Susan Sarandon Occupies the Hamptons

The opening night buzz felt at the Hamptons International Film Festival was driven by anticipation for the film Jeff, Who Lives at Home, to be sure. And there is no denying that a sizeable measure of that excitement was fueled by star Susan Sarandon.

So as the full house at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor sat in anticipation of “A Conversation With Susan Sarandon” beginning on Saturday afternoon, an understandable electricity was in the air. Before the star’s talk with fellow actor Bob Balaban began, the crowd was treated to clips from Sarandon’s long film career, including scenes from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Thelma and Louise, Dead Man Walking, The Witches of Eastwick, Bull Durham, Little Women, Atlantic City…

It’s an incredible list, isn’t it? Some of the most iconic films and roles not just in recent memory, but in the annals of Hollywood filmdom. The weight of Sarandon’s achievements and contributions was still sinking in when the actress came onstage, uttering words that more than one person had to be thinking.

“I’m so impressed with myself!”

Such a comment, its blend of confidence and humor, is vintage Sarandon. It’s part of why we’ve loved her for so long, on and off the silver screen. When Balaban asked, “When did you have time to be all those different people?” and the answer came from Sarandon, “It’s all wigs—Cher taught me that,” the game everyone had hoped for was afoot.

The Oscar winner held the audience in thrall talking about a range of topics, from her career to the rewards of being a character actor, Spin (the popular ping pong club she’s involved with in New York City) to her political involvement. Sarandon has long been active in many causes at home and abroad, lending her efforts and celebrity to shed light on issues close to her heart. Sarandon spent six months at Ground Zero as a volunteer, serving food in the wake of the 9-11. She is an UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador currently working with a friend, a Somali woman who was sold as a sex slave at age six, to house former child sex slaves in Africa.

With the audience acknowledging in applause the Occupy the Hamptons demonstration going on peaceably just across the wharf, one member of the crowd asked Sarandon to speak about Occupy Wall Street. Having visited the protesters in downtown Manhattan, she had a distinct perspective on the financial-system-driven protest movement.

“I don’t think they want to be appeased,” she said. “Most of all they want a dialogue about things they feel have not been discussed. Democracy is messy. There are a lot of people there who are teachers, who have jobs. They don’t show that on the news. It’s fabulous that they care enough to be there. It’s an inspiration.”

Nobody would blame Sarandon if she allowed herself to follow that inspiration, or any other thing that would stir a passion, and  slow things down a bit on the filmmaking front. She’s been at this movie thing for more than 40 years, since breaking in with a role in the film Joe that she snagged after going with then-husband Chris Sarandon to the audition. But Sarandon has rarely been busier.

She had seven films in the editing process right now, including The Wedding—with a cast including Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams and Diane Keaton—and Arbitrage—with Richard Gere and Tim Roth. She’s wrapped the Adam Sandler comedy I Hate You, Dad and is set to start filming the action thriller Snitch with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

She will, however, take at least a short break for an upcoming wedding. Her daughter, Eva Amurri, is about to get married to soccer player cum TV commentator Kyle Martino, and like any good mom, Sarandon has some advice. “Think of married life as an on-going work of art in progress. Your marriage should be like a good book you’d like to read.” Or maybe a really good movie.

Additional reporting by Stacy Dermont.

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