CANNES, France — It’s been 25 years since “Thelma & Louise” rocked the world with its powerful portrayal of a bond between two women, played by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. Their performances earned each of the ladies an Academy Award nomination in the best Actress in a Leading Role category.
On Sunday, the power duo will unite once again when they are honored with the Women in Motion Award, given away by French luxury group Kering, which is one of the official sponsors of the Cannes Film Festival and parent to such brands as Saint Laurent and Stella McCartney.
Sarandon can’t believe it’s been a quarter century, but notes firmly that the movie’s impact on the film industry has run into some headwinds. “When it came out, everyone thought that it would usher in a new age of women-led films, but it didn’t,” she said. “I don’t think the studios have changed. I don’t think Hollywood has changed. I think the hope is all of those female comedians that are writing, producing and coming up with hit movies, because they [give] parts to other women. They are the most interesting change in Hollywood.”
Sarandon is sitting in a suite at the Hotel Martinez overlooking the Croisette. She is sporting a pinstriped Max Mara suit in navy blue with a pair of mesh sneakers and a T-shirt boasting an intriguing equation, which she identifies as the coefficient of restitution. “The formula explains why a ball bounces,” she smiles.
The film veteran has a franchise of ping-pong clubs called Spin, which is currently in expansion mode. “We have one in New York, we just opened in San Francisco, one in Chicago, Toronto and L.A.,” Sarandon reveals, though “it’s just for fun. There are 17 tables, a bar and a restaurant and really nice lighting,” she says, dubbing herself “a propaganda [sort of] player.”
Fresh off her first Cannes outing as a rep for L’Oréal at opening night on Wednesday, Sarandon, who has landed the beauty deal at the age of 69, shrugs off compliments about her youthful looks and relaxed, sporty sartorial choices. “You know, I fell down a mountain in Colombia when I was hiking with my son and fractured my ankle six weeks ago. I just got my boot off. Hence the sneakers.”
But her fountain-of-youth routine is as simple as it is efficient. “I live in New York so I don’t tend to sit in the car all the time. That helps. I believe in washing my face every time before I go to bed, and I believe in sunscreen. But if an actress asks me about skin, I say: ‘just stop smoking cigarettes, for one thing,’ that’s really going to take a toll eventually.”
Sarandon, a passionate humanitarian, political and civil rights activist, says she signed with L’Oréal only after making sure they promoted a beauty standard she could stand behind. “I think the whole company is about diversity of ethnicity and age, and different kinds of women,” she says, pauses, then adds: “I wonder if they’d love doing a transgender…that would be good.”
Sarandon’s got some plans of her own. Her next project called “Feud” is to explore the rivalry between two Hollywood dames: Bette Davis, played by Sarandon, and Joan Crawford, portrayed by Jessica Lange. Sarandon will also produce the drama series, masterminded by Robert Murphy.
“It’s true that women in the Fifties saw other women as threats, and that they aligned themselves with power, which was men. In my generation, I’m so lucky. Women are very collaborative. We are having laughs, we keep each other up to speed in everything. In the tribe of the Amy Poehlers, Melissa McCarthys and Amy Schumers, I have the feeling that we are really protecting each other and helping each other, and that has changed,” she observes.
A little help from one’s friends is indeed necessary. Sarandon gladly admits that aging in Hollywood is no cakewalk for a female actor.
“It’s very tough, and that’s one of the reasons I don’t live in Hollywood,” she says. “It’s a town where it’s very hard to maintain your confidence because it’s so self-conscious, it’s such a company town. I can just imagine picking up a head of lettuce in a supermarket, running into a producer who then later says: ‘oh no, I saw her, she is really not looking great these days,’ because you are there without any makeup on or whatever. In New York it’s easier to live.”
Sarandon really lights up when she talks about her producing credits. “It’s like designing a house, choosing the furniture and the curtains. I couldn’t be a line producer, I don’t wanna sit down with the budget and try to figure that out, but in terms of putting the pieces together, it is fun.”
Could she be tempted to make her directorial debut next? She teases: “I might start off on a documentary on a subject that interests me. I just don’t want to deal with the aftermath, the packaging and the fight for distribution. But the actual working with actors is really fun.”