In 1997, Susan Sarandon made sure she died before Christmas.
“I was filming Stepmom. As a producer, I was able to schedule it so that I died before we took our Christmas break, so I could eat,” recalls Sarandon, who had to lose a significant amount of weight for her role as Jackie Harrison, a mother diagnosed with terminal cancer.
That Christmas, the Academy Award-winning actress found herself riding camels in Morocco’s Sahara Desert with her three children. Her youngest, actor Miles Robbins, was five at the time.
“One of your duties as a parent is to make memories,” she says, adding that she is a “compulsive scrapbook maker”.
Beyond making memories, Sarandon felt it her parental duty to expose her children to different cultures and experiences from an early age, believing that travel is the key to shifting perceptions and combatting prejudice.
“Experiencing Fez, the desert and the call to prayer really made a difference in my kids’ attitudes towards the Islamophobia that was developing back home in the United States,” she says. “It was really important for them to have a big view of the world, to not be afraid of or threatened by people who were different than they were in terms of languages, customs, the way they dress. Any kind of hatred is based on fear.”
Sarandon is an outspoken advocate for equality and human rights. In December 2015, she spent time with various organisations helping refugees in Lesbos, Greece, who were fleeing the conflict zones of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
“I did it because I felt that they were being dehumanised,” she says, adding that she also felt her involvement in some way honoured her grandfather, who fled to the United States from Sicily as a teenager because the First World War was underway and the government was trying to place young boys in the army.