Susan Sarandon on Women in Hollywood, Modern Feminism, and Ping Pong

“There’s no point of getting into whatever you think the goal is, if you haven’t enjoyed yourself all the way” Trim and youthful, dressed in a navy blue shirt and jeans, you’d never guess Susan Sarandon, New York born actress and mother of three, is 66 years old. Other than her life as a movie star and political activist, she found entrepreneurial spirit and became the co-owner of the successful New York ping pong club Spin, which she talks about enthusiastically.

She is reportedly in a relationship with her ping pong business partner, Jonathan Bricklin, who is more than 30 years her junior. Here she opens up about women in the brutal system in Hollywood, modern feminism and – oddly enough – ping pong.

Question (Q): You are such a role model and an inspiration for all women…

Susan Sarandon (SS): Well, my daughter would really not agree with that (laughs)

Q: What would you say to other women claiming their own power and following their dreams the way you did?

SS: It’s interesting that you ask me that because I have to give a speech soon as a woman in Hollywood about power, whatever that means (laughs). All I know is they are giving me an award and I was wondering, ‘What am I going to say?’

Q: So?

SS: Well, I suppose I’ll talk about all the statistics about how hard it is, how we don’t have as many great parts as the guys, we don’t get paid as much, there are not as many female directors or writers… all those things that we know are getting better. I think women have to be proactive and develop their own things. I don’t think its quantity; I think it must be about what your journey has to be, especially in these economic times where you are going to have to reinvent a lot of new ways of earning money because everything is falling apart. The Hollywood system is not going to be functioning the way it has very much longer. I thinkwhat happened with the music business is going to happen to the movie business, too. You have all these great cameras; you can make your own films. And also, I’ve worked with fabulous men that have been great. We can’t think of them as the enemy. You have to live your life now in the present and you have to thrive to live an authentic life and that means finding joy in whatever you are doing and making sure that it’s truthful and reflects who youare and what you want to do.

Q: Are you ambitious?

SS: Yes, it’s important to be ambitious and it’s not a bad thing but you have to remember to enjoy it. Sometimes when women work so hard to get a project done, the satisfaction of working that hard is a gift and I think as far as work is concerned, it’s not always the best thing to have it easy. I’m really grateful that you have to pick and choose as a woman and maybe our standards are higher because of that. The nice thing about women, and I’m generalizing now, but my experience has been that the power thing can really derail you; the games and the Hollywood studio system is a lot about the game, just as it is in politics. It’s agame and you lose track of what you are really there. You can not fall into that trap of just going for the power and trading your soul for the power of it. I think it’s a really great lifestyle and it’s really fun. Women are different than men. That’s what’s so great about men and women. We have to hold on as women and what we do that is different and our point of view is different, our sensibility is different and how we create things is different. Just remember to have a good time because there’s no point of getting into whatever you think that goal is, if you haven’t enjoyed yourself all the way. I think sometimes you can lose track of that and nobody talks about that part of it. That hard edge thing that everybody is doing, which I get and which needs to be done, but at the same time, the collaboration is important and also involves men (laughs) and it is fun to see our men as our allies and other women certainly as our allies but also just remember to enjoy the process because it’s really what it’s about.

Q: Has that wisdom come to you with age? You seem to hedge your bets in the workplace and you have about ten films coming out.

SS: Yes but it’s just to diversify my portfolio in case a few of them fail. They are just little parts and altogether, they probably make one of Meryl Steep’s movies (laughs)… And over the years I crashed and burned a number of times, so, of course, I learned things not only about the business but about life, and I think it’s hard. You spend your 20s trying to find your voice

Q: But do you feel like you are getting better with age?

SS: It’s good to be a survivor and it’s good to still be around as long as you’re having fun. It’s notgood to stay in a business when you are not.

Q: What does it take to be a success in Hollywood?

SS: You know, Hollywood is the only place where you have to have 400 % of profit to be considered as a success. What I learned years ago when I was in England and started to hang out with English actors, because I was working there, is that actors act! And you take theatre and you do big things and little things. They don’t have the idea that there is a plan that you have to plug into that works or that you have to maintain a certain position or that you have to get your price, your quote and if don’t get your quote, you are on the downward spiral. It’s probably why I live in New York because I couldn’t deal with living in LA. But if you go to other countries, people work because they like to work. It’s their job.

Q: And not so focused on youth.

SS: Yes. Everybody is focused on youth in LA. When people ask me if my political views were ruining my chances for some parts, I always say that for good or bad, Hollywood is not political but what they might hold against you is getting fat and getting old. If your moviesmake money, you are Sean Penn, no matter what you open your mouth about, you are fine. Look, you can crash and burn, you go to rehab, you are fine, whatever it is. But that part is hard. You never know what’s going to happen.

Q: Life is unpredictable.

SS: My life is full of things and people that I don’t expect to run into, serendipitous connections that end up taking me somewhere. Look, at me! I’m a ping-pong entrepreneur! How did that ever happen? (laughs) It’s the perfect example.

Q: Did you ever think that you’d be going corporate with your ping pong parlors?

SS: Are you kidding me? (laughs) No, an entrepreneur, no way and it’s like the Ping pong? It’s like The Karate Kid, except with ping pong and Mister Mayagi, and I get to do just the funniest things. So I don’t know, as long as I am still having fun then I will keep doing it.

Q: How did your ping pong obsession come about?

SS: It wasn’t a ping pong obsession actually. I hired the guys who originally were giving ping pong parties in their loft. One of them was a documentary filmmaker and I went to see them and I had heard that these guys that were playing ping pong and they just did it because it was easier and it was fun. They weren’t ping pong players or anything and so I went and Isaw that they had a whole editing bank and I was looking for an editor for this project I was working on, so I hired their editor, which kept me coming like every few weeks over the next year. In the process of that my girlfriend who was a set designer and was very good friends with one of them and that’s how I ended up there. And they asked her to look at a space in Chinatown. Nobody has ever put booze with ping pong and made it in a nice place and we could drink free and play free if we could get a club going. So I went with her and coincidentally there was a guy there who was a money person, and when he saw me, he somehow thought it was legitimate.

Q: Why do you think it resonates with so many people?

SS: It’s just a great thing because it cuts across gender and age and you can play forever. It’s really a fun thing and so the next thing we knew is that it started to grow and now we are going in the Downtown Standard (hotel) here, probably Miami too, and we have one in Toronto, Milwaukee and we have deals in Boston and Chicago. It’s so insane because nobody knew what they were doing. There are these four people that are doing it, and one of them is just the money person that says no (laughs) and these two guys and me. And now, of course, they don’t have any time to play or drink because they were answering all the emails. We had people who wanted to do it in Dubai and it’s a very simple idea, and Dubai did a ping pong movie that I actually want to see. So it was by chance. It was just another one of those things that crosses your path and you say yes and then it turns into something that you never had foreseen in a million years.

Author/Credits: Sian Edwards / The Interview Feed

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