She's calm, cool and classy and not too big for a behind-the-scenes gig. Between making movies and her upcoming guest arc on the new season of Rescue Me (premiering May 30), Susan Sarandon still found time to narrate a revealing documentary on one of the industry's legends, Stardust: The Bette Davis Story (tonight at 8 pm/ET on TCM), and she was gracious enough to chat with TV Guide about the film, fame and Oscar.
TV Guide: You know I have to say it: You've got Bette Davis eyes.
Well, she's been coming in and out of my life I guess because of that, you know. Actually, when she was alive I was contacted [through] a friend of hers and asked if I would be willing to play her. That particular project never happened, but I was flattered that she had thought of me.
TV Guide: So you're a big Bette Davis fan?
Who isn't? She's pretty special, and I think I wasn't aware of her early movies until later. Eventually you get over your aversion to black-and-white [movies], and then you start to discover the really interesting stuff.
TV Guide: If you could remake one of her films, which would it be?
Oh, I don't know how you can even think of killing a film like that. [Laughs] But I guess All About Eve, which was a very interesting period in her life. But when you look at Bette Davis' movies, you just can't think of anybody that could take on what she did, because she so owns that part and that's really what it's about. She's just iconic. You can't get past that.
TV Guide: Davis was very strong-minded. Do you think it's better to be well respected or well liked?
You have to be true to yourself, and I think there's a way to be both, but certainly the people whose work reflects that they're thinking and questioning and growing are the more interesting actors. I don't think being liked is that important, but, of course, somewhere in every actor there's the need for people to like you. That's why you're out there in the first place!
TV Guide: Classic movie stars such as Davis were protected by the studios. How do you think they would fare in today's paparazzi culture?
I guess people found out about all her different liaisons anyway. I think it's pretty tough to be scrutinized so heavily, and I don't think it's right for people to be using long-distance lenses to photograph people topless, and I'm tired of the speculation about people's breakups. But we have to blame ourselves for buying that stuff. From my point of view, we're so lucky to be doing what we're doing, there's a way to be above it. It is difficult, and it is too bad that if you have an eating disorder, it ends up on the front of the tabloids, but then... shape up.
TV Guide: Both you and your man Tim Robbins won Oscars playing opposite Sean Penn [in Dead Man Walking and Mystic River, respectively].
[Laughs] Maybe he's our lucky charm. I hadn't thought of it that way.... But I think Sean is one of those actors who brings out the best in you.
TV Guide: Do you see the irony in such a sexy actress finally winning an Oscar for playing a nun?
I think that people were just so sick of nominating me, they just said, "Let's get it over with. Give it to her." Plus, I had all those nuns praying for me, so I had God on my side for that one.