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READERS DIGEST: Right, right, right.

SARANDON: Or war films that tell you the only way to become a man is to kill in cold blood. That this is whats necessary or your entire platoon gets wiped out. All of these films that we take for granted as part of the landscape of Americas cinema that have gone into defining what it means to be a man, for instance. I think thats really huge.

READERS DIGEST: So is your goal to do another Dead Man Walking?

SARANDON: No. I mean, I think that these films that were talking about now are films that are very entertaining and that also will in some way, can possibly, if were very lucky, raise questions that youll talk about after dinner, and maybe if youre really lucky, for breakfast.

READERS DIGEST: Yes.

SARANDON: Thats all. I don't think they have the answers. They shouldn't. Dead Man Walking didn't have the answers. Dead Man Walking posed a question that stayed with you. A number of questions. Thats entertainment at its finest. I mean, again, The Nutty Professor is an incredibly political film. And it doesnt have to be something that is as obvious as Dead Man Walking.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: But I hope that all these films certainly, thats what Banger Sisters is about, for me are about whether you can have freedom and still be responsible.

READERS DIGEST: Uh-huh.

SARANDON: How do you do that? How do you become a parent and not lose who you are?

READERS DIGEST: Sure.

SARANDON: Moonlight Mile is about taking an unexpected and terrible loss and turning it into something redemptive. Igby is about a kid having the courage to fight his way out from this horrific family that is incredibly dysfunctional. But somewhere in there, there has been love, and moving on because of it. I mean, what those boys do with the mother is an act of love.

READERS DIGEST: Hmm.

SARANDON: That takes an enormous amount of courage to be there for her when she asks them. Whether or not she should ask them is another question, but I know of someone whose father did this same thing, sent the younger boys out but kept the two older boys there, for him. Hopefully the films are rich enough, even though they're funny, to have discussions.

I remember some great talks that I had with my kids after we saw The Truman Show, for instance. They immediately likened it to the Garden of Eden and what were you willing to sacrifice in order to have your freedom? What kind of life did he have before? Were they good friends or werent they good friends? We had a great dinner after seeing that film. And thats all I ask for, to be able to make a living doing what I'm doing and have a good time, to be able to do films that I can explain to my kids why I'm doing them without being embarrassed.

READERS DIGEST: Mm-hmm.

SARANDON: And to reach people, to hope that the studio stands behind them long enough that they take a chance at people actually finding them and seeing them, which gets a little complicated.

READERS DIGEST: And then hopefully they'll walk away and talk about it at dinner.

SARANDON: Yeah. And if you're really lucky, the following breakfast.

READERS DIGEST: Right. [laughs] And is there any other thing you want to accomplish in life?

SARANDON: No. I just want for my kids to love who they are and to have happy lives and to be able to find something that they want to do when they get up in the morning as a job, whatever that is, and make their peace with that, because that is the trick.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: There are so many miserable people in jobs they dont want to be in. It shouldn't have to do with how much you make. It should have to do with the feeling that youve given something back and that you've found something that really utilizes your strengths. And I think thats what the education process is supposed to be about, isolating your passions and your strengths. And so often it isnt.

READERS DIGEST: Interesting.

SARANDON: I think what your job is as a parent is to give your kids, not only the instincts and talents to survive, but to survive in a way that they enjoy their lives. Because they come in joyful, they really do.

READERS DIGEST: I think its tricky, though, what you were talking about, how in your 20s, so many of us, don't really know who we are.

SARANDON: No.

READERS DIGEST: And thats when you make these decisions about what you're going to do the rest of your life. I think thats why so many of these people end up in these jobs they hate.

SARANDON: Well, this is probably why you have a lot of midlife crises. But, the other thing is, if you choose a standard of living thats so high that you have to maintain it, dont have the flexibility with your job, this would be the other argument for having kids late in life.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: When people ask me and they say, Well, I'm ready, I say, Thats fine. Just know that its going to cut down on your options unless you do have somebody whos paying for your children. [laughs] That does make a huge difference. And when [I was] making an argument for college I said, You will not have this opportunity again to just indulge yourself with the search for knowledge.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: I mean, its an extraordinary time. You dont have to really be in the real world, but you're kind of with your peers and hopefully you find a place where people are passionate about something. Thats a very special time. You dont want to have to go into the work force. How lucky you are that you dont have to start working at 17 like some people do.

