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READERS DIGEST: Mm-hmm. And what do you do to combat that?

SARANDON: Well, I think, of course, that it has so much to do with listening and parenting and watching and giving them the opportunity to be comfortable with who they are and encouraging them to be thoughtful and respectful, and probably limiting TV and really monitoring what they watch.

READERS DIGEST: Do you still do that? Because I know...

SARANDON: Its harder and harder, but yeah.

READERS DIGEST: How about all the video games?

SARANDON: Well, they're not allowed to play down-and-out shoot-em, track-em-down, but I have to say were in the minority.

READERS DIGEST: Really?

SARANDON: They go to other peoples houses and they play, like whats the one, Goldfinger? No. Whatever those...

READERS DIGEST: Doom was one of them. But they're all like that. Well, not all, but a lot of them.

SARANDON: Well, they play backyard hockey [video games], backyard soccer. They really like the skateboarding ones, and things like that. But the tracking people down and shooting them methodically, theyre [laughs] not allowed to play. [laughs] And they have to read for an equal amount of time.

READERS DIGEST: Can they read whatever they want?

SARANDON: In a weak moment, MAD magazine suffices.

READERS DIGEST: [laughs]

SARANDON: But theyre supposed to read books.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: They usually have some kind of free reading thing that they have to do anyway for school. And my son, who's playing the piano, also needs to get practice time.

READERS DIGEST: Uh-huh.

SARANDON: So if he has 10 minutes on the piano, its equal to 20 minutes on the computer or on Nintendo, whatever.

READERS DIGEST: It all requires so much diligence.

SARANDON: You need [an] enormous amount of time. And also recently Ive been trying to get everybody to pick up after themselves and to be responsible for setting the table. These were some of the things that we have in order to get your allowance. You just want to do it yourself sometimes because its exhausting. Also were talking about everybody trying to do their laundry once a week, trying to learn how to do their laundry as a preparation for college. [laughs]

READERS DIGEST: [laughs]

SARANDON: And talking, and doing that, and theyve done a little bit of that. But its very hard.

READERS DIGEST: So do you still see your most important role as being a parent?

SARANDON: Oh. Its absolutely impossible to ever feel like you're on top of it. And also, I think the hardest thing as a parent is you get into the mode of being the enforcer and the rule manager and the nutritionist and the censor and all of this. And you then find it very hard to flip into lets have fun mode. Especially as a woman, I think that very often a lot of those boring maintenance jobs, you end up being the one thats doing that. When I go to work, its such a relief...

READERS DIGEST: [laughs] Right.

SARANDON: ...to not be moving from one thing to the next, I mean, just being able to schedule an hour of some kind of exercise for myself. I do Pilates or I do weights. It was a huge step forward for me because I was finding that I never had time to exercise. I kept thinking why cant I? So I had to really take that time for myself, because otherwise its... This was, of course, when they were younger, and the older they get and the more theyre in school, your day expands. But running around, trying to get this thing ready. And from the end of the year on for me just turns into a train thats out of control. Between the fourth-grade pizza party and the end-of-the-year assembly, and Jack Henry has his play coming up and Eva's got this. And Little League starts, so Im driving to their games.

READERS DIGEST: The transporting.

SARANDON: And this isnt even so bad in the city [New York]. No, I dont think its as bad. In L.A., its impossible. I dont know how people do it. I couldnt be in a car. But yet I remember a friend of mine, Tony Perkins, telling me that he loved the fact that they were in the car because it was the only time that he could talk to them...

READERS DIGEST: Thats true.

SARANDON: ...when they were seated, in this environment of going from one place to the other, and thats when he found out everything. Thats when they had their best conversations.

READERS DIGEST: Thats true.

SARANDON: After Banger Sisters, Tim was directing his theater group in California for the summer and we were living actually in Goldie Hawns house. And I went crazy having to be in the car all the time and taking everybody with me and shopping. I mean, you just get so spoiled in New York. And the kids are so used to being independent.

READERS DIGEST: And they can [ride] the public transportation...

SARANDON: They [ride] public transportation. They walk, and they take the bus. So at 11 youre independent. Forget about when you have to drive in a car. And I remember them saying this to people, and suddenly here all of us were dependent on me to drive them around, and Eva was frustrated because she couldnt get places unless there was this intricate system of trying and then how would she get back. It was horrible.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: Just horrible. She was 16 and stuck in L.A. And so New York in that sense is such a gift when youre in the city. Its much, much easier.

