“I don’t like Cannes,” Susan Sarandon proclaimed in a 2005 interview. “For me, being at Cannes is like being in an amusement park and you’re the ride.” This year however, the 70-year-old actress settled for nothing less than the main attraction, stealing the show at the festival’s Opening Gala last month in a sumptuous, off-the-shoulder velvet Alberta Ferretti gown that revealed an extremely enviable cleavage. But Sarandon has always been a head-turner. Since rising to fame in 1975’s cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the beguiling actress with her auburn curls and big, bug eyes, has championed unconventionality – both in terms of beauty and her choice of roles.
She is also an ardent political activist and humanitarian, unafraid to air her views and speak up for those in need. Most recently, she has added entrepreneur to her long list of accomplishments as the co-owner of burgeoning ping-pong club empire SPiN. Here, in celebration of her style, sass and fearless subversion, we crown Sarandon this week’s AnOther Woman.
Sarandon starred in some of the most iconic films of the 70s and 80s, sporting an endless array of excellent costumes. Her unrivalled ability to switch from wide-eyed innocent to unbridled seductress was brilliantly tethered first in Rocky Horror, where Janet transforms from baby-doll-dressed square to sexy, sequin-corseted cabaret performer, and later in The Witches of Eastwick, when her dowdy music teacher Jane undergoes a perm-tastic evolution, shedding her sleeveless cardigans and high collared shirts for a miniscule polka-dot tennis dress and low-cut, metallic evening gown. In her early roles, Sarandon also offers a masterclass in the white T-shirt, most notably in 1983’s vampire thriller The Hunger, teamed with blue jeans and a curly crop in the build up to her infamous sex scene with Catherine Deneuve, and then in Ridley Scott’s inimitable feminist road movie Thelma and Louise, offset against high-waisted mom jeans and a handgun.
Off-screen her look was no less striking. Purchasing many of her ensembles from thrift stores, Sarandon pioneered a tousled brand of casual throughout her 20s and 30s – think the candid black-and-white portrait of her in a vintage Disney T-shirt, or (best of all) her perfect pairing of a tailored black jacket, over bare chest, with white cotton trousers, golf socks and New Balance trainers on the set of Joe. Over the years, Sarandon’s style has evolved into something altogether more glamorous, a fact she attributes to her daughter, who taught her “how to be a star”. These days she opts for chic trouser suits or elegant evening dresses when making public appearances (still accompanied by a signature pair of sunglasses à la her 1996 Oscar ensemble for her Dead Man Walking win).
Sarandon was born to a working-class New Jersey family in 1947 and is the eldest of nine children. From a young age, she has carved her own path, interrogating authority at every turn. Her Catholic grammar school declared that she was possessed of “an overabundance of original sin” when she dared to question why it was necessary to marry in a Catholic church when Joseph and Mary had not done so. She revoked Catholicism by the time she was in her teens. It was at college that she began partaking in drama classes, but “fell into” acting professionally by chance when she accompanied her first husband Chris Sarandon to an audition for Joe, winning the role of Dennis Patrick’s junkie daughter in the 1970s action drama.
Suffice to say she hasn’t looked back, continuing to secure her fair share of compelling roles since her 80s heyday: Stepmom, Igby Goes Down, The Meddler, and most recently her turn as Bette Davis in FX TV show Feud, where many others have been discarded courtesy of Hollywood’s blatant age discrimination when it comes to female stars. She attributes her ongoing acting success to her “very strong imagination and empathy”, the qualities she says also motivate her in her role as activist, which she first embraced in the 1970s after attending an anti-Vietnam war demonstration. She has since attached herself to numerous social and political causes, from AIDS charities to anti-war activist groups – she was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1999 and received the Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award in 2006. While in the run-up to the latest US election, she positioned herself as an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders. (Check out her prolific Twitter presence, as well as that of her beloved, politically minded pup, Penny Lane, for the full lowdown.)
She’s AnOther Woman Because…
Just as when she was a child, Sarandon’s refusal to back away from the issues she feels passionate about has often landed her into hot water: “I’m tired of being labelled anti-American because I ask questions,” she said in a recent interview; but she persists nonetheless. She is unashamedly true to herself in all that she does, continuing to embrace her sexuality in the face of age-bias convention. Just last year she positively sizzled in Marc Jacobs’ A/W16 campaign, commendable cleavage once again on show in a delicately embellished silk dress; while she recently divulged a desire to direct “female-friendly porn” when she reaches her 80s, with a more sensual, less gynaecological focus. When she was younger, the actress once said, “I look forward to being older, when what you look like becomes less and less an issue and what you are is the point.” And while her artistic and humanitarian integrity has certainly commanded much-deserved recognition in recent years, Sarandon has managed to achieve this while looking utterly fabulous: an AnOther Woman through and through.