Susan Sarandon ('Tammy') embraces eclectic career

The Fresno BeeJuly 2, 2014 

Susan Sarandon, left, and Melissa McCarthy in "Tammy."


LOS ANGELES — It's almost impossible to pigeonhole Susan Sarandon. She's earned the tag of being an Oscar-winning actress with her work in the 1995 drama "Dead Man Walking." You could just as easily call her a comic for her work in the Adam Sandler comedy "That's My Boy" or her current film, "Tammy."

Performer in an esoteric drama? "Cloud Atlas." Family film actress? "Enchanted." TV sitcom star? "Mike & Molly."

There's just no catch-all term to describe the eclectic career Sarandon has put together since she made her professional acting debut 42 years ago in the daytime drama "Search for Tomorrow."

In the new comedy, Sarandon plays Tammy's (Melissa McCarthy) grandmother, a hard-drinking, hard-living woman who once was a groupie with the Allman Brothers Band. This time, she hits the road with her granddaughter after Tammy's life falls apart.

REVIEW: Unfunny, tired "Tammy" wastes talented cast

Generally, the 67-year-old Sarandon doesn't look her age when she appears in films, but for "Tammy" she wears a silver wig that makes her look like a very senior citizen. The only concern Sarandon had was that the character would become the stereotypical grandmother with glasses, a crocheted sweater and an updo bun. Sarandon signed on when McCarthy told her that the character is a raging alcoholic who sleeps around.

The wig was as far as Sarandon was going to go in playing a grandmother.

"She's really not that much older than I am. She just doesn't have my hair and makeup people," Sarandon says of finding the right look for the role. "All they did was accentuate what you would normally hide. It didn't matter if I was sweaty or the lighting was bad.

"I was just happy to do a character this liberating."

Sarandon is only 13 years older than Alison Janney, who plays her daughter and Tammy's mother. When asked about the close age difference, Sarandon smiles and says, "I'm bad at math. People's ages don't resonate with me. If you look at my life, I've not done things according to the right schedule."

Getting to play such an outlandish character was fun for Sarandon. A bonus was getting to work with a very special co-star — her dog, Penny, a Pom/Maltese mix. It's only a cameo role, but Sarandon says trying to find Penny in the movie is like playing "Where's Waldo?"

This isn't the first movie where Sarandon plays a woman on a wild road trip. Back in 1991, she and Geena Davis drove into movie history with "Thelma & Louise." Sarandon says no one thought about "Tammy" being another road movie until they started doing interviews to promote it.

Sarandon created a stir recently when she posted a selfie with Davis. "Thelma & Louise" fans blew up social media talking about the pair working together again. The idea of working with Davis on another project is very appealing to Sarandon. The only hitch is that because of the way "Thelma & Louise" ends, the pair wouldn't be able to reprise their roles for a sequel.

That didn't stop people from pitching Sarandon with numerous bad ideas for a follow-up movie. When she asked what she would do in a sequel, Sarandon was told that she "would collect a big check."

Don't look for Sarandon's Louise to be driving down any cinematic roads anytime soon. She's perfectly happy right now bouncing around film genres — and occasionally getting to work with her dog.


TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at

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