READERS DIGEST: Can you talk a little about where your commitment to causes and service and volunteerism comes from?

SARANDON: I have no idea. I know that as a kid I was always concerned with being fair, being just. It was just a personality thing. And of course I grew up and came of age at a time when the social injustices were so much clearer.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: And the media was not as controlled by corporate America, so you were getting a lot more information in the 60s and 70s. I was in D.C. when D.C. burned. I was there when Martin Luther King was killed, when Robert Kennedy was killed, JFK. You knew that Vietnam was wrong.

You knew that you needed to desegregate the South. I mean, how could you be a thinking person and not know that these things were wrong? And it seemed to just be a natural part of coming of age, I mean, that the church was in a state of... I was at Catholic University and half the priests were running off with the nuns. Everything was in flux and it just was fabulous. And then you add mindexpansion drugs to that formula. People were completely searching for truth. There was a shift that had to happen. It was a very unique and special time.

READERS DIGEST: You have a real pragmatic [attitude]: Weve got to take that one step forward, and really do something too. You've got to, you cant just...

SARANDON: It wasnt a social pose for me. I was just at the U.N. on Earth Day and Dennis Hayes was talking about the first Earth Day, which I was present at 30 years ago, and how there are a number of people who, when they look up at those skyscrapers, said that those are the people that we have to convince. And now we are those people.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: And we have to take responsibility. I draw my strength and optimism from and what keeps me committed is [the fact that] Im so in touch with so many grass roots people, especially women, who have for years and years and years kept these movements going. Those are the people that never [quit]. Any kind of change never happens from the top down. It never has. Power always yields because it has to, not because they suddenly have a change of consciousness and decide to change.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: This is not the way anything significant has ever happened. Do I believe that people ultimately are good? Yes. Do I believe that ultimately you can accomplish change? Yes. Maybe, as Woody Allen said in one movie [Annie Hall], I need the eggs. I think its a personality trait.

When September 11 happened, it wasnt through any sort of altruism that I was on the spot as fast as I could, doing whatever I could. I think thats a way that you survive within yourself. That service in your mind and your soul increases your chances of survival. I think thats a very self-serving attack on life. I dont feel guilty about being a celebrity because I use it, you know?

My youngest said to me the other day, One of the things I like about you, Mom, is that you use it, it doesnt use you. And Im glad that he could figure that out without my having to explain it to him. So I'm not bothered by some of these things that bother other people in my position that its self-serving. My work is self-serving. Does it keep me from being incredibly depressed and despondent when the world is in the state that it is?

READERS DIGEST: Yes.

SARANDON: Yes.

READERS DIGEST: [laughs]

SARANDON: Because Im put in contact with people that are much more selfless than I am, who do this every single day of their lives and see results, one story after another. You can save a life. You can make a difference one small story at a time. And I know those stories. Ive seen them. Running away would not have made me feel safer.

READERS DIGEST: Mm-hmm.

SARANDON: There was so much hatred and so much anger and so much evil everywhere that watching people in service and people reaching out to each other calmed me, gave me hope for the future.

READERS DIGEST: But there is also an optimism at the core that I think some people dont have.

SARANDON: Yes, I think thats true.

READERS DIGEST: Even some of these people in the trenches.

SARANDON: I think thats true. Its a very fine line, because you are seeing horrible, horrible things. But what is the choice then? What is your choice?

READERS DIGEST: So in a way, its a way of fighting depression or malaise, right?

SARANDON: Yeah. I think its a way of surviving. Now, after years of dealing with political systems and a very cynical power structure, Im not na´ve, you know?

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: Part of me is very pragmatic.

READERS DIGEST: Uh-huh.

SARANDON: But I also could not vote one more time for somebody that didnt represent what I believed in, so therefore I supported Nader. It was a choice that we were so threatened by all those people that we worked with through the 70s and 80s that considered themselves liberal became so nasty and so disrespectful of our right to vote for who represented what we believed in. That was a real shocker.

READERS DIGEST: There was something you said that really struck me. You were talking about Prozac, I think, and this sort of drugging people out of their anger of that period. And I was thinking that I see that in recent years. I think its what youre talking about, that its become not okay to be angry or to stand up for what you believe in theres something about sort of making everybody quiet and content again.

