It seems like Susan Sarandon has spent the vast majority of her career playing the hot older woman. And when she wasn't playing a hot older woman she was a hot older woman for real. It's understandable she has this rep, as most of us didn't have a chance to get to know her until she was well into her 30s. Such a thing might have had negative consequences for other ladies in her position, but not Susan. Always chock full of seething sensuality and sex appeal, Susan is also one of those fortunate few who remain hot as they get older, playing the sultry leading lady well past the age when most others are ready to throw in the towel. Of course, she's also an award-winning actress and a fierce advocate for the causes she believes in. That makes her hot, talented and passionate. That's a damn fine trifecta.
Born Susan Abigail Tomalin on Oct. 4, 1946 in Jackson Heights New York, Susan was the oldest of 10 siblings by a big band singer and later advertising executive father and homemaker mother. The quiet and shy child of the family, she grew up in the fashion of the idyllic baby boomer in a New Jersey suburb. She went through most of her formative years without any real idea of what she wanted to do, casually taking acting classes at Catholic University. It was there in 1967 she met and married her first husband, actor Chris Sarandon. Shortly thereafter she followed her new husband to New York City, where he soon found himself auditioning for an agent. Sarandon brought his wife with him on a whim just to have a comfortable face to read with. Their rapport impressed the agent enough to sign both actors on the spot. Despite not having much direction in life, Susan suddenly found herself on a career path from which she would never diverge.
A week after taking on his new clients, their agent sent both Susan and her husband to an audition for roles in the 1970 counter-counterculture film JOE. Though they were both up for leading roles in the film, Susan was the only one to walk away with her part. Thus was the start of her career, which despite stumbling into unawares, quickly became one of her greatest passions in life. However, there were some dues to be paid before stardom came her way. Susan spent much of the 70s splitting her time between TV and movies, something she does regularly during periodic lulls in her movie career. Her early 70s film roles were smaller roles for noteworthy filmmakers, such as Sidney Lumet in his film LOVIN' MOLLY and Billy Wilder in his remake of THE FRONT PAGE. She later scored a hit as co-star to Robert Redford in THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER in 1975. However, it was her other role in 1975 that truly opened the door to lasting fame for Ms. Sarandon.
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW probably seemed like a bit of a gamble for a young actress looking to make her name. The movie told the story of a wayward young couple who find themselves caught up in the exploits of Dr. Frank N. Furter, a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania, who along with his gang of singing and dancing freaks seeks to build the perfect man. It was clearly not your typical movie theater fare. However weird a concept it may have been, Susan was right there in the middle of it all playing Janet, the young innocent who spends most of the movie singing and dancing in her underwear. The film gradually built, over succeeding years, the mother of all cult followings, spawning a rich and evolving culture all its own by crowds of self-confessed outcasts and freaks enraptured by the film's celebration of nonconformity.
While her role in ROCKY HORROR eventually became one of her most celebrated, its cult following required a few years to conjure, during which Susan still had to hustle for roles. While not a nobody by the second half of the 70s, she was still looking for that right role to make her a star. It was around this time Susan began looking elsewhere for companionship as well, choosing to divorce her husband Chris in 1975 but still opting to stick with the married name around which she'd already begun to build a career. Roles in movies like DRAGONFLY with Beau Bridges and THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT followed. She started a relationship with director Louis Male in the late 70s, who directed her in the films PRETTY BABY with a very young Brooke Shields and ATLANTIC CITY alongside legendary leading man Burt Lancaster in 1980. Her performance in the later film proved to be one of her first big roles, earning her an Oscar nomination and the fond memories of many for her particularly memorable moment with some lemons. (Google it).
Susan traded in the lemons for hot vampire babes in 1983's THE HUNGER, in which she had herself an even more memorable lesbian scene with fellow Classic Hottie Catherine Deneuve. Despite being in her late 30s at the time, Susan was nonetheless making a name for herself as a true sex symbol, possessing a sultry quality that had the potential to put butts in seats. Sex-charged roles aside, she did have a few less intense roles here and there that proved she had plenty of range in addition to sex appeal. Films like 1984's THE BUDDY SYSTEM with Richard Dreyfus saw her play a struggling single mom who finds love in an unexpected way. As wide ranging as her talent was, Susan's biggest roles for the rest 80s stuck mostly to the sultry stuff.
1987's THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK featured Susan as one of 3 women, alongside Cher and Michelle Pfeiffer, living in small town New England who become enraptured by the spell of a debonaire warlock come to town, played by Jack Nicholson. Despite WITCHES star-studded cast and celebrated director, it was her time on this movie Susan later described as the worst experience of her career, due mostly to conflicts with the filmmakers and the studio behind the film. Fortunately, one of her best experiences and her arrival on the A-list came the following year with the film BULL DURHAM. In this film Susan plays the bohemian groupie to a local North Carolina minor league baseball team, from which she takes a young stud lover every new season. Things become complicated when she finds her affections turning from the hot young pitcher (played by Tim Robbins) and toward the seasoned vet on the team (played by Kevin Costner). The film was a delightful love letter to baseball and a huge hit in 1988, rightfully earning Susan massive praise for an inspired performance. The film was also the spark of love between her and co-star Robbins, who became an item during the film's production and for the two decades to follow.
