“There is nothing about Hillary Clinton I find feminist, except that she’s a woman”
Susan Sarandon arrived last night from LA. Is she exhausted? “I’m surprisingly all right,” she grins. She looks damn good for 69. Relaxed, too. Her hair, loosely up in messy ringlets, seems more strawberry blonde than red-carpet red. She is dressed casually in a loose, pink, sequined kaftan top, which she pulls at, complaining: “I am at my fattest.” Still, she digs into the bread basket and declares she’s hungry. “Let’s get oysters!”
I confess, I am slightly disappointed. I had hoped to meet Sarandon at her purringly seductive best. After all, she was the sexiest feminist icon ever in Thelma & Louise — and 25 years later she is a siren still: tweeting pictures of herself comparing cleavage size with Salma Hayek at this year’s Cannes and stealing the red carpet from stars 40 years younger by turning up in a plunging tuxedo dress (her “double-breasted look”). In 1975 she played Janet (dammit) in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, where she seduced Frank-N-Furter and Rocky Horror in one night. In real life, she had a three-year fling with David Bowie in the mid-1980s after they met on the set of The Hunger. For years Playboy begged her to pose, offering ever more cash. Now she says she regrets not finding a way to do it, on her own terms, in a way “that wasn’t dehumanising or objectifying”. She did offer to pose naked while pregnant, but it wasn’t interested. Now she can’t do it “because I have two grown-up sons”.
Today, though, I might not have recognised her walking into Claridge’s. Unlike celebrities who travel with an entourage while wearing giant Prada sunglasses and complaining about paparazzi, Sarandon avoids starry fuss. In Hollywood, she claims, she is “kind of an outsider”, and chooses to live in New York because “if I was isolated behind gates in Beverly Hills, I wonder if I would be able to maintain my connection to the bigger picture”. That is important to her.
The day we meet, Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination. Sarandon, who has been campaigning fervently for Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival, is unimpressed. “She could be indicted,” she says of the FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server to send classified information. “She’s lied and she’s broken the law.” Even off the red-eye with no sleep, she can’t wait to sink her teeth in.
I would have thought a famously liberal feminist like Sarandon would relish the prospect of America’s first female president, but no. “I don’t vote with my vagina,” she retorts. Besides, in her view, Clinton is no sister: “There is nothing about her I find feminist, except that she’s a woman. She doesn’t support basic things that would help women.” She continues railing in this vein, firing partisan allegations about everything from Clinton’s alleged lack of support for a $15 minimum wage and universal healthcare to her willingness to send back some undocumented child refugees.
Her gripes against Hillary are so numerous, I could write about nothing else. “She’s a hawk and she’ll probably get us into another war — she’s been desperate to get us into it with Russia and Iran.” As Sarandon warms to her theme, she reels off the charges: “She won’t release the transcripts of all her speeches to Goldman Sachs … She was the last one out for gay rights … Monsanto … Honduras … Libya. Across the board, everything she stands for is wrong.”
So what is the alternative? Sarandon has provocatively suggested people might vote for Trump over Clinton just to watch the system implode. “Some people feel Trump will bring the revolution immediately,” she has said. She has since seen the light, admitting that, rather than voting for Trump, she’ll abstain or vote for Jill Stein, an independent candidate.
If she feels so strongly, would she ever run herself? “No! Absolutely not.” But Americans love a celebrity politician: look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California. “No, you can’t make a difference, it’s much better to be outside.” This seems to be a recurring theme with her.
She is easy to be with, and relaxed in the way people are who are totally comfortable in themselves, which you’d expect from a woman who has always been authentically herself, long before being so was a thing. Unpretentious, she is not afraid to speak her mind, even about her own industry. She recently called out Woody Allen as a paedophile, in the light of renewed allegations that he abused his adopted daughter: “I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don’t think that is right.”
She has been outspoken since high school, when she was arrested at protests for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Since then she has sparked controversy with her support for gun control and LGBT rights, as well as speaking out against sex trafficking, the death penalty and human-rights violations. This is not just luvvie talk — she went to Lesbos recently to work with refugees: “The worst humanitarian crisis I have seen.”
Image: MAARTEN DE BOER/GETTY