- - Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Susan Sarandon cracks any stereotype of what a 70-year-old woman “should” be. A tireless humanitarian — she has worked to eliminate the death penalty since her Oscar-winning turn in “Dead Man Walking” — grandmother and hard-working executive producer, the veteran actress is fearless with every task she takes on. Miss Sarandon can currently be seen as Bette Davis in the FX miniseries “Feud: Bette and Joan,” based on the rivalry between Davis and Joan Crawford (fellow Oscar-winner Jessica Lange) while the duo shot the 1962 horror film “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”

At the time the film was made, both Davis and Crawford were in their fifties, and the two silver screen legends had hoped the film would revive their careers in an increasingly ageist Hollywood. The cast of “Feud” also includes Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland, Alfred Molina as director Robert Aldrich, Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner and Judy Davis as gossip maven Hedda Hopper.

The Washington Times spoke with Miss Sarandon during the Television Critics Press Tour about her “Feud.”

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Question: Had you seen “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” before making “Feud”?

Answer: It’s pretty creepy. I hadn’t watched it in years, and then my son wanted to see it. Afterwards he said, “Mom, this is not a joke. It’s sick. So weird.”

Q: While Bette Davis doesn’t get the Academy Award nomination for this film, Crawford does. Why do you think that was?

A: Bette sees — and probably rightly so — that it was her last chance to get good parts. Part of the interesting dynamic is that Joan was the beautiful one; Bette went toward the character [parts]. So in a way, her base was broader, and she could continue.

But how was she going to get any more big parts [when] they just didn’t exist. She was counting on that Academy Award to revive things. And when she didn’t get it [De Havilland] says, “Well, don’t worry. The next time.”

She says, “How? What film? How is that possibly going to happen?”

Q: The issue of ageism remains relevant today. Have things improved much for aging actresses?

A: When I started, it was over by 40. So definitely the line has been pushed. And also, you weren’t supposed to have children. I was told on many occasions not to bring up the idea that you had children, because in some way, that would cut into this idea that you weren’t sexy or sensual or whatever. I think those things have changed, and you see the line being moved a little bit further.

I am optimistic. I think that there are a lot of women producing things, not necessarily in the studios. Actresses are putting stuff together. I think there are more stories about women of color [and] older women. But it is slim pickings.

Q: Given your documentary series, Discovery ID’s “Killing Richard Glossip,” what are your current thoughts on the death penalty?

A: It never made sense to me. It was arbitrary and capricious and costs so much money. But then everyone says, “Well, if someone killed one of your children, wouldn’t you want to kill him?”

And, of course, you say, “I feel I would.” But that’s a different question than letting the state do it. And certainly the people I met during “Dead Man Walking,” who had experienced that kind of tragedy of having a child killed, did not go to hate, did not want revenge.

We saw a family that goes to executions all the time. It’s not a healing thing. People are always so disappointed because, really, what can heal you except to bring your loved one back? You think there’s going to be this relief, but it doesn’t work. So, really, on both sides, it doesn’t work.

When I saw that and met these people, I knew even deeper, besides my intellect telling me, that this just was not a way to teach my children to be. This was not a system of a society that would work.

Q: What can people do to help repeal it?

A: It’s a really good thing to educate yourself. Watch “Dead Man Walking,” and then talk about it. Most people are not affected by [the death penalty]. It’s like how many people are actually sent to Iraq and Afghanistan? Such a small percentage. Had we the draft, people would pay more attention.

We have more families at risk with the death penalty. It targets the voiceless, the poor, people of color. And so it’s important just to understand what your government is doing and how much they are spending.

Q: What’s an effective strategy in dealing with the current administration?

A: I think we have to be specific. It’s not enough just to be in a panic. We don’t have the luxury to be depressed about Trump. … We have to look at issues like health care and the price of pharmaceuticals, the $15 minimum wage and things that actually make a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives. That’s feminist.

As Bernie Sanders said, it wasn’t about winning, it’s about the movement, the issues. The only way things are going to change is with us. What’s our choice? To give up, cry and bitch and moan? I don’t think so. I think we have to get out there. And when you do, you get so hopeful.

Q: Do you mind when people get angry at you?

A: Any time you step forward, someone gets upset.

There was so much that came down on me after the election, I had to change my number.

“Feud” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on FX. The docu-series “Killing Richard Glossip” airs April 17 and 18 on Investigation Discovery, with the network offering a sneak peek of the premiere episode on ID GO starting April 10.

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