Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon explained the secret of her long-running success during a Friday night appearance at the Florida Film Festival.
"I'm just a very good listener. That was sexy on screen," Sarandon, 67, told an audience at the Enzian in Maitland. "This is for you guys out there, too. Be a good listener."
She sat for a question-and-answer after a screening of "Dead Man Walking," the 1995 film that brought her the best actress Oscar for playing Sister Helen Prejean.
Sarandon revealed that it was only the second time had seen the complete film. She praised former companion Tim Robbins, who wrote and directed the film, for doing "a brilliant job."
Sarandon was asked about famous films, co-stars, Ping-Pong, her activism and even the meaning of life. She pleased fans with her frank, funny answers.
Which film was most fun? She mentioned "Bull Durham" first. "I ended up having two children because of it," she said, referring to co-star Robbins. Sarandon called her character "so strong and funny, and [she] could have sex and not be killed for it."
She also said "Dead Man Walking" was "very satisfying" because she found Prejean's book and persuaded Robbins to make it. She noted that "Dead Man Walking" is now a play performed in high schools.
A high-school teacher revealed that her students had a problem with the drive-off-the-cliff ending of "Thelma & Louise." Sarandon replied, "Did they have a problem with 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'?"
Sarandon had to get over a phobia about singing to do "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Sarandon described her role as "a takeoff on all the ingenues I had been playing, with a bitchy thing going on underneath." These days, she considers it "a very moving, great film."
She dismissed the notion that her roles had become more interesting as she aged. "I'm so happy if I'm not dying or have someone die," she said. Recent roles include "four back-to-back alcoholic, pill-popping people," she said.
"I don't know why this is happening," she added. "I don't even like to drink."
But she sounded happy about the upcoming "Ping Pong Summer," saying it has a funny script. "It's kind of like 'Karate Kid' but with Ping-Pong and I'm Mr. Miyagi," she said. (About her affection for the game, she said, "Strangely, I have become the face of Ping-Pong, and I'm not even really that good, but I love it.")
She also enjoyed playing Melissa McCarthy's grandmother in "Tammy," which will be out in July. "I hope you'll say I'm unrecognizable," she said.
Sarandon never studied acting, but husband Chris Sarandon was an actor and she tried out for the 1970 movie "Joe." She improvised.
"Acting is not rocket science," she said.
She won the "Joe" role and later gained on-the-job training on a soap opera.
"I just kept working. I thought it was a riot," she said. "Any kind of life endeavor, the more playful you can be, the more interesting it is and the more surprised you are. Acting is really such a wonderful way to constantly be surprised, if you can surrender to it."
Sarandon explained her approach to work. "You want, first of all, to have a good time and keep challenging yourself," she said. "Some actors have really strong personalities, so they kind of keep doing the same thing over and over. They tend to get paid more. Then there are character actors, that I consider myself to be one of. So you change a lot of things and that's a little bit more tenuous. But, actually, longevity is probably easier if you're a character actor."
She brought a down-to-earth simplicity to lofty questions. "I feel like the meaning of life and my job are the same thing," she said.
She cited Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn and Christopher Walken as favorite co-stars and described Burt Lancaster of "Atlantic City" as "adorable" and "a really special guy."
She also wondered about the term "chick flicks," which star two women. "I always wondered why they don't call the other ones dick flicks," Sarandon said.
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