Academy Award winning actress Susan Sarandon granted Rick Coates an exclusive pre- Traverse City Film Festival interview. The interview may be heard in its entirety on the Omelette & Friends Show Tuesday, July 31 at 7:30 am and again on Wednesday August 1 at 9 am. The show airs on 97.5/98.9 fm and streams online at wklt. com. Following are highlights of the interview.
Ever since Michael Moore announced a few weeks back that Susan Sarandon would come to Traverse City for the Film Festival (TCFF) the area has been abuzz with excitement. The Festival has had its fair share of celebrities since its inception eight years ago, but Ms. Sarandon represents probably the biggest film star name to date.
Moore has not made inviting A-list celebrities a priority for the TCFF, instead emphasizing that the films are the real celebrities. But Sarandon’s presence will attract additional media attention this year and help send a message that TCFF is reaching Sundance, Tribeca and Toronto Film Festival status.
Sarandon will visit the TCFF on Tuesday, July 31 and is expected to attend the Opening Night Party. On Wednesday she will be Michael Moore’s guest at 9:30 am at the City Opera House for a one-on-one panel discussion (two Oscar winners on one stage). Sarandon will also introduce her new film, “Frank & Robot,” on Wednesday at the State Theater at 3 pm. For additional details on her visit and possible other appearances go to traversecityfilmfest.org
Northern Express: You have known Michael Moore for years, did you run into him recently at another film festival and he invited you to the TCFF?
Susan Sarandon: That’s exactly how it happened. We were both judges at the Tribeca Film Festival. There was this luncheon before the festival started and I am a very shy person so I was sitting by myself and Michael walked in with that same terrified look on his face that I had on my face. So we sat together and it turned out I was interviewing for one of the panel sessions later that day. After that session he mentioned the TCFF to me and he seemed so passionate about it so I agreed to come and be a part of it.
NE: You seem to like to do fun projects, like appearing on Saturday Night Live (SNL) a couple of times in recent years.
Sarandon: I don’t think there is any other criteria for choosing projects in this business because as much as you try to apply logic or science to your choices it just defies it every time. So I follow my heart and choose projects that I feel will be fun and will challenge me.
The first time they asked me to do Motherlover on SNL with Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake I had not seen ‘Junk in a Box.’ I actually don’t have a TV, so I asked my son about it and my son said it was a classic and that I absolutely should do it.
NE: Tell us a little bit about your new film “Robot & Frank.”
Sarandon: I have to be careful about what I say as there is a twist to the film. But I will say this, I play a librarian and the idea of being a librarian in the future where books barely exist and everyone is getting them on their phones seemed like a far-off concept when we were filming and now seems like we are getting closer and closer to this.
There are two things libraries give you.
I know everyone Googles for information, but you are dealing with only a few sources. So I think if you still know how to go to a library you will find that you will stumble onto more sources of information. I used to love to browse the library as a kid and go shelf to shelf. For me personally, I read a lot, and I like the feel of a book. I’m not a big fan of reading digitally -- it seems more like work than the pleasure of sitting down with a book. I like touching and smelling the book.
NE: Take us through the process of how you select a script. Do you read it several times or do you know after just a couple of pages this is not for you?
Sarandon: That is a great question. If it doesn’t move me in some way when I read it through, I pass. But sometimes you need clarification and sometimes they give you a script and they ask that you make a part better.
Once I am interested, I need to know who else I am working with, who the director is and how the filming will fit into my schedule. Of course, if they are going to pay you a huge sum of money you might take a closer look and have meetings and discuss changes.
Helen Mirren once told me that she looks at the character in the script and sees if that character is still there at the end of the script.
NE: How did you end up in the Rocky Horror Picture Show?
Sarandon: A friend of mine was in the stage show with Tim Curry. I have a phobia about singing. I went by to say hi to Tim one day and they were starting to cast for the movie and he said oh my god will you read this part? I was scheduled to do another film and I had seen the stage show and I agreed to read the part but told them I couldn’t sing. But I figured that when I went to England to film they would give me drugs and liquor and I would be able to get through it.
NE: You follow politics closely. Where in your opinion is the political process at in our country?
Sarandon: It is a real mess because we need campaign finance reform. People spend so much time raising money to get elected that they have to sell their soul to get it.
NE: Talk a little bit about the state of the filmmaking industry. What do you like most about making films today and what do you like least?
Sarandon: I love that I am still working. I think the distribution of very small films has become very difficult. Studios are in the same position the record industry was a few years ago in that anyone is in the position to make a movie. The problem is finding an avenue to distribute these films and to get them shown since most theaters are owned by major companies.
With the exception of a few more women directors I don’t think much has changed in regards to having more female leads over the years. So much of what we are putting out in this business continues to strengthen a lot of sexism, ageism and racism. We call films that challenge these sorts of things as political, but really all films are political.
The complete Susan Sarandon interview to air on the radio will include her thoughts on the Colorado movie theater massacre, more on her Rocky Horror Picture Show experience, politics and the future of the film industry.