- Actress and leftwing activist
- Supporter of the Communists in Central America during the Cold War
- Supporter of two Revolutionary Communist Party front groups
After earning a bachelor’s degree in drama at the Catholic University of America in 1968, Sarandon pursued a career as an actress. She landed her first significant role in 1975, when she appeared in the cult classic film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For a list of all the movies in which Sarandon has acted, click here.
While on the set of the 1988 film Bull Durham, Sarandon met actor Tim Robbins and started a romantic relationship with him. Although the two never wed, they remained a couple for 21 years and had two children together — the first of whom they named Jack Henry, after Jack Henry Abbott, the convicted murderer and self-proclaimed communist whose infamous release from prison in 1981 was aided by Norman Mailer.
In addition to her film-reated activities, Sarandon is well known for her outspokenness on social and political issues. In 1984 she and a dozen other women from the New York-based organization “MADRE,” of which Sarandon was a founding member, delivered milk and baby food to needy mothers in Nicaragua. This ostensibly humanitarian mission was also intended as a gesture of defiance against the Reagan Administration, which at that time was supporting the Contra rebels in their fight against Nicaragua’s Communist Sandinista government.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, Sarandon was part of a campaign that lobbied for the release of the incarcerated Mumia Abu-Jamal – a Marxist icon, convicted cop-killer, and former Black Panther – on grounds that he had supposedly received an unfair trial. “Prison and government officials are trying to censor and silence Mumia Abu-Jamal,” Sarandon said. “I stand as one of many Americans who believe that there is tremendous value in his voice being heard.”
In 2002 Sarandon became a member and financial supporter of Not In Our Name (NION), the Revolutionary Communist Party-led project that condemned the Bush administration’s “unjust, immoral, illegitimate, [and] openly imperial policy towards the world.”
In October 2002, Sarandon drew a parallel between the respective fanaticisms of committed jihadists and committed capitalists. “Let us find a way,” she said, “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.”
Taking an early stance against the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Sarandon spoke at numerous anti-war demonstrations. Charging that “the fear, anger and hurt that this nation experienced after 9/11 has been hijacked to fulfill the [Bush] administration’s agenda,” Sarandon proclaimed: “Let us hate war in all its forms, whether the weapon used is a missile or an airplane.”
In 2003 Sarandon was among the first celebrities to appear in a series of anti-war political ads sponsored by TrueMajority, an organization established by Ben Cohen, founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Sarandon suspended her support for Ralph Nader and signed a petition urging voters to back Democratic Party candidate John Kerry instead, on the theory that Kerry, as the petition put it, had a much better chance of “removing George W. Bush from office” and thereby advancing the cause of “progressive social change in the United States.” Also in 2004, Sarandon took part in “Vaginas Vote, Chicks Rock,” an event aimed at persuading young women to support John Kerry in the presidential election.
In 2006 Sarandon joined such notables as 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 event was organized by Gold Star Families for Peace founder Cindy Sheehan and was endorsed by Code Pink for Peace.
Prior to the 2008 presidential campaign, Sarandon publicly criticized Hillary Clinton as “a great disappointment” who had “lost her progressive following because of her caution and centrist approach.” Sarandon instead backed the candidacy of John Edwards. “Edwards has very consistently worked for the poor, for labor, for the middle class,” Sarandon said in November 2007. “And Jesus was all about people outside the system. The political machines of both parties are completely beholden to corporate interests. And Jesus was anti-corporate, as we clearly saw in the Temple.” After Edwards dropped out of the race in January 2008, Sarandon supported Barack Obama.
In 2010-11, Sarandon was a member of Actors and Artists United for the Freedom of the Cuban Five (AAUFCF)—a reference to five constituents of a brutal, KGB-trained Castro spy ring who were serving long prison terms in the U.S. for their convictions on a number of serious crimes. In April 2011, Sarandon and other AAUFCF members sent a letter to former president Jimmy Carter, praising him for speaking out in support of freedom for the Cuban 5. Other signers included Ed Asner, Danny Glover, Mike Farrell, Bonnie Raitt, Pete Seeger, Martin Sheen, and Oliver Stone.
In the fall of 2011 Sarandon supported the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movemment. “It never changes from the top, it only changes from the bottom, and this is great,” she told an OWS contingent in New York City that September. The following month, Sarandon lauded OWS for striving “to shift the paradigm to something that’s addressing the huge gap between the rich and the poor.”
In 2015, Sarandon and Van Jones were among the high-profile individuals who helped New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio draft a new “Progressive Agenda to Combat income Inequality” in America, a 14-point plan that called for massive levels of wealth redistribution.
Sarandon embraces the notion that the greenhouse gases associated with human industrial activity are a major cause of potentially catastrophic climate change. In July 2015 she tweeted that “97% of scientists agree, climate change is real and humans are a significant contributor.”
Sarandon believes that the U.S. should take in large numbers of refugees from Syria, despite the fact that it is virtually impossible to properly vet migrants from that war-torn, terrorism-infested nation. In December 2015 Sarandon sought to draw public attention to the issue by spending a week on the Greek island of Lesbos, where she worked with a number of grassroots organizations that were assisting Syrian refugees. “My main goal was to humanize the issue and have them be real people, not politicize it,” Sarandon said when she returned to the U.S. Lamenting that the “people who had the loudest voices” in opposing the importation of Syrians “were the most xenophobic and un-American,” Sarandon recalled her meeting in Lesbos with a sixteen-year-old girl and her five-day-old baby. “I smile and approach her, but without a translator our conversation is basic and friendly,” Sarandon said. “She takes the bundle next to her and opens it up to me. Inside is a perfect, rosy newborn. Wasn’t Mary just a kid too when she and Joseph took to the road? So far, there is no manger for this Syrian baby — no room at the inn.”
In 2016, Sarandon was an outspoken supporter of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. She mocked Sanders’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, for being “a very good Republican candidate,” meaning that Clinton was insufficiently progressive for Sarandon’s taste. Moreover, Sarandon accused Republican nominee Donald Trump of having “legitimized racism and homophobia and everything else, in order to get that very discontented base.” After Sanders lost to Clinton in the Democratic primary, Sarandon endorsed Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein. “Fear of Donald Trump is not enough for me to support Clinton, with her record of corruption,” said Sarandon. Further, Sarandon cited nearly a dozen specific reasons why she could not support Clinton, including Clinton’s failure to support the $15 minimum wage, her seemingly neutral stance on marijuana legalization, and her “unconditional” support of Israel’s military engagements.
In August 2017, Sarandon joined approximately 1,000 supporters of National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick in a “United We Stand” demonstration outside the NFL’s headquarters in New York City. The protesters claimed that Kaepernick, who was no longer under contract with any NFL team, was being blackballed by the league because of his political outspokenness. In recent times, he had sparked controversy by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem prior to his team’s games, in protest of what he described as widespread police brutality and racial injustice in America.
An outspoken opponent of capital punishment, Sarandon in 1995 won an Oscar for her work in Dead Man Walking, where she played the role of a nun who sympathized with a convicted killer on death row. Sarandon claims that the death penalty is bad public policy because it is “arbitrary and capricious,” “not a deterrent” “not fair,” and “extremely expensive.” “If that money were put to other use,” she says, “you could have better education and better infrastructure in this country.” Moreover, Sarandon asserts that: “If you’re poor the chance of you getting any kind of decent representation is pretty small. The prison system has become an industry and is pretty racist.”
For additional information on Susan Sarandon, click here.