Feud star Susan Sarandon: “Actors are disposable. Women are even more disposable”

The Feud star talks Bette Davis, battles at work and being a woman in Hollywood

Susan Sarandon (Getty,mh)

What’s the view from your sofa? A big plasma screen TV?

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Not at all. The view from my sofa is another sofa. I don’t really watch much TV, or at least, not on an actual TV. I just watch on my iPad unless I’m in a hotel, and then every night is some kind of breakthrough where I find something I never knew existed.

What viewing breakthroughs have hotels given you recently?

The Handmaid’s Tale – it reminded me a tiny bit of Thelma & Louise, which I think would struggle to get made for the cinema today. My kids also keep me abreast.

What have they recommended?

The new season of Mr Robot – I’ve just been finishing that – and I’m a big fan of Nathan for You, which is a very interesting comedy. It’s by Nathan Fielder, who’s a genius. I went on Conan [a US talk show hosted by Conan O’Brien] to sit on the couch with him while he was being interviewed.

Any films you’ve loved recently?

The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s film. It was everything in the cinema that can’t be done anywhere else. I guess it’s kind of warped, but I felt it was a very romantic, surreal fantasy.

You’re playing Bette Davis in Feud: Bette and Joan. What do you have in common?

We’re both Yankees, value our gay following and we’ve got foul mouths.

What was it like to play her?

I met her. She actually approached me when I was really just a kid. Her daughter’s book came out and she wanted to do a film, but there wasn’t any script. I saw her interviews at festivals and on TV and that’s when I got more of a sense of the person. She was a strong performer; she did uglify herself and she didn’t mind seeming unsympathetic, which was unusual for that time.

Susan Sarandon Feud (BBC, EH)
Susan Sarandon in Feud: Bette and Joan (BBC)

Feud is about power – Joan and Bette fighting for power, as well as Hollywood’s power over them. Have things changed?

Actors are disposable. Women are even more disposable and the ageism, sexism and racism that are rabid in Hollywood play into that. Early on in my career, powerful women did nothing to help other women. These days there’s a huge tower block of funny women who can green-light projects, and have been very successful.

Have you been involved in a feud?

When I was younger, a couple of people – who shall not be named – tried to make my life miserable. One was a TV heart-throb who wasn’t used to women challenging him. I couldn’t work in an atmosphere where there’s tension. On Feud, someone was difficult and they were gone the next day.

No political feuds?

Some people blame my support for Bernie Sanders for Hillary Clinton losing. Come on! Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Beyoncé, Jay-Z on her side and I ruined her chances? That’s crazy.

Have you got a nemesis?

Not that I know of. Which isn’t bad for a long career in Hollywood.

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Feud: Bette and Joan begins Saturday 16th December at 9pm on BBC2 – and the entire series is on iPlayer straight afterwards