Susan Sarandon has long stood out as the exception that proves the rule... that it's impossible for women in Hollywood to be seen as glamorous once they hit the '60' landmark, that you can be too politicised to be welcome at the town's dinner parties, that it's impossible to stay friendly with your ex, that you don't need to get married...
This week sees the home release of her film with Frank Langella, 'Robot & Frank', about a retired cat burglar who ends with a walking, talking humanoid as his live-in carer. To mark the occasion, Sarandon reveals to HuffPostUK what else sets her apart, including her late, reluctant embrace of technology...
Can you maybe describe your own relationship with technology in terms of devices?
Susan Sarandon: I'm a Luddite pretty much. I text in self-defence because my kids just no longer answered. So, I had to start texting. They were so mean. I had a really archaic phone that you had to push everything twice to get letters. They wouldn't explain anything to me because they just loved the fact that I didn't know how to erase anything. I had to learn like a monkey. For the first week, this complete cartoon word symbol thing was happening. They would laugh their ass off. Now I'm pretty good at texting.
Susan Sarandon's career has lasted long beyond Hollywood's traditional sell-by date
I don't like to read. I like real books, I like to touch books. I like pages turned down. I like to get books from my kids that they're reading that I reread. All the things underlined and stars in the margins and then give them to people. I give a lot of books as presents. Giving them is...I don't know how you even do that. Can you do that on a Kindle?
My dog is tweeting. I'm on Facebook and tweeting and things but it's not me. So, I had to verify for a number of years. People have been taking this and I guess doing a much better job than I would have. God knows what they're saying. I don't look. I don't go online. I don't want to know what people are saying in blogs. I don't want to see chatter about me. It just completely terrifies me. When people say mean things about me that don't even know me I don't want to know. I would rather not know. I'm not that thick-skinned. I mean in some of the more controversial, life-threatening situations I've been in, when you see that much emotion either way about you when people don't know you and it's so personal. To me, that's really a scary thing. So, I just don't read anything. I don't go online and Google myself. You can Google yourself, right? No. I don't Google myself or do any of that stuff. I'd rather just stay in my own little reality.
Talk about your personal things you were mentioning there. I'm a baby boomer and I remember going back to the days when you were active in a lot of advocacy, so many different projects. Do you still keep yourself active in all these different political and social issues? I see your name here and there.
Yeah. When you work for this cheaply for doing documentaries, they find you, they educate you. I have certain things that are very close to my heart. I tend to take on the ones that are less travelled because there's a lot of people doing some of the bigger ones. I'm still very, very...
With Frank Langella in 'Robot and Frank' - "I'm a Luddite when it comes to technology"
Which ones in particular?
Yeah. Sure. Well, let's see, Habitat for Humanity, a lot of the food banks in New York. I just did the Trevor Project, which is the hotline - gay, transgender, transsexual, and questioning youth, gay, lesbian. Somaly Mam are very dear friends of mine. That's sex trafficking in Cambodia. I have a friend called Akello who was a child soldier in Uganda and I try to keep his school alive. What else? Center for Constitutional Rights I've been working with for 30 some years. Most of these I've had relationships with for a very long time. Somali - it's been about eight or nine years. I went to Cambodia before with my daughter to visit her stuff there. But anything that has to do, you know, on a more one to one basis dealing with kids, education, anything in New York that has to do with hunger or housing, gay youth. Southern Poverty Law Center, I've been with them for a long time, most of the conservation groups. I love what Bette Midler has been doing. I try to help her whenever I can. She's just...but I feel a little bit like she does a better job because she focuses on one thing.
The AIDS organizations for a while took a lot of my time but that's kind of died down a little bit now. I'm a UN ambassador. So, those trips also. I went to Haiti. I don't know.
Susan, one of the great American classics that you're associated with is Thelma & Louise. What has that film meant to you and does it mean something different to you today?
When we made it, it seemed like a great, fun summer being an outlaw. I love Geena (Davis) and I knew Ridley (Scott), knew what he was doing. You know, at that point my kids were little and so I mostly worked during the summer, so it fit perfectly into that. But I didn't understand what a major upset it would be. No. I didn't understand that we were backing into this territory held by white heterosexual males, that it would be such a big deal. I didn't foresee that. But it's funny because some of the fan mail I've gotten has been, "I saw the Rocky Horror Show and I got active." Then, "when I saw Thelma & Louise I left my town." So, something about those two films people seem to link together, so it seemed like the perfect...the idea of not settling and don't dream it, be it I think are pretty linked. So, I'm proud to have been part of them.
Ridley put us in that heroic kind of setting, so we owe it to him definitely. The idea of a remake to me is hilarious. Without him, I don't know how you would do that really. I mean we are probably replaceable but I don't think he is.
