What Susan Sarandon Knows

When you’re approaching your 60th birthday with a major modeling contract, three great kids, four new movies, and a sexier-than-ever relationship, life is good. Susan Sarandon talks about what’s kept her centered, serene and — she swears — surgery-free.

By Meryl Gordon

Spending Quality Family TimeAs their 16-year-old son, Jack, races down the basketball court at his Manhattan private school, Susan Sarandon and her partner, Tim Robbins, are in the front row of the bleachers, screaming at the top of their lungs, "Defense! Defense!" Wearing old jeans, sneakers, and a black shirt, Sarandon has come directly from the airport after 24 hours in L.A. for costume fittings as a wicked queen in Disney’s Enchanted. She’s tired but wired. Robbins, a towering presence at six-foot-five, is shambling and affectionate, whispering into her ear during breaks, instinctively reaching out to protect her when a player careens into the stands. The family cheering section also includes Sarandon’s 20-year-old daughter, Eva Amurri, a college student and an aspiring actress with her mother’s luminous smile. But, alas, despite their enthusiastic hoots and hollers, Jack’s team, which has been on a losing streak, is crushed again.On the way out, Sarandon stops to commiserate with another mother of a player, and then, in a stairwell, turns to me and muses aloud about whether the team is having a psychological problem, whether they’ve lost the will to win. "If I can’t imagine myself in a part first," she says, extrapolating from her own experience, "then there’s no way in hell I’ll get it, because no one else will imagine me in it." That said, she rushes off to hug her son, a sweaty six-foot-four clone of his father. Later, a few dozen photographers are yelling "Susan" as Sarandon steps out of a town car at Tavern on the Green; she vamps and poses for the flashbulbs. She has morphed from casual mom to glamorous movie star, in heels and a plunging black Akris dress. Tonight’s event is the National Board of Review of Motion Picture Awards, where Sarandon will present a special prize to Innocent Voices, a movie about child soldiers in El Salvador. Although Sarandon’s slender fingers are usually adorned with clusters of elegant diamond and gold rings, gifts from Robbins, tonight she’s sporting only a simple gold band on her left thumb. "I bought it as a self-love thing," she says, and she wears it on a slightly uncomfortable finger "because you remember it more." What captivated her was the inspiring inscription in French, which means "One must live, not just exist."Living Life to the FullestSarandon, who will turn 60 this fall, has certainly lived passionately so far. Only 22 years old when she landed her first movie role (as a hippie teen), she has gone on to create iconic screen impressions in every decade, from the ingenue in The Rocky Horror Picture Show to the winsome waitress in Atlantic City to the fabulously sexy baseball groupie in Bull Durham. Then came the free spirit in Thelma and Louise and her Oscar-winning turn as a nun in Dead Man Walking, and she’s still at the top of the call list when directors are casting interesting parts. Among her films due out this year are Romance and Cigarettes, a musical in which she plays James Gandolfini’s cheated-on wife; Doris and Bernard, in which she channels the rich and tortured heiress Doris Duke, delving into Duke’s bizarre relationship with her gay butler, played by Ralph Fiennes. ("It was fun to be so mean," Sarandon says of playing Duke.)It’s truly remarkable that Sarandon’s film work has managed to stay so hip and significant across the decades. "She has a quality that people can relate to," says John Turturro, who directed Romance and Cigarettes, adding, "and she’s still a babe!" Bob Balaban, director of Doris and Bernard, agrees: "She seems more beautiful than when she was 25 or 38. There’s inner beauty and outer beauty, but there’s also a comfort she has with herself which translates well on film." He adds that she has a well-deserved reputation for being fun to work with, which never hurts: "She is willing to go anywhere and do anything and she never gets tired." And Balaban noticed that she did her nurturing mom thing even on the set of Doris. "She was like Ralph’s babysitter," he says, laughing. "She’d take him by the arm and take care of everything.

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