Susan Sarandon's upbringing was Catholic and conservative, and she attended a Roman Catholic elementary school run by nuns. Although introverted and "very spacey," in her own words, Sarandon often challenged the nuns? religiously indoctrinated conclusions in the classroom. In high school, her rebellious nature shone through when she was arrested for her involvement in Vietnam and Civil Rights protests.
Susan attended Catholic University in Washington, DC, living off-campus with her grandparents. She pursued a varied course of study, including drama, English, philosophy, and military strategy and earned her degree in drama.
Although she had no aspirations to be an actress, she participated in a freshman show and caught the eye of graduate drama student, Chris Sarandon. The two started dating and eventually moved in together. The conservative Catholic University community looked down on their living arrangement, so the two married in September 1967. Susan says "Chris seemed to know everything because he was a graduate student. He played a huge part in my decision to become an actress."
After graduating in 1968, Susan Sarandon took some modelling jobs while her husband found acting work in regional theatres around Washington D.C. Her life took a dramatic turn in 1970 when she accompanied him on a reading for an agent in New York City as "a warm body to play against.". Much to her surprise, the agent signed her as well and 5 days later she read for the film Joe and was cast by Director John Avildsen on the spot.
She won a recurring part on the TV soap A World Apart but Hollywood beckoned and she went West to work for Sidney Lumet in Lovin' Molly and Billy Wilder, who cast her opposite Jack Lemmon in The Front Page. The following year, she appeared as Robert Redford's sidekick in The Great Waldo Pepper.
In 1975, Susan made the off-beat decision to appear in a strange, low-budget musical spoof about two newlyweds who lose their virginity to a singing, dancing, leather-clad transsexual in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Urged to do the film by friend and co-star Tim Curry, Sarandon played newly wed Janet Weiss for practically no money and had to sing for the first time in her life. She enjoyed the role because Janet?s hidden sexual prowess seemed to subvert all of Sarandon?s previous ing鮵e roles. Although the film initially flopped in the box office, it eventually attracted a loyal cult following at midnight screenings around the country.
In 1978 Susan Sarandon's luck changed when she got the part of Hattie, the mother of a prostitute played by Brooke Shields in Louis Malle?s controversial Pretty Baby. She went on to play a clam-bar waitress in Malle?s next film Atlantic City and earned an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of the sexually vibrant Sally.
Sarandon began dating Louis Malle and divorced Chris Sarandon in 1979, although they remain good friends. During this time she made a moving stage appearance as a repressed housewife in A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking, in which she exhibited her comedic agility. After her break-up with Malle, she briefly dated the young Sean Penn, then became involved with Italian director Franco Amurri, with whom she had her first child, Eva Marie Livia Amurri.
In 1983, Susan played a bisexual vampire?s new lover in The Hunger with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie, but it was her next role beside big shots Cher, Jack Nicholson, and Michelle Pfeiffer in The Witches of Eastwick that brought her into the true Hollywood playing field. Sarandon was promised the role of Alex, a sculptor, but was slighted by the studio when they decided to give it to Cher, leaving Sarandon the role of Jane, the cellist. She had to learn the cello at the last minute, and was almost electrocuted during a levitating scene over a swimming pool. Sarandon concluded about the Hollywood scene, "A promise is not a promise, a person?s word is not a person?s word."
Her next role was as Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, for which she lobbied hard. This would become her new signature?the intelligent and sensually vivacious older woman. She became romantically involved with co-star Tim Robbins, twelve years her junior, during the filming. The couple has since had two children, Jack Henry and Miles, and currently live together by common-law marriage.
The roles continued to increase in quality and variety as she came into middle age. She played a waitress turned criminal convict in 1991?s groundbreaking hit, Thelma and Louise alongside Geena Davis, and won an Oscar nomination. She was again nominated the following year for her role as a distraught mother struggling to find a cure for her son?s degenerative brain disorder in Lorenzo?s Oil, with Nick Nolte.
In 1995, she finally wrapped her fingers around the statue, winning the Best Actress award for Dead Man Walking, a film based on the autobiographical story of Sister Helen Prejean. Her collaboration with partner Tim Robbins, who directed the film, former-lover Sean Penn, and her daughter Eva, who played a small role, proved rewarding and fruitful.
After taking a break from the big screen for three years, Sarandon returned in 1998 to star opposite Gene Hackman and Paul Newman in Twilight and later that year with Julia Roberts in Stepmom.