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Susan Sarandon Says White House Denied Security Clearance, Interviews Michael Moore

Posted: 04/22/2012 7:00 pm Updated: 04/23/2012 12:54 pm

Susan Sarandon White House
Susan Sarandon said Sunday that she was denied a White House security clearance.

Susan Sarandon says she was recently denied security clearance to visit the White House. And Michael Moore absolutely hated the Davis Guggenheim documentary "Waiting for Superman."

Those were just two of the juicier revelations that emerged as the actress and filmmaker, two of Hollywood's most unabashed liberals, chatted with audience members and one another in a 75-minute conversation sponsored by the Tribeca Film Festival.

After an audience member asked the pair if they believed they were "under surveillance," Sarandon said she didn't just believe it, she knew it. "I've had my phone tapped ... I've gotten my file twice under the Freedom of Information Act," she said, before mentioning the security clearance snafu. She said she had no idea why the clearance was denied, and jokingly asked the questioner if he knew the reason. (The Huffington Post has reached out to the White House for comment.)

Moore, responding to a separate question, said he had been the target of a "disinformation campaign," possibly engineered by the federal government. "I was told this by some people in the Bush administration. They went bonkers when 'Fahrenheit' came out and thought it would throw the election to Kerry," he said, referring to his 2004 documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," which came out five months before the election that pitted sitting president George W. Bush against Senator John Kerry. "The reason I'm a poster boy on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh is because my films reach a large group of people in the middle, not just on the left."

Moore's scalding remarks about "Waiting for Superman" came in response to still another questioner, who asked whether he planned to "follow in the footsteps" of Guggenheim. "Well, I wouldn't follow in those footsteps, because I hated that film," Moore said. "The point I was left with with 'Waiting for Superman' was that teachers and their unions are the problem, and they are not the problem." (Moore declined to say what subject he would tackle in his next film.)

Moore dismissed the notion -- timidly raised by one audience member -- that he should appear less in his own films, but noted that there is a sign in his editing room that reads, WHEN IN DOUBT, CUT ME OUT. He added that it has become more difficult in recent years for him to persuade subjects to let him interview them. "I wish they wouldn't be afraid of me," he said. "I'm a really nice person. I'm not violent. I'm an Eagle Scout."

Noting that she and Moore are both introverts -- a fact Moore rightly acknowledged is hard to believe -- Sarandon asked the famously pushy filmmaker how he gets up the nerve to barge in on powerful subjects and chase them around for interviews. "I am terrified," Moore said. "I've always been terrified, and I'm trying to hide it as best I can, trying to convince myself that I'm going to get through it alive and that no harm will come to me."

Describing the aftermath of his famous confrontation with actor and NRA president Charlton Heston -- which formed the climax of Moore's 2002 anti-gun film, "Bowling for Columbine" -- the director said he and his team were momentarily trapped inside Heston's property, separated from their vehicle by a 14-foot automatic gate. Reasoning that Heston had called "someone from the NRA" whose goal would be to confiscate their footage, Moore instructed his team to toss the film over the gate to an assistant. "And once they saw that all the film had been heaved over the gates, they opened the gates," Moore recalled, adding that his cameraman felt so sad about the encounter that he cried in the car. "We all loved Charlton Heston," he explained. "We grew up with him."

Several audience members asked questions about the changing distribution landscape -- a hot topic at any film festival in these days of digital transformation. Moore, whose first film, "Roger & Me," was picked up by Warner Bros. after its debut at the New York Film Festival, repeatedly returned to what is clearly a core theme for him: "The only thing you should be worried about is making a great movie," not what technology you will use to distribute it.

"Stay true to the fact that you have chosen cinema. Too many documentaries -- the people making them should be running for office," he said. "If you make something that people want to see as a movie, in theaters, you will find distribution."

At times, the event had the cheerfully combative feel of an old-time labor rally, and toward the end Sarandon asked Moore to give the audience some concrete advice on how to make the world a better place. After hemming and hawing for a moment or two, Moore warmed to the topic: "First of all, be part of Occupy Wall Street," he said, before urging those in attendance to run for office and "get involved with any organization that is working to get money out of politics."

One audience member admitted that she had come to the event not liking Moore. "I was feeling the same way about myself," he replied, in a charming display of self-deprecation. "I've got this gnarly hoodie on. What am I doing here?" The audience member went on to say that she had been working in the World Trade Center on 9/11, and that she had avoided "Fahrenheit 9/11" because she "wanted revenge" for the attacks. Only later had she come around to the view that they had been exploited by politicians. Moore said he understood her anger, but noted that "this sense of revenge that took over, it didn't do us well."

"It's been a difficult decade," he added. Which is one thing we can all probably agree on.

