Ageless beauty Susan Sarandon talks about ‘Robot & Frank,’ ‘Cloud Atlas,’ and growing older with passion – and pets.
Photo by Samuel Goldwyn Films
At 65, Susan Sarandon shows no sign of retirement as she moves seamlessly between mainstream Hollywood fare like "The Big Wedding" opposite Robert DeNiro, opening this October, and the ambitious collaboration between the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, "Cloud Atlas," with Tom Hanks slated for next month's Toronto Film Festival. Today, her latest independent film, "Robot & Frank" with Frank Langella, opens theatrically following its Sundance Film Festival premiere. We chatted about the quirky, crowd-pleasing sci-fi comedy centering on a retired thief (Langella) who gets a new burst of life when his adult children get him a care-bot:
Thelma Adams: In "Robot & Frank," you play a librarian, wife, and mother — it's a long way from your breakout roles in "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Atlantic City." What attracted you to the part?
Susan Sarandon: I loved the story. I thought it was really sweet. It was a first-time director named Jake Schreier. I looked at his reel, and he had an infectious passion. So I said, 'Why don't you come back for dinner and bring the writer?' I was in if they can keep the shooting days down. I was already scheduled to do "The Big Wedding."
TA: And how much of the attraction was working opposite Frank Langella?
SS: Langella is an institution of an actor. I'm a big fan. That was one of the pluses. I'd worked with James Marsden in "Enchanted" and knew Liv Tyler very well. I thought it would be painless, and it's a sweet film. There's a turning point when I've seen an audience's reaction to the trailers when they realize it's not just an innocuous story about a guy and his robot. The twist is that Frank is interested in having the robot break-and-enter. It's a bit of a surprise, and there are not many surprising scenarios in films these days.
TA: It also delivers an interesting view of aging: That this lonely senior gets a new lease on life when he can engage in a craft he loves — even if it's illegal.
SS: Definitely. Frank loses his spirit once he's not doing the thing he loves. It makes an argument for staying active, especially in this country where families tend to be fragmented and it can be isolating. When you have nothing to care about, you do age in the most negative way. That's why they say pets extend your life.
TA: I'm guessing you're a pet lover.
Photo by Vera Anderson
Photo by Vera Anderson
TA: Let's switch gears and talk about your highly anticipated, genre-busting fall movie, "Cloud Atlas." It has three directors: Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski. There's a curiosity factor here, since the latter two used to be known as the Wachowski brothers when they created the "Matrix" series. Now, older brother Laurence has become Lana and has become the first Hollywood director to come out as transgender.