I wanted to ask a little bit about marriage. You're someone that's spoken out and said that you didn't really believe in marriage anymore.
No. I believe in marriage for other people, I just never have really liked the idea of institutionalized religion. But I mean I think if it means something I think it's great. Everyone should be able to get married. I think it's a good party. For me, I just think it's nice to wake up...
I think more people are getting married, not less. I mean it's less of a...when I had my first child out of wedlock...I had married when I was 20 for a brief period of time so as not to get kicked out of school. But I wasn't married to any of the guys I had children with. That at the time was a major, major thing. Now it's not such a big deal. I think that has changed but it seems to me like more people are interested in getting married younger. I think it's a really great way to publicly discuss your commitment and it's a great party. I think the trap of a long-term relationship is taking each other for granted. Some people, when they seal the deal, kind of stop trying. They've done it. They've caught the person, they've found the person, they made the contract and then it takes so much work to be in a relationship for a long time. I mean I've been always in committed relationships for long periods of time. If being married makes you commit to trying to improve your skillset to keep that going then I think it's great.
Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins were partners for two decades, until their split in 2009
In terms of your feelings about marriage, you play a wife to two very difficult men, in this film and a film that some of us saw just this morning, Arbitrage, to Richard Gere. How do your own feelings about marriage and the roles you play in those two films relate?
I think that what would make marriage work is every five years you get a chance to...you know you're going to recommit. That's how I did my first marriage because then you wouldn't take it for granted. You know, your five year is coming up, you have to make decisions. Do you have kids or whatever? Then if somebody says this isn't work or I don't want what you want in the next stage, it's not so personal. What happens is nobody talks about those things, like who is going to take out the garbage. Whose money are you going to have? Do you want kids? When do you want them? Are you going to help? Am I just doing it by myself? Who gives up their career? Nobody goes into that, because it's a very hormonally fuelled, nothing personal, kind of experience. So, these things start to come up and you have to work through them. It's always a negotiation of some kind.
So, I think, you know, marriage if you can deal with it like you would...if you can deal with it realistically and if you can be honest about it, you can...I mean you've been with somebody for 25 years and you got married when you were really young. Really, you're just going to spend 25 years not f**king anybody but that person? Some kind of something's going to come up at some point. How do you deal with that? I mean it's all very black and white when you've never been tempted and you're 22. I mean seriously. So, I mean I think marriage...my daughter just got married. She loves being married. He's a great guy. They have what seems to be a really good shot. They want the same things. They have good coping skills, strategies. But no matter how long you know somebody or whatever, to stay with somebody and figure out how that works, there's no right or wrong way. That's what I think of marriage. Everybody gets to certain tough things, which are usually symptomatic of a bigger problem, not really the issue at hand. You either have a really good person that helps you really talk to each other about what's going on so you don't start acting out or you don't.
Susan Sarandon has long stood out from the crowd in Hollywood
Then those things pile up and pile up and then you get in trouble. But I think there are very different kind of marriages. Certainly, both these women, you know, were patient while the guy did whatever he was doing. In 'Arbitrage' I don't think she really minded that much. I mean because she's got a very full life. I worked very hard to make sure that she wasn't someone who was just sitting at home doing her nails. She has something that she does and her kids. The only thing that makes that marriage fall apart is that he steps over the line and robs their daughter of her heart at that point. So, that for me was really important to understand.
Would you feel comfortable, if the technology were there, being under the care of a robot? Also, if you could, would you have your own parents taken care of by a robot, if the technology was there?
I think a lot of older people are using their TVs like robots. They're on all day long keeping them company and they're not even doing the dishes. They have a relationship with their TV that completely soothes them. I mean I would get one for my mom. I mean I have somebody that comes in now. My mom's 89. She lives near my sisters but she lives on her own in one of those assisted communities, not with a caretaker all the time. She's had a few medical issues, so she's a little precarious. But she's solid. Someone comes in, in the morning for a few hours every day just to make sure she's okay and to do stuff for her. She has a hard time figuring out to ask the woman to do. We've been trying to figure that out. If she would have a robot, if she would not be freaked out by it, maybe my mom might be freaked out by a robot. But maybe by the time I need a robot I won't be. Certainly, my kids probably wouldn't think anything of having a robot as a nanny, maybe. I mean I'd take a robot if it would do the dishes and cook gourmet meals and clean my toilets. That would be fabulous. As long as it washed its little hooks in between doing the cleaning. I don't see anything wrong with that.
Machines just break when they're around me. So, probably I'm not a good candidate. I can't even wear a watch. It stops.
Robot & Frank is out on Blu-ray and DVD now. Watch the trailer below...