READERS DIGEST: I know.

SARANDON: Its a very, very special time for you, not to worry about kids. I mean, not that you cant do it, but its difficult.

READERS DIGEST: So do your kids realize how lucky they are to [laughs] all the privileged stuff aside just to have an enlightened mom?

SARANDON: Well, I don't know if they see me as enlightened at all.

READERS DIGEST: [laughs]

SARANDON: I dont know about that. Sometimes they complain. When my middle son was changing to a different school and he had to write an essay, he wrote a very, very funny essay about how difficult it is to be the son of famous people. And when they start to have a moment where something will happen [because were famous], I'll say, Okay, so on the scale of 1 to 10, what are the perks? And theyll say maybe, 8. Okay. So on the scale of 1 to 10, whats the downside? 5. I say, Okay, so were still up by 3. [laughs]

READERS DIGEST: [laughs]

SARANDON: And thats all. What else can you say? Yes, its a drag to be eating dinner and have someone come over and say, I never do this, and then they do it, and they stand there and interrupt your dinner and go on and on and on. Or to be having some kind of problem in the middle of public and people are watching you. Or to have people call me a name because of what my stand is politically. Or not know if people like you because of who your mother is. Thats one of the things, you know? And I always say, Your job in life is to find people who get you and who like you for who you are.

There are so many people who will like you for the wrong reasons, not just because you have a famous mother, but because you have big breasts or because you have a car or because whatever.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: And your job is always to root those people out who really get you for what you have that is your gift and for who you are. And so I don't want to hear about it, because these are your same friends you've had since kindergarten. They didn't have the faintest idea who I was then. [laughs] But that is one of the problems. But the perks, you get to meet the Rangers after a game.

READERS DIGEST: [laughs]

SARANDON: You get to go to the Star Wars screening. I mean, Harry Potter. Its a trade.

READERS DIGEST: And do they sort of get that?

SARANDON: Yeah. It doesn't mean that it makes it any easier when somebody likes you or dislikes you because of who your parents are or, any of those things that can happen. I mean, certainly in New York its much less than it would be in L.A. I mean, L.A., youre just so isolated geographically, just the way that city is laid out. I dont see how people do it there. Here you are part of the mainstream and you're constantly reminded how lucky you are, because youre walking past people in boxes on the street.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: And in my kids class, they were in such my one child was telling me theres only five Christians in his class. They're all different religions. They're all different nationalities. They're all different socioeconomic everything. Some of them have parents who are also some kind of artists.

But they're wild, theyre very diverse and very different, and so its not the same as if youre behind a gate somewhere and you dont meet people who speak other languages unless they're working for you. And I just think I'm not vigilant enough to raise a kid in [the Connecticut suburb of] Darien either because youre getting all one kind of family. Theres all, the definition of what a family is, theres same-sex parents, there are grandparents raising kids. They're just from all over the world. They're all different religions. So that makes my job a little bit easier.

READERS DIGEST: Mm-hmm.

SARANDON: And being a movie star is not as big a deal. They see me every day at school looking like a mess. The mystery dissolves pretty quickly.

READERS DIGEST: [laughs] Do they have other friends who have famous parents?

SARANDON: One of my sons has a dear friend whose mother is a performance artist whos pretty controversial. I mean, they know famous people, like, of course, now they know Goldie [Hawn] really well and they can commiserate with those kids. It was really funny when we were staying there and listening to funny stories, and [Hawns children] Kate and Oliver were there telling funny stories and things like that. But I'm trying to think if theres any other really close friends. A lot of working moms, not necessarily famous.

READERS DIGEST: And you guys live in the city?

SARANDON: Yeah.

READERS DIGEST: You also have a place up north?

SARANDON: About an hour out.

READERS DIGEST: Is it by Chappaqua? Pleasantville?. But you're primarily here in New York City, and the kids are?

SARANDON: Yeah. So were downtown enough that on the 11th I saw the buildings fall as I was going to get my kids out of school.

READERS DIGEST: So you were going to get them because you knew something was up?

