Dayton Daily News from Dayton, Ohio on May 7, 1978 · 308
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Dayton Daily News from Dayton, Ohio · 308

Dayton, Ohio
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 7, 1978
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r . Susan Sarandon's star is soaring Plum roles are landing in her lap, she's hot Hollywood copy, she's in love with a new man and yet she tiptoes through dead tulips By Hex Reed 9 D cad tulips litter the floor of Susan Sarandon's empty white room on Beekman Place. "I haven't had time to clean them up, and now I kind of like the look." She's sipping hot water with honey to soothe a case of laryngitis that makes her sound like the demon in The Exorcist. And, voice rasping on, she talks about the sensation she's caused in Pretty Baby, the new Louis Malle film about life in the turn-of-the-century Story ville (New Orleans) red-light district. SHE'S ON THE PHONE now columnist Earl Wilson has called. She lies on the white floor, phone agog, and says, "Look, I don't know why you are so concerned about me taking off my clothes in front, of an 11-year-old child. Brooke Shields was posing nude long before I was." She covers the phone and makes a face, then resumes talking again: "I play a prostitute in the film, and Brooke Shields is my daughter who becomes a child prostitute. What's wrong with that? Have you seen the picture?" She covers the phone again and whispers: "He hasn't even seen the picture." Then: "Look, Mr. Wilson, just say she goes to bed with her first customer the way most other kids goto their first prom. PROM. P-R-O-M." She hangs up, weary. The controversy nags her like the sore throat. "I don't know why everybody is making such a big deal out of this movie. I guess it's because of all the furor these days over kiddie porn.. It's a very disturbing theme for people, and because there's nothing prurient in it, they get even angrier. "IF LOUIS HAD shown Brooke having sex with that old man on camera, people would really be able to say, 'Look what they did to that kid!' But I think the film treats sex very coyly. I get out of bed naked, there's some nudity, but nobody tried to shield Brooke from anything. She turned 12 during the filming and she understood everything about the film, so there was nothing to shield her from. "She's incredibly bright. She's not at all naive, she's been on her own longer than I have. If you're making a movie about Storyville, you can't have people lying in bed with the sheets double-taped across their breasts the way they do in Doris Day movies." Susan is now playing a gypsy in The King of the Gypsies. Brooke Shields is once again playing her daughter. Offscreen, Susan has left her husband Chris Sarandon (who played Al Pacino's transsexual boyfriend in Dog Day Afternoon) and moved in with French director Louis Malle. If it all sounds confusing to you, consider the shock to Susan's family. THE OLDEST OF nine children, she was raised a strict middle-class suburban Catholic from Edison, N.J. She was sent to convent schools before she graduated from Catholic University in Washington, where she met Sarandon and got into the Bohemian world of acting. "My parents have never discussed any of my movies with me, good or bad," she says. She says she was never a "flamboyant, antisocial rebel." Instead, "I was just a hard-core misfit. I never went steady in high school, never fell in love, never had any close friends. I never planned a career. I went to Catholic University because I could live at home with my grandparents, who lived near the campus. I majored in military strategy. While I was there, I started modeling. The first modeling job I got was a selling folder for the Watergate building. Boy, that's a collector's item now." SHE MARRIED actor Chris Sarandon in her junior year, followed him to New York after graduation, and accompanied him on an audition because he needed someone to read with him. Susan got signed. Without ever taking a single acting lesson in her life, she landed one week later in the film Joe, playing the teenage daughter who got murdered by her own father. The Sarandons moved into an empty apartment with one sofa next door to critic Clive Barnes. Soap operas, commercials and two movies later, she wound up in Hollywood. She was the girl who fell off the wing of Robert Redford's plane in The Great Waldo Pepper, the fiancee of Jack Lem-mon in The Front Page, and the Southern belle who drove F. Scott Fitzgerald wild in the highly acclaimed TV special "The Last of the Belles." The pressures of sudden stardom and growing up in public took their toll on her health and her marriage. SUSAN AND CHRIS separated about two years ago after eight years of - . , . -s St r JT0 Susan Sarandon marriage, but they're still best friends. With her floppy mane and her bulging, inquisitive eyes, she can play just about anything, although she's never sure what she's just done until she sees the final product. "I always look different in everything, which confuses people. I took Pretty Baby because I had never played a prostitute or a mother before. "I'd much rather do character roles. Leading roles for women are boring, but the supporting cast is always much more interesting. Sometimes you get caught up in the star thine and thev talk vou into things for your career. That's what happened with The Other Side of Midnight Everyone said 'C'mon, Susan, you've got to make a commercial movie.' Which was OK, except that it was a soap opera melodrama and they treated it like it was Chekhov. I chewed a lot of gum while doing that one." THEN CAME Louis Malle and Pretty Baby. A fluke, she says. "He had never heard of me, but my name was on a list of actresses, and Polly Piatt, who was married to Peter Bogdanovich, liked me, and she wrote the script. So I had a 10-minute meeting with Louis and he said 'There's nothing to be done until we find the little girl because there should be some resemblance between the mother and daughter.' "So a month went by and I got a call asking if I could fly down to New Orleans to meet him. I couldn't go, so more time elapsed and then nobody liked the script for Pretty Baby, and my friends all thought it was too small a part. Which it was. "But I had just come from a big factory picture, a big industry film, and I thought working with a small group in a community effort would be a total change from The Other Side of Midnight. "I had seen Louis' movie, Murmur of the Heart, about child incest and I thought it would be a challenge. Then a weird thing happened. Neither of us talked and they started negotiating a contract anyway. So finally he called me and I said, 'Do you understand what's going on?' "Neither of us were participating, yet people were arranging our lives for us and I asked him if he believed in fate. We had this very strange conversation. And I said, I don't have any idea what I'm doing in terms of this movie. And he said, well neither docs the character you're playing, so don't worry about it. "THEN I FOUND OUT he thought he was talking to Susan Blakely, not Susan Sarandon! He thought he was hiring Susan Blakely, another actress, who had also met him for 10 minutes! I was totally confused. Then they made it worse by calling and Polly Piatt saying, 'There's this line about your nice breasts . . . Well, how are your breasts? Do you have any breasts at all?" "Well by the time I got off the plane, you know, I was totally convinced they were going to take one look at me and throw up. I looked at Brooke Shields and thought 'I don't look like Brooke at all, what am I doing in this film?" Susan shuttles back and forth now from whatever rented home she's in to Louis Malle's apartment in Paris. She says she's crazy. Getting used to living in an adult world is as difficult for Susan Sarandon as giving articulate interviews. Reading through a two-hour transcript of an evening in her company has left me as confused as she is. Only one thing is certain: it's always nice to see a new star on the rise, and Susan Sarandon's star is rising so fast the noise is deafening. Trouble is, I can't stop worrying about those dead tulips. Rex Reed is a nationally syndicated entertainment columnist.

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