Ready for Her Close-Up: Susan Sarandon on getting into granny mode for ‘Tammy’
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If there is any doubt of Susan Sarandon’s eternal sexiness, it can be quashed when she walks into a room at the Beverly Hilton on a hot summer day with red curls cascading, equally red lipstick on her kisser and a gold necklace that reads: Honey.
She totes around one of those white, fussy, teacup dogs named Penny. “She’s part mutt, but we don’t like to label,” Sarandon says, putting a finger to her lips so the dog doesn’t get bad self-esteem.
Speaking of which: Why is the 67-year-old playing Melissa McCarthy’s granny in “Tammy?
“I’m bad at math,” she says. “It actually makes sense if I had a baby at 16 and Melissa’s mom in the movie had a baby at 16 then I could actually be her grandmother.”
In “Tammy,” Sarandon is Pearl, a hard-drinking, pill-popping, man-hunting grandmother who has a quickie on the road. “We wanted someone to play against type, and who is more gorgeous and sexier than Susan Sarandon?” says McCarthy, who hand-picked her for the role.
Q: Are you the world’s sexiest granny now?
A: Who else is in the running? I want the names.
Q: How to put this delicately … how did you feel seeing yourself look so much older in this film?
A: It’s very liberating to look that bad on screen. We just accentuated everything you would hide in real life. It didn’t matter if I was sweaty or that my hair was matted down or the lighting was bad.
Q: So you were fine looking like a granny?
A: I just said, “Let’s go for it.” Plus, what is age? I’ve always had a problem with math, so people’s ages don’t resonate with me. If you look at my life, I’m like a free agent.
Q: You really don’t care about age?
A: I just travel around all over ignoring age. I’ve been with people who … well, whatever.
Q: How did the phone call go when Melissa asked you to play this role?
A: Melissa just called me. She prepared me for the script on the phone, but then I got it and it was even more fun. I was so excited about working with Melissa. And then Mark Duplass called and said he was playing one of the love interests. This film was suddenly becoming a conspiracy for me. Peer pressure got to me. That’s why I thought, “I’ll jump.”
Q: Any worries?
A: I was a little worried because there wasn’t much time between three movies I was doing where I played alcoholic, pill-popping characters. I was prepared in that sense.
Q: How did you find Pearl’s Illinois farm-granny look?
A: We texted pictures up and back of her possible looks and figured out the age thing. She wasn’t much older than I actually am. She just doesn’t have my hair and makeup people.
Q: What was the most bothersome thing about purposely aging for a film?
A: We had three sets of cankles that had to come on and off at different times in the movie. I was also putting peppercorns in my feet to try to limp. With me as an old lady, you either make the leap or you don’t.
Q: You have a sex scene in the back of a car. Any fond memories?
A: Gary Cole plays my lover and he’s so handsome and so sexy. I really did play it sexy. Then we had a break and I went to my trailer and looked in the mirror. I couldn’t believe how bad I actually looked. The hard thing was I completely believed just a few minutes before that Gary Cole would be attracted to my granny character. At the end of the day, I thought, “He’s really good. He made me feel sexy like this!” Gary had me convinced that this sex night could actually happen between my granny and him in a way that wasn’t totally icky.
Q: What is your best real-life beauty tip?
A: Give yourself a break. Stop trying to look like someone on TV. I know physically your imperfections make you perfect. They make you who you are. Don’t strive for perfection. Embrace your imperfections.
Q: You took a “Thelma and Louise” tribute selfie with Geena Davis a few weeks ago. How did that feel?
A: I did love seeing Geena and we had a nice moment. I did tell her that any future movie with the two of us has to be with both of us sitting down. She’s still a foot taller than I am. I’m shrinking and she’s still six foot one.