SARANDON: Well, once I saw the second plane hit and all the phones were dead, I just started walking. And as I was going down Sixth Avenue, I saw them go down.

READERS DIGEST: Did they see it?

SARANDON: No. They were in school. I didn't get my daughter out of Brooklyn for quite a few hours, because I didn't want her walking over the bridge until I was there to meet her. I didn't know what was going on down there, so I waited until I could go. I got the boys home and then I went down, got her back.

READERS DIGEST: Has it been hard for them to be so close?

SARANDON: I think for quite a while it was hard. I mean, not as hard as for kids who lost their coach or lost [a parent]. My kids were very lucky. Even though there were some kids at their school who had parents that worked there, no one in their schools were killed. No ones parents were killed. I lost one of my best friends in the first plane, Berry Berenson. So they knew that I was very sad. But I think for them the loss of innocence was the biggest thing.

READERS DIGEST: Sure.

SARANDON: Well never be back to normal. And when I showed the UNICEF video for Trick-or- Treat at UNICEF this year every year theres a little video that goes out, and it says a child has a right to this, a child has a right to be safe, to be free from violence. And thats always been in the video, and this was the first year they noticed a kid coming around the corner and then something explodes in the background. And so I said, We have joined the rest of the world. There is no country where there hasn't been some kind of violence.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: Italy, Spain, France. Of course, all the Mideast. Ireland. England. And we have to find a way to make it safe for everybody. We have to start thinking about solving problems in a different way.

My kids have gone through a Quaker school where nonviolence is taught. But I think really the thing that was most heartbreaking was just their realization of the potential for violence that they'd never thought about before.

READERS DIGEST: And theres something very real. I have a friend whos a reporter here who was actually injured when that building fell, leaving the scene. And she feels that as a New Yorker, shes at greater risk, for instance, than I am because she thinks New York is more of a target. And then she gets very specific about it. She lives downtown, and thats even more of a risk.

SARANDON: I think New Yorks been done. I think if you were trying to really make an impression, you'd go to the heartland where everybody thinks they're safe. Or somewhere, do something different.

Why would you bother with New York? Its been done, you know? I mean, I dont know that thats the point, but I think that...

READERS DIGEST: You're talking about loss of innocence for kids.

SARANDON: I'm talking about a loss of innocence. In the beginning when it first happened, people did ask why. Eventually it turned into this jingoist kind of revenge thing. It had never occurred to a lot of Americans that we could be hated in other places.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: I mean, my kids are maybe a little bit more educated in our foreign policy than some kids would be, but I think even a lot of adults who are living their lives, arent translating what it means to destabilize a government, all these euphemisms that we use for our foreign policy everywhere not that in any way this justifies an act of terror on either side. But, to understand the frustration and the lack of hope in these countries that leads to the production of terrorists was a place that, in the beginning, people went to. Now, not so much.

READERS DIGEST: Well, its the whole notion that what we do affects people.

SARANDON: Yes. That you can no longer not look at the ramifications of your actions whatever they are. That you are connected to the world. We Are the World took on a whole new meaning. And that is an important step.

We were driving back in the car the other day, and we saw a plane coming in really low that was coming into Westchester County Airport. And immediately my youngest said, Why is that plane so low?

READERS DIGEST: Yeah, my kids have done that too.

SARANDON: You know? That never would have happened before.

READERS DIGEST: I know.

SARANDON: And the other day, there was this big explosion in Chelsea, and all of a sudden it all came back.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: But in the play that we do, my eldest boy had said, You can't say Hi to somebody now without saying Are you okay? Whether it means your family, your friends. And that went on, and thats in the play. Are you okay? Is anyone okay? Because in the play it says, No matter how big a city gets, the only way to live your life is like a village.

And you get to a certain age, and everyone you meet has a logical connection to the people that went before, friends of friends.

After September 11, everyone was jumping tracks. You were no longer this sequence of events. The firemen and I never would have met otherwise. All over New York, people were jumping tracks. And that was the good thing. That you reminded yourself that you do live in a village, and you live in this tiny compressed island of Manhattan. And thats the part about New York that I just love.

READERS DIGEST: So you think youre a New Yorker for good, then?

SARANDON: Absolutely.

 

Readers Digest interview

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