SARANDON: Like George Orwell or something.

READERS DIGEST: Yes. Or the old Stepford Wives thing.

SARANDON: Well, I don't know, but its certainly difficult to feel uncomfortable. I mean, theres this huge epidemic of cutters, teenage cutters, people cutting themselves. And its become quite common through every socioeconomic strata. And I think, I know one of the ways that kids deal with that, that the reason kids cut, as I understand, is because they cant deal with the pressure. Its a release. I think that weve gotten in a situation where, first of all, kids watch so much TV during which they are given the message that they cant be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Everything thats on TV tells them they should have a certain life that theyre not having.

READERS DIGEST: They should be content.

SARANDON: And then, where are our writers? Where are the kids? I mean, [the band] Rage Against the Machine is great, but where are protests? I saw a great sticker the other day that said Stop Whining, Start a Revolution. Maybe they dont have the role models. I mean, you cant get medicated unless your parents are totally willing to medicate you.

READERS DIGEST: Uh-huh.

SARANDON: Now, Im not talking about kids that are chemically imbalanced and really in trouble.

Im talking about the suggestion that if a kids acting up in class, he'd go on something like that. Its just an easy way out for the teachers. Its an easy way out for parents.

READERS DIGEST: Well, adults are doing it, too, to a degree.

SARANDON: Adults do it, yeah.

READERS DIGEST: Do you think too many people are on Prozac?

SARANDON: I dont want to go on record as saying that nobody should be on it, but where are the artists going to come from? I think that every birthing is difficult and painful, and that sometimes you have every right to feel angry, and you have every right to feel miserable. And you have to get to the core of what thats about. Medication alone is not going to do it. So I think sometimes you have to just go there.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: And out of that will come a really interesting person.

READERS DIGEST: But again, how did you arrive at these beliefs? I mean, was it something, your parents or growing up...

SARANDON: I had a nervous breakdown when I was in my 20s. I mean, every family has a certain family trance, a certain belief system, whether its from your culture, your religion, your parents or a combination of all of those. And at a certain point you meet the real world and you have to now find the loophole and start to reorganize your belief system. And if it threatens the very core of who you think you are, and the feeling that you'll lose who you are or your magic of who you are, that is a very scary thing. But thats a rite of passage.

And I think that you spend your 20s trying to find your voice. Thats why you probably shouldnt get married in your 20s, because youre still trying to figure out who you are, and youre trying to separate from all those things. And its a really painful, terrifying process. And also, if youve been a miserable teenager... When I go into high schools, I say, you kids that are on the outside, for whatever reasons, overweight or youve lost a parent or you have to work, or anything that separates you from all those kids that seem to own high school, you are the lucky ones because you have the space to find your voice.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: These kids that are completely hooked into their peers and having a great high school experience but are having it as a herd will have to then do it later in college and throughout college with all that pressure and everything else. Or through their first marriages. [laughs]

READERS DIGEST: Right. [laughs]

SARANDON: However, it works out. And really the bottom line is that its the trip, its not the destination.

READERS DIGEST: How do these schools find you to do this talking you mentioned a couple of times?

SARANDON: Once you start to step forward and be available for any kind of pro bono work I must get 25 requests a week.

READERS DIGEST: Are you still doing UNICEF?

SARANDON: Yes.

READERS DIGEST: I know you went to Africa.

SARANDON: I went to Tanzania and India so far. I originally had planned to go to Cambodia because that really interests me, and I was going to focus on young girls education. And the time that I went to Tanzania, no one was talking about AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa. I didn't know anything about it either, so I agreed then to do Tanzania. I now have a relationship there because I did a project after UNICEF kind of on my own with trying to get water, because 60 percent of the population did not have decent water to drink in Tanzania.

Oh, today was interesting because we were at the [New York Lower East Side] Tenement Museum and theres a specific family that lived in that house that theyve researched and they know in that apartment, and the child, the 18-month-old, had died of dysentery when outhouses were in the back near the water source and everything. The kids couldn't believe it. And they very rightly said that in Third World countries now, that more kids die of dysentery than do of AIDS.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: Its hard to think that there are kids in the world now who cant find clean water to drink.

READERS DIGEST: So youre saying youre going back to focusing on Tanzania and the water problem?

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