- Actress and leftwing activist
- Supporter of the Communists in Central America during the Cold War
- Member and financial supporter of Not In Our Name
- “Let us find a way to resist fundamentalism that leads to violence; fundamentalism of all kinds -- in al Qaeda, and within our government.”
Stage and screen actress Susan Sarandon is well known not only for her successful movie career, but also for her activist campaigns against capital punishment and U.S. military actions.
Sarandon was born Susan Abigail Tomalin in New York City in 1946. She graduated from Edison High School in New Jersey in 1964, and thereafter attended the Catholic University of America from 1964 to 1968, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in drama.
Susan met and married fellow actor Chris Sarandon in 1967. When she divorced him twelve years later, she retained her married surname.
In the mid-1980s, Susan Sarandon and film director Franco Amurri had a relationship that produced a daughter who also has become an actress.
While on the set of the 1988 film Bull Durham, Sarandon met actor Tim Robbins. Although the two never wed, they have remained a couple and had two children together -- the first of which, Jack Henry, they named after Jack Henry Abbott, the convicted murderer and self-proclaimed Communist whose release from prison was infamously aided by Norman Mailer.
Beginning with the 1970 film Joe, Sarandon has played roles in nearly 100 movie and television productions, including: The Rocky Horror Picture Show; The Witches of Eastwick; Thelma and Louise; The Client; Stepmom; and Moonlight Mile. Sarandon won an Oscar for her work in Dead Man Walking, a 1995 Tim Robbins-directed film in which she played a nun who sympathized with a convicted killer on death row.
During the Cold War, Sarandon supported Nicaragua's Soviet-supported, Marxist Sandinistas, whom the United States was trying to help defeat by funding the "Contras," or counter-revolutionaries.
At a rally prior to the start of the Iraq War -- a rally whose attendees chanted that George W. Bush was guilty of "genocide" -- Sarandon stated: “I am here because I am tired of being frightened to speak out … Mr. Bush, you have hijacked our pain, our loss, our fear ... I say to you, Mr. Bush, this [crowd of protesters] is what democracy looks like.”
Sarandon was a member and financial supporter of Not In Our Name (NION), the Revolutionary Communist Party-led project whose "Statement of Conscience" condemned not only the Bush administration's "stark new measures of repression," but also its "unjust, immoral, illegitimate, [and] openly imperial policy towards the world." According to NION, it was the American government -- and not that of any other nation -- which posed the most "grave dangers to the people of the world."
Sarandon was also an endorser of World Can't Wait (WCW), the Revolutionary Communist Party-led group that sought to organize "people living in the United States to take responsibility to stop the whole disastrous course led by the Bush administration." Other celebrity endorsers of WCW included Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda, Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Gloria Steinem, Gore Vidal, and Howard Zinn.
Likening Islamic terrorism to American capitalism, Sarandon has said: “Let us find a way to resist fundamentalism that leads to violence; fundamentalism of all kinds -- in al Qaeda, and within our government. And what is our fundamentalism? Cloaked in patriotism, and our doctrine of spreading democracy throughout the world, our fundamentalism is business -- the unfettered spread of our economic interests throughout the globe.”
During the 2000 election season, Sarandon served as co-chair of the National Steering Committee organizing Ralph Nader’s presidential bid.
By contrast, in the 2004 election campaign she suspended her support for Nader and was one of the so-called “Nader 2000 Leaders” who signed a petition urging voters to support John Kerry instead. "For people seeking progressive social change in the United States," the petition read, "removing George W. Bush from office should be the top priority in the 2004 presidential election. Progressive votes for John Kerry in swing states may prove decisive in attaining this vital goal."
Also in 2004, Sarandon took part in "Vaginas Vote," an event aimed at persuading young women to support John Kerry in that year’s presidential election. The press release stated that a vote against Bush would help "to end violence against women and girls."
In 2006 Sarandon joined Ed Asner, Danny Glover, Cynthia McKinney, Willie Nelson, Sean Penn, and Lynn Woolsey in staging a “Troops Home Fast” hunger strike to protest the Iraq War. The fast was performed in a relay fashion (i.e., each participant fasted for a day, then “passed” the effort to another faster). The event was organized by Gold Star Families for Peace founder Cindy Sheehan and was endorsed by Code Pink for Peace.
In January 2007 Sarandon participated in an antiwar demonstration in Washington, DC to protest the planned "surge" of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.
Along with Tim Robbins, Sarandon sits on the Advisory Board of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
Over the years, Sarandon has made campaign contributions to a number of political candidates, all Democrats. Recipients of her donations include Bill Bradley, Howard Dean, John Edwards, Harvey Gantt, Ted Kennedy, Barbara Lee, Ralph Nader, Charles Rangel, and Bernie Sanders. Sarandon also has given money to such organizations as America Coming Together, EMILY's List, MoveOn Political Action, and Progressive Majority.
Prior to the 2008 presidential campaign, Sarandon publicly criticized the candidacy of Senator Hillary Clinton, telling More magazine: “I find Hillary to be a great disappointment. She's lost her progressive following because of her caution and centrist approach.” Dismayed by the prospects of a Clinton Democratic nomination, Sarandon instead backed the candidacies of John Edwards and Barack Obama.
During a Hamptons International Film Festival interview in October 2011, Sarandon discussed her 1995 film Dead Man Walking, which was based on the anti-death-penalty book by Sister Helen Prejean, a copy of which Sarandon had sent to the late Pope John Paul II. In an effort to clarify that the recipient of the book was in fact John Paul -- and not his successor, Benedict XVI -- Sarandon said: “The last one, not this Nazi one we have now.” When the interviewer gently reprimanded Sarandon, the actress repeated her remark. (Sarandon was referring to the fact that Benedict had been a member of the Hitler Youth as a child, but only because he was forced to join.)
On September 6, 2015, Sarandon participated in an event memorializing her close friend, the late counterculture icon Timothy Leary (1920-96), known for advocating the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD, and for promoting the maxim “turn on, tune in, drop out” in the 1960s. The memorial event took place at Burning Man, an annual week-long festival held in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, where participants promote such values as “radical inclusion,” “radical self-expression,” “radical self-reliance,” and “communal effort.” In the tribute to Leary, Sarandon—who was one of a handful of people who had been given some of the ashes from Leary's cremated body shortly after his death—led a procession in which she carried those ashes into a temporary church that had recently been erected as an art installation. The festivities concluded with the ceremonial burning of the church, with Leary's therein. “I think he'd be so happy,” Sarandon said of Leary. “I think he would have loved the chaos [of Burning Man]. He would have loved it. And all these people honoring him with LSD.”