Born Susan Abigail Tomalin in New York City on 4 October 1946 to Lenora Marie and Phillip Leslie Tomalin, an advertising executive, television producer, and one-time nightclub singer, Susan Sarandon was the eldest of nine children and grew up across the bridge in New Jersey. In her early days, she attended Roman Catholic schools, and after graduating from Edison High School in 1964, attended The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C from1964 to 1968. During her college days, she supported herself by cleaning houses, cutting hair, cleaning houses, and working as a switchboard operator.
Nevertheless, she earned her BA degree in 1968 in drama and worked with Father Gilbert V. Hartke, a noted drama coach, and master teacher.
Susan never intended to be an actress, but after leaving the University, she worked as a model for some commercial advertisements to pay her bills. It ended up reading for film director John Avildsen and was cast in a major role of a disaffected teen, who disappeared into the seedy underworld in Joe (1970). Followed by several soap operas, she appeared and shined as the ingénue Janet Weiss, who got entangled with a transvestite scientist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), a campy musical that became a cult film in the subsequent years. In the same year, she also played the role of Mary Beth, the female lead in The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), opposite the charismatic Robert Bedford. Her other films during the 1970s include Dragonfly (1976), in which Susan played a woman who fell for a man, recently released from a psychiatric clinic, followed by The Great Smoky Roadblock (1977), and the romantic thriller The Other Side of Midnight (1977), based on a novel by Sidney Sheldon.
Susan Sarandon was twice directed by Louis Malle, a director during the French Nouvelle Vague, with whom Susan was romantically involved. In both the films, Pretty Baby (1978) and Atlantic City (1980), she played the roles of women, who were initially represented as objects of male desire, but later revealed their inner strength, intelligence, courage and independence.
In Pretty Baby, Susan portrayed the prostitute Hattie, living with her minor daughter Violet, played by twelve-year-old Brook Shields, in the fancy brothel of Madame Nell, where she works. Although the film fared well in the box office and was mostly acclaimed by critics, it also created significant controversy for the depiction of child prostitution. But Atlantic City marked a significant breakthrough in her career, since apart from achieving critical appraisal of her performance as a casino worker run afoul with the mob, starring opposite screen legend Burt Lancaster, she also earned her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
In 1981, Susan Sarandon was voted the Celebrity Breasts of the Summer by the American men’s magazine Playboy and immediately after that she appeared in Tempest (1982), an adventure comedy-drama romance film, loosely based on the play by William Shakespeare. She then played the role of a scientist-turned vampire in the horror film The Hunger (1983), in which she had a hot lesbian sex scene with Catherine Deneuve. She also appeared in the comedy-fantasy The Witches of Eastwick (1987), in which she played one of the three women seduced by the devil, played by Jack Nicholson and developed special powers. However, the romantic comedy Bull Durham (1988), a commercial and critical success, established her star status. In the film her portrayal of Annie Savoy, a sultry baseball groupie, who chooses one player every year to be her lover and student, won the heart of the commoners and critics alike and propelled her to stardom. Apart from Kevin Costner, the film featured Tim Robbins, with whom Susan began a family. Their relationship lasted for several decades and the couple came to be known as active supporters and promoters of leftist causes.
Although they divorced in 1979, she retained the surname Sarandon. From 1988 she was in a relationship with Tim Robbins, whom she met during the filming of Bull Durham, and has two sons with him. However, the long partnership ended in 2009, when she split her relationship with Robbins and is now in a relationship with much-younger Jonathan Bricklin, who was born in 1977.
Susan Sarandon co-starred with Marlon Brando in A Dry White Season (1989), followed by White Palace (1990), an erotic-romantic drama about the story of a younger man and a bolder middle-aged woman with James Spader. It followed a string of films for which Susan Sarandon won nominations for Academy Awards for Best Actress, which included her role as the worldly waitress-turned-outlaw in Thelma & Louise (1991), a desperate mother searching for the way to cure her son’s disease in Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), and an efficient lawyer and recovering alcoholic in The Client (1994) for which she won the coveted BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Finally, she won her first Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her wonderful performance in the role of Sister Helen Prejean, fighting for the redemption of a death row inmate, played by Sean Penn, and visiting him regularly in Dead Man Walking (1995), directed by Tim Robbins. Her other important roles during the 1990s, include a mother raising her four daughters during the Civil War in Little Women (1994), a mother raising seven sons in the family drama Safe Passage (1994), a mother raising her kids while fighting cancer in Stepmom (1998), a mother who moves with her daughter in search of a new life in Anywhere but Here (1999) and Cradle Will Rock (1999), directed by Tim Robbins.
Susan Sarandon appeared in several films during the early part of the 2000s, which included the comic dramas Igby Goes Down (2002) and Elizabethtown (2005), later she returned to the politically-themed film In the Valley of Elah (2007), in which she played the role of a distraught mother of a soldier, who disappeared after returning home from an on-duty tour in the Iraq War. Her important films during the next decade of the 2000s include Enchanted (2007), where she appeared as an evil queen, the supernatural drama The Lovely Bones (2009), and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010), a financial drama, directed by Oliver Stone.
Despite her advancing age, Susan Sarandon never stopped working as she appeared as a librarian in Robot & Frank (2012), a woman distressed by her husband’s deceit in the thriller Arbitrage (2012), an unassuming housewife suddenly arrested for her radical activities in the past in The Company You Keep (2012), the distressed mother of the teenage starlet Beverly Aadland, who fell for the veteran actor Errol Flynn in The Last of Robin Hood (2013), the alcoholic grandmother in Tammy (2014), as the acidly funny, but supportive lesbian grandmother of a transgender teenager in 3 Generations (2015). While she was praised for her performance as the cheerfully smothering mother in The Meddler (2015), she also starred as a mother who contacted an underground network to inquire about her journalist son, taken hostage in Syria in Viper Club (2018).
Widely known for her social and political activism, Susan Sarandon was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1999. In her long career, Susan Sarandon received eight Golden Globe nominations and was awarded the Woman in Film Crystal Award in 1994. For her contribution to the film industry, she was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002