Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon hit the bull's eye with her 1991 film Thelma and Louise, a road movie that goes horribly wrong for two women. In a dramatic finale, Sarandon's character forces the other woman to drive off the Grand Canyon.
Four years later, in a completely different role, Sarandon essays a nun in Dead Man Walking, appealing against the execution of a convict found guilty of murdering a young couple. When she fails, she agrees to see him through his final hours in a heart-wrenching performance that earned Sarandon an Oscar.
During a chat at the ongoing International Film Festival of India in Panaji, Sarandon, now 67, says that she never likes to repeat. Instead, she tries her best to find parts that vary from one another. "I would even now love to do a truly romantic role," says the actor.
What about a stint in Bollywood? The actor says she would "love" to act in a Bollywood movie, but for a key stumbling block: "I have to learn how to dance first."
One of her very popular work, Stepmom, did get a Bollywood makeover in the movie We are Family with Kajol, Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal. Talking about Stepmom, Sarandon quips, "You mean to say that I was dancing as I was dying."
She feels that what she likes doing - or even seeing - are roles that convey extraordinary abilities and qualities in ordinary people. Sister Helen in Dead Man Walking had to, at every step, take painful decisions. "I love to do movies that are about incremental changes. Not quite about men who appear in the scene with a gun and clean up the place".
Yet, the film that actually helped her to step to the centre of the stage was Thelma and Louise, about two gun-toting women. "When I accepted to work in this movie, I thought I would have some fun. I thought it would be a cowgirl's adventure, and we would have women and cars instead of men and horses," she avers.
She did not quite realise that it will upset a lot of people that probably and ultimately made Thelma and Louise a cult film. "Of course, I did not want it to be some kind of revenge stuff, and director Ridley Scott did help in making the movie into something deeper".
From the grease paint and arc lamps, Sarandon is deeply committed to gay rights, women's issues and needless wars. She was vociferously against the Iraq conflict. "I think the rules of activism are imagination and empathy, and as an actor your job is to reach out to the media about these issues. It was not easy talking about the Asians in Guantanamo during the Academy Awards, because I was raised as a Catholic girl who is not supposed to cause trouble", Sarandon contends.
"But my comments at Oscars drew angry voices. People were screaming". Talking about the reactions she got later, she says, "You are cut off from the rest of your tribe; labeled un-American and I even got death threats."
Outspoken to the core, she feels that while she is totally against censorship of any kind, "you cannot blame cinema for violence in the society. I think mothers need to raise their children in a certain way. I was very strict with my children about violence on screen".
She adds, "I condemn the very romantic notion of violence being sexy, and I also condemn the one about men who overpower women as being sexy. The combination of violence and sex is a very dangerous thing".