With a thriving new relationship and big movie hit propelling her to new heights, Susan decided to play it safe for a few years, doing mostly forgettable roles in films like A DRY WHITE SEASON and THE JANUARY MAN. Meanwhile, she and her new partner Robbins began to throw themselves headlong into political activism, contributing their names and support to liberal political agendas both in the US and other countries. Her activist exploits soon became one of the most well covered aspects of her and Robbins' life, sometimes overshadowing their acting careers when arrests at protests and outspoken comments on political adversaries became headline news. These controversies never seemed to hurt her career, probably because staunch liberal agendas are not necessarily unheard of in Hollywood. Susan left the 80s behind with another steamy role alongside James Spader in the 1990 sexually charged May-December romance WHITE PALACE, before moving on to her next monster hit movie the next year.
Susan not only left her mark on film but American culture as whole with her next film, 1991's THELMA & LOUISE. Directed by Ridley Scott, this road movie with a twist tells the story of two women, one a waitress, the other a disgruntled housewife, who leave on an impromptu weekend vacation only to find themselves on the run and wanted for murder. The film became a kind of feminist liberation statement, putting two women in the conventionally male role as aggressors in an explosive action movie. It helped launch the career of Susan's co-star Geena Davis to new heights. It also brought a theretofore mostly unknown young actor by the name of Brad Pitt a little closer to his imminent superstardom. Her performance as Louise rightfully earned Susan her second Oscar nomination.
The early to late 1990s proved to be the sweet spot for 40-something Susan Sarandon. In huge demand thanks to the success of THELMA & LOUISE, she had her choice of roles to play around this time. Her first follow up role came in the 1992 tearjerker LORENZO'S OIL, the true story of a desperate father who concocts a special serum to heal his dying child. She continued to impress in 1994's movie adaptation of the John Grisham book THE CLIENT, playing a recovering alcoholic lawyer representing a small child being hounded by gangsters and ambitious political types looking to extract what he knows of the death of a mob boss. Both films earned Susan Oscar nominations, her 3rd in as many years. Yet for Susan it was 5th time the charm in 1995 with her powerful performance as Sister Helen Prejean in the death penalty exploration DEAD MAN WALKING, directed by her life mate Tim Robbins. The film detailed the relationship between Susan's character and a convicted murderer, played equally well by Sean Penn, who asks her to be his religious support in the days before his execution. Susan's performance as the agonized nun trying to resolve her opposition to the death penalty with her need to get a brutal killer to admit his guilt and seek forgiveness, finally won over the Academy the following year. After 4 rejections, she finally earned herself a golden bald dude for Best Leading Actress, which she proudly displays as a prominent point of interest in her bathroom.
In 1999, Sarandon was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a position traditionally given to celebrities in order to draw attention to the plight of impoverished children around the world. That year saw her join an ensemble cast for her significant other's third director effort, CRADLE WILL ROCK. In 2001 she returned to TV yet again with appearances on Fox's Malcolm in the Middle and the NBC comedy Friends, the latter winning her an Emmy nod for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. 2003 had Susan playing Princess Wensicia Corrino in the lavish Syfy television miniseries Children of Dune, based on the Frank Herbert books. She had a recurring role on the Dennis Leary drama Rescue Me, as well as other TV movies and specials in 2004. More movies followed with the indie film ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES revolving around an iron worker, played by the late, great James Gandolfini, having an affair with a lingerie salesgirl played by Kate Winslet. Susan then changed things up with her 2007 role as the evil queen opposite beautiful princess Amy Adams who is transported to the real world in the live-action fairy tale ENCHANTED. Susan contrasted that with her role as a distressed mother of a murdered Iraq soldier in the military whodunnit IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH the same year.
Susan's personal life endured some significant changes in the summer of 2009 when she and Tim Robbins decided to end their 20 year relationship. Breaking with Hollywood tradition, the two kept their split completely quiet until the following December, when Susan announced the split ahead of tabloid rumor mongering. That didn't stop rumors circulating of numerous trysts with men half her age following her split, which for any other 63-year-old might have been an uncomfortable notion. Few thought to question Susan's unidentified lovers. Quite the contrary. Most simply envied them. On the professional side of her life, roles of every kind continued to roll in. Susan played the grandmother of a murdered child in Peter Jackson's take on THE LOVELY BONES in 2010. She portrayed assisted suicide activist Janet Good in the HBO Jack Kevorkian biopic You Don't Know Jack in 2010, which won her another Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Supporting Actress. She was also part of the massive ensemble cast in the bewildering Wachowski time bender CLOUD ATLAS in 2012.
Now creeping up on her 70th year, there's nothing to suggest Susan is anywhere near to hanging it up any time soon. Her IMDB page is flush with in production projects and she continues to be an outspoken voice for the political and social agendas close to her heart. That's all well and good. However, for many it's Susan and her dogged genetic disposition to be the world's hottest septuagenarian that makes her one of the most beloved Classic Hotties still doing her thing in the biz. How long she can keep this going is anyone's guess. We can't wait to find out though.