by Nicki Gostin
Whether you know her as waif-y naïf Janet from cult flick "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"; as the sultry, pitcher-seducing Annie from classic baseball movie "Bull Durham"; as gun-toting Louise from "Thelma & Louise"; or from any one of the other dozens of films she's made, chances are good that you recognize the name Susan Sarandon. The Oscar-winning actress has made headlines not just for her outstanding performances but also for her outspoken support of left-leaning political causes, along with husband Tim Robbins. Now the 62-year-old actress is returning to the stage, appearing in Eugene Ionesco play's "Exit the King" on Broadway opposite Geoffrey Rush. NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin spoke with Sarandon about ping-pong, being a hockey mom and whether Meryl Streep is taking roles away from her. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: How are you?
Susan Sarandon: I've got a cold. I think the dust that comes down in the play aggravated my sinuses. I had a coughing fit on stage the other night and I had to leave the stage and get a drink.
Maybe you'll have to leave the play and it'll be a whole Jeremy Piven mercury-poisoning thing.
I'm in Jeremy Piven's dressing room. But I'm thinking of it as Marlon Brando's dressing room. ["Streetcar Named Desire" was performed at the same theater.]
You haven't been on Broadway in 72 years.
I think it's 150.
Why did you decide to go back? Need the money?
[Laughs] Geoffrey [Rush] sent me the play with a really funny, smart letter, and it was something I'd never seen done before, so I didn't have to fight with the ghost of another actor, and my kids are no longer playing baseball on the weekends. My youngest is 16, and he'd just as soon not see me on the weekends. I felt like I was going into a new stage, and maybe it was time to try something that would be a challenge.
Is the schedule killing you?
Up until we opened. We were in the theater basically all day and night. I found that really difficult. There wasn't any air. I was also taking it very seriously and was very stressed out! Now that the schedule has opened up and we're not in rehearsal at noon, it's going to ease up quite a bit. Now we can play with it.
Now you can coast.
I wouldn't say coast. I'd say dig in and make it our own.
So, you were a hockey mom until now.
Yeah, a couple of years ago when I was filming in Montreal, I was driving back to New York and getting to Chelsea Piers at 7 a.m. for hockey. But now my son has switched to ping-pong and I'm opening up a ping-pong bar club at the end of May. It's called Spin New York. It's going to have 16 tables and have training during the day and a bar at night.
So anyone can go and play ping-pong with you?
I'd better start training. I've had people who heard about it come up to me on the street and say, "I'm gonna beat your ass." So I've got to get better.
Do you think your political activism has hurt your career?
I think that's like worrying if your slip is showing while you're fleeing a burning building. You just have to do what you have to do. The good news and the bad news is that Hollywood isn't political.
If Meryl Streep decided to retire and open a knitting store, would you get offered a lot more roles?
I have to say it's all cyclical. There's stuff I've turned down in the past that she's done. I think there's plenty to go around. This business is hard enough without women being turned on each other.
What roles did you turn down that she took?
Oh, you never tell those things!
by Nicki Gostin