptive strike. Prior to a 2003 protest sponsored by the United for Peace and Justice coalition, she said that many Americans “do not want to risk their children or the children of Iraq“. Sarandon was one of the first to appear in a series of political ads sponsored by TrueMajority, an organization established by Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream founder Ben Cohen. In 2003, she appeared in a “Love is Love is Love” commercial, which promoted the acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals. The next year, in 2004, she served on the advisory committee for 2004 Racism Watch, an activist group. In 2006, she was one of eight women selected to carry in the Olympic flag at the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, in Turin, Italy. The same year, Sarandon received the Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award.
Along with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, Sarandon took part in a 2006 Mother’s Day protest, which was sponsored by Code Pink. In January 2007, she appeared with Robbins and Jane Fonda at an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. in support of a Congressional measure to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Sarandon and Tim Robbins campaigned for John Edwards in the New Hampshire communities of Hampton,Bedford, and Dover. When asked at We Vote ’08 Kickoff Party “What would Jesus do this primary season”, Sarandon said, “I think Jesus would be very supportive of John Edwards.” Sarandon was appointed an FAO Goodwill Ambassador in 2010.
On March 12, 2011, Sarandon spoke before a crowd in Madison, Wisconsin protesting Governor Scott Walker and his Budget Repair Bill. On September 27, 2011, Sarandon spoke to reporters and interested parties at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City. Her use of the term “Nazi” to describe Pope Benedict XVI on October 15, 2011, created controversy, generating complaints from Roman Catholic authorities, and the Anti-Defamation League, which called on Sarandon to apologize.
Sarandon’s mother Leonora Tomalin is a staunch Republican, a supporter of George W. Bush and the Iraq War.
Sarandon has become an advocate to end the death penalty and mass incarceration. She has joined the team of people fighting to save the life of Richard Glossip, a man who is on death row in Oklahoma. In May 2015, Sarandon launched a campaign with fundraising platform Represent.com to sell T-shirts to help finance the documentary Deep Run, the story of a poor North Carolina teen undergoing a gender transition.
In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, she made public her support for Vermont Senator and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. On March 28, 2016, in an interview on All In with Chris Hayes, Sarandon indicated that she and other Sanders supporters might not support Hillary Clinton if Clinton is the Democratic nominee for President. She stated: “You know, some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately. If he gets in, then things will really explode.” Hayes inquired as to whether it would be dangerous to allow Trump to become president, to which she replied: “If you think that it’s pragmatic to shore up the status quo right now, then you’re not in touch with the status quo”. On October 30, 2016, she endorsed Green Party of the United States Presidential Candidate Jill Stein.
While in college, Susan Tomalin met fellow student Chris Sarandon and the couple married on September 16, 1967. They divorced in 1979, but she retained the surname Sarandon as her stage name. She was then involved romantically with director Louis Malle and musician David Bowie. In the mid-1980s, Sarandon dated Italian filmmaker Franco Amurri, with whom she had a daughter, Eva Amurri, on March 15, 1985. Amurri has become an actress as well. From 1988, Sarandon cohabited with actor Tim Robbins, whom she met while they were filming Bull Durham. They have two sons. Sarandon split with Robbins in 2009. Following the dissolution of her relationship with Robbins, she soon began a relationship with Jonathan Bricklin, son of Malcolm Bricklin. Sarandon and Bricklin helped establish a chain of ping-pong lounges named SPiN. Sarandon and Bricklin broke up in 2015.
In 2006, Sarandon and ten relatives, including her then-partner, Tim Robbins, and their son, Miles, traveled to Wales to trace her family’s Welsh genealogy. Their journey was documented by the BBC Wales programme, Coming Home: Susan Sarandon. Much of the same research and content was featured in the American version of Who Do You Think You Are? She also received the “Ragusani Nel Mondo” prize in 2006; her Sicilian roots are in Ragusa, Italy. Sarandon is the co-owner of New York ping-pong club SPiN, and its Toronto branch SPiN Toronto.
Sarandon is a vegetarian.
Awards and nominations
Sarandon received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 Stockholm International Film Festival, was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2010, and received the Outstanding Artistic Life Award for her Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema at the 2011 Shanghai International Film Festival. In 2013, she was invited to inaugurate the 44th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. In 2015, Sarandon received the Goldene Kamera international lifetime achievement award.