One of the most delightful—and often overlooked—movies of 2012 is Jeff, Who Lives at Home. A comedy with a tender core, Jeff stars Jason Segel as the adult child who just can’t get it together to depart his mother’s basement and build a life of his own. His brother Pat, played by Ed Helms, is equally regressive in behavior—blowing the money he and his wife (Judy Greer) have saved to buy a house on a Jaguar, for starters. But for More readers, the most enchanting character is the boys’ loving but frustrated mom, Sharon, played by Oscar winner Susan Sarandon. Bored at work, lonely since the death of her husband, and celebrating a birthday with just one wish—Please somebody fix the broken slat on the louver door—Sharon finds unexpected love as the film races to a surprising conclusion that rebuilds the family’s shattered bonds.
Sarandon took a few moments to talk to More about the film, written and directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus), which debuts June 19 on DVD ($16.99) and Blu-ray ($29.99).
MORE: First, I have to say how much I loved this movie. It was so charming and moving.
Susan Sarandon: A lot of people did! I was surprised that it resonated as much, but so many people on the movie junket came in and said, “That really moved me.” So I’m happy there’s going to be another chance to see it.
More: A lot of actresses your age are going the thriller route, or villain route. How do you choose your roles?
SS: I choose from what I’m offered. I am going to do a villain coming up—Hook is much more fun than Peter Pan, after all. I have played more psychological villains, but not so many action things. A few were offered but they didn’t have the right script or director.
But you never know what will work out. The powers that be can come in and take out what’s important, or the movie can be shot in a funny way. There are so many more ways for a film to go wrong than right. So you try to assemble the best team. I’ve taken chances on first time directors; some have done well, some others not. So you never know where a film goes wrong. As an actor you get as much as you can from the process and surrender to the universe because you have no control.
More: What attracted you to Jeff, Who Lives at Home?
SS: When I read the script, I was moved by it. Family means so much to me and siblings—it’s so difficult for siblings to find ways to cherish the differences between them as opposed to get into conflict. It’s ironic that this movie is directed by two very different brothers. I love the whole spirit with which they make their films and how they have fun with them.
More: And what about your character, single mom Sharon, who finds her life altering so drastically?
SS: I know so many people who are stuck in their lives and wondering what happened? I added a line to the script about the boys: “They used to be so cute….what happened?” People wonder what happened. I was moved by the fact that Sharon was the mom and the dad….these days, with the economy suffering, more and more divorced single moms are living with families. Instead of calling these kids slackers and dumping on them, set down rules and don’t get ripped off! It’s a great opportunity to see your children as adults and for them to see you as an adult.
More: In the end, Sharon forms a relationship with a sympathetic coworker, Carol.
SS: There’s also the phenomenon of widowed women living with other women…they’re not necessarily gay…we struggled how to say that. It’s not because you don’t like men but because you have a little bit of imagination. The question is: Don’t you want to be with someone who values you?
More: I wasn’t sure if the two women were lesbians. That wasn’t clear to me.
SS: It was left ambiguous. But the idea of somebody seeing you and getting you—whether it’s sexual or not—that was what we were working toward.
More: Was this the first time you kissed a woman on screen? I thought maybe there was a scene in The Witches of Eastwick.
SS: No, that sex was all with Jack [Nicholson]. For a full on sex scene with a woman, check out The Hunger. Catherine Deneuve and I have a full on love scene there.
More: I first saw you onscreen in Joearound 1970. You were the kid on the set then. How is it different now, working with young actors and directors?
SS: I love that every movie has different people involved. Many younger directors have an advantage; the older ones tend to lose passion because the business is so brutal. The various obstacles of filmmaking wear people down. It’s heartbreak after heartbreak. But if you’re dealing with new directors, they’re having fun.
More: Do you also enjoy working with younger actors?
SS: I look at every actor as an opportunity to learn and to be more flexible and present. That’s the joy of it—to keep curious and fresh and to adjust. What you dread is to become a caricature of yourself by doing the same thing over and over. Luckily, I see myself as a character actress, so I welcome the chance to be someone else.
More: What else are you up to?
SS: I’m going to be doing a little piece of a movie that will be skyped; it’s conversations between mothers and daughters. I’m looking forward to bringing my sensibility to that, my sense of humor. I don’t like to do the same thing over and over.