Snapshots From This Year's Festival:

  • Doutzen Kroes

    Doutzen Kroes attends the premiere of "Mansome" during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Saturday, April 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

  • Coco Rocha

    Coco Rocha attends the premiere of "Mansome" during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Saturday, April 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

  • Alison Brie

    Actress Alison Brie attends the Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere of "The Five-Year Engagement" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Robert De Niro, Grace Hightower

    Actor Robert De Niro and wife Grace Hightower attend the Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere of "The Five-Year Engagement" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Camilla Belle

    Actress Camilla Belle attends the Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere of "The Five-Year Engagement" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Robert De Niro, Judd Apatow

    In this April 19, 2012 photo provided by StarPix, director Judd Apatow, left, joins actor Robert De Niro at "Tribeca Talks Directors Series ,100 Years of Universal," at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. (AP Photo/StarPix, Dave Allocca)

  • Jason Segel

    Actor Jason Segel attends the Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere of "The Five-Year Engagement" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Will Arnett

    Will Arnett attends the premiere of "Mansome" during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Saturday, April 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

  • Michael Moore

    Filmmaker Michael Moore attends the Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere of "The Five-Year Engagement" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Amy Poehler, Aubrey Plaza

    Actresses Amy Poehler, left, and Aubrey Plaza attend the Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere of "The Five-Year Engagement" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Emily Blunt

    In this photo provided by StarPix, actress Emily Blunt arrives for the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of "Your Sister`s Sister," Thursday, April 19, 2012 in New York. Blunt stars in the film. (AP Photo/StarPix, Amanda Schawb)

  • Jason Segal; Emily Blunt

    In this photo provided by StarPix, actors Jason Segal and Emily Blunt arrive for the Tribeca Film Festival opening of their film, "The Five-Year Engagement," Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/StarPix, Dave Allocca)

  • "BURN" Premiere - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Detroit Fire Chief Craig Dougherty attends the 'BURN' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the AMC Lowes Village on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus attends the Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere of "The Five-Year Engagement" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Lena Dunham

    Actress Lena Dunham attends the world premiere of "Supporting Characters" during the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 20, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • "BURN" Premiere - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Detroit firefighter Ted Copley attends the 'BURN' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the AMC Lowes Village on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

  • "BURN" Premiere - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Directors Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez speak at the 'BURN' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the AMC Lowes Village on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

  • "Francophrenia (Or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where The Baby Is)" Premiere - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Director / actor James Franco interviews during the 'Francophrenia (Or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where The Baby Is)' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the School of Visual Arts Theater on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

  • "Francophrenia (Or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where The Baby Is)" Premiere - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Director / actor James Franco interviews during the 'Francophrenia (Or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where The Baby Is)' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the School of Visual Arts Theater on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

  • Downtown Youth Behind The Camera Program - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Filmmakers Austin Smith, Max Aurnhammer, and Zach Cassell attend the Downtown Youth Behind The Camera Program during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the School of Visual Arts Theater on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

  • Downtown Youth Behind The Camera Program - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Filmmaker Etai Abramovich attend the Downtown Youth Behind The Camera Program during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the School of Visual Arts Theater on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

  • "Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story" Premiere - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Director Raymond De Felitta attends 'Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the Chelsea Clearview Cinemas on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)

  • Tribeca Talks After The Movie: Freaky Deaky - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Crispin Glover attends Tribeca Talks After The Movie: 'Freaky Deaky' during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the School of Visual Arts Theater on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

  • Tribeca Talks After The Movie: Freaky Deaky - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Actresses Breanne Racano (L) and Sabina Gadecki attend Tribeca Talks After The Movie: 'Freaky Deaky' during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the School of Visual Arts Theater on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

  • Tribeca Talks After The Movie: Freaky Deaky - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Breanne Racano attends Tribeca Talks After The Movie: 'Freaky Deaky' during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the School of Visual Arts Theater on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

  • Super WHY!

    COMMERCIAL IMAGE - In this photograph taken by AP Images for Time Warner Cable, Super WHY! poses at the Time Warner Cable red carpet experience at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival Drive-In, Saturday April 21, 2012 in New York. (Amy Sussman/AP Images for Time Warner Cable)

  • David Burke, Wilmer Valderrama

    COMMERCIAL IMAGE - In this photograph taken by AP Images for Time Warner Cable, chef David Burke, left, and actor Wilmer Valderrama pose at the Time Warner Cable red carpet experience at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival Drive-In, Saturday April 21, 2012 in New York. (Amy Sussman/AP Images for Time Warner Cable)

  • Chris Colfer

    Chris Colfer attends the world premiere of "Struck By Lightning" during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Saturday, April 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

  • Amber Riley, Chris Colfer

    Amber Riley and Chris Colfer attend the world premiere of "Struck By Lightning" during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Saturday, April 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

  • Emma Watson

    Emma Watson attends the world premiere of "Struck By Lightning" during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Saturday, April 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

  • Olivia Wilde

    Executive producer Olivia Wilde attends a screening of "Baseball in the Time of Cholera" during the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, April 21, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Marguerite Moreau

    Actress Marguerite Moreau attends the world premiere of "Caroline and Jackie" during the Tribeca Film Festival onSaturday, April 21, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Bitsie Tulloch

    Actress Bitsie Tulloch attends the world premiere of "Caroline and Jackie" during the Tribeca Film Festival onSaturday, April 21, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Arielle Kebbel

    Actress Arielle Kebbel attends the world premiere of "Supporting Characters" during the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 20, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Kim Cattrall

    Actress Kim Cattrall attends the Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere of "The Five-Year Engagement" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • Michelle Williams

    Actress Michelle Williams attends the 'Take this Waltz' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

  • Sarah Silverman

    Actress Sarah Silverman attends the 'Take this Waltz' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

  • Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman, Susan Cavan

    Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman, and Susan Cavan attend the 'Take this Waltz' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

  • Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman

    Actors Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby and Sarah Silverman attend the 'Take this Waltz' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

  • Michelle Williams, Sarah Silverman

    Michelle Williams and Sarah Silverman attend the 'Take this Waltz' Premiere during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on April 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

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