Susan Sarandon sort of does whatever she wants.
A quick tally: She's in an astounding number of films that are either premiering or wrapping this year ("Cloud Atlas," "Arbitrage," "That's My Boy," "The Company You Keep," "Robot & Frank," etc.). Then there's the ping pong, a passion which Sarandon's developed into not just three nightclub and training grounds (with a fourth on the way, as HuffPost Entertainment revealed) but a public-access program in New York's lower-income schools.
Topping it all off is the 65-year-old actress' doggedly liberal activism, which has long endeared her to liberals and made her an (unapologetic) enemy of the far right. So how does she manage it all?
"I figure out if I'm going to have fun," Sarandon said in a recent interview. "But I really don't want to repeat myself, I want to do new things and work with people who are passionate about what they do and have a good time. So that's how I prioritize and make decisions."
We asked Sarandon about all of those careers and hobbies. In the edited transcript that follows, find out which of her recent films she most enjoyed, how she feels about "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and what worries her most about the looming election.
Did you ever figure out why you were denied a White House security clearance?
No! I was just thinking I should really call back again, because we wrote a letter to the security there, you know, a lawyer letter, from the Center for Constitutional Rights. We were asking and giving all the details and asking if they could explain why that happened. Initially, somebody asked somebody -- well, this is what the press told me -- someone said I had showed up and wasn't on the list, but they called and told us not to come, I never went there. I'm still waiting for a response from the letter that I sent a month ago.
And how do you feel about the election, now that it's quickly approaching?
I think that the scariest thing now is the involvement of so much money, in all the races. Not just in the presidential races, but the interference with people from in and out of state with very deep pockets, in all the primaries and elections. Now that the Citizen's United thing came down, it's a free for all for anyone who has a lot of money to pay for commercials and influence things. And that's the scary thing for me, it's how money is changing, very obviously, the landscape of what it means to have an election in this country. I think money has always done that, but not as blatantly and freely as it can now that it's legal.
Has it been interesting for you to trace the trajectory of Occupy Wall St.?
Yeah I went multiple times… I think the most important thing is always dialogue, and Occupy, even using that phrase, definitely started conversations and dialogue that weren't really happening before. I think it's important to talk about those things and I'm happy that they did. I'm sure we'll see more and more of them, but I believe that they're organizing in a lot of different ways, not just occupying parks. There's a lot of discussion about inequality and access to the law. There's a whole issue about the lack of transparency in finance and in law that I think is very important to be talking about and demanding more information. We're not children, I think people can deal with information. And the Occupy kids exposed a lot about police brutality in different places, about how decisions are made about started a dialogue about finance in this country.
How are your efforts with the ping pong tables at schools going? Has it been rewarding to work on that project?
I was just recently in Michigan for the Traverse City Film Festival where I won a midlife achievement award -- well, I renamed it a midlife achievement award instead of a lifetime achievement award -- and someone came from Detroit to talk about a club there. Detroit would be a perfect next city to encourage people to go into. It's most important for schools that don't have the room or sometimes don't even have the gym to have basketball and kickball. Ping pong tables are so easy to collapse and set up. They're not expensive and the panels aren't super expensive, you don't need to have uniforms. It's a no-brainer, that if you're trying to give kids something to release tension and focus, ping pong is a great idea.
We've been very successful placing them with instructors in schools in New York and the middle school league is popping, it's doing really well! In my role as ping pong propagandist, where we're going to build a ping pong nation, where kids start playing and not just privileged kids, but all kids that can play until they die. It's not like basketball or soccer where you're limited when you get older. It's something you can continue to do and give your mind and your body exercise. You can stay good at ping pong for a long time. Or you can be like me and not train or be competitive, and sort of bounce around.
My breakthrough with [the SPiN ping pong clubs and lounges] was, first of all, putting drinks and booze in there. And unlike people who play in a basement or at camp, you're not chasing down your balls. We have balls everywhere, and there are guys scooping and refilling your big bucked of balls. Now one of our best-selling t-shirts is the one that says "balls are my business" on the back.
Are there still films that stand out and affect you in a way that others don't?
I'm really curious -- I haven't seen "Cloud Atlas" and I'm barely in the film, but I think that is one of the bravest and most extraordinary approaches to filmmaking that I've seen in a long time. It was amazing to come in as a tiny, tiny player and see what they're trying to do. And also, the spirit of the filmmaking -- everyone was having so much fun and just throwing themselves from one gender to the next, from one ethnicity to the next to one time period from the next. It was like a Cirque du Soleil of the soul, and they're all such great actors. That should be an easy one to watch because I'm barely in it, and I can see it pretty objectively. I'm waiting to see what that's like. As they explained it to me, they wanted to make an epic, adult picture. A picture with big scenes and big ideas, as opposed to a child's movie with shootings and car crashes.
With respect to "Rocky Horror," is it amazing that people are still actively experiencing the film with screenings? Is there any part of you that's a little tired of that?
It's not surprising anymore, I think that once it got into the consciousness of evolving people. I'm happy that it continues, I'm happy that it keeps some of these theaters open because they can count on people coming in the evening, as it's been explained to me. There are so few art houses left that I'm happy if "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" contributes to that. So happy that I'm a part of it. I think that it holds up, I have no idea how the phenomenon of it came to be, but I'm still happy.
When I was doing "Anywhere But Here," I went to the one in L.A.! I took Natalie Portman, who at that time who was maybe 17 and my daughter who was 15 or 14 (or maybe Natalie was 18) and we were all working together. The kids who were doing the standup in front of the screen, their parents' had done it, that's how they met. So I thought, what a legacy, what a family tradition to pass down, to see "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" in front of the screen. I thought that was fabulous.