Supermom Sarandon Suits Up for 'Speed Racer' Susan Sarandon says there's a taboo about portraying moms. But it's a field she's happy to dominate — and a role she fulfills again in the Wachowski brothers' newest, fastest film. Now all she wants is to be an action figure, or at least appear on a lunchbox.
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Supermom Sarandon Suits Up for 'Speed Racer'

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Supermom Sarandon Suits Up for 'Speed Racer'

Supermom Sarandon Suits Up for 'Speed Racer'

Supermom Sarandon Suits Up for 'Speed Racer'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/90309336/90309311" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Susan Sarandon plays mother to Emile Hirsch's Speed Racer — but she also knuckles down and builds his car. Action figure, anyone? Warner Bros. Entertainment hide caption

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Warner Bros. Entertainment

Emile Hirsch careens around the track in Speed Racer. Warner Bros. Entertainment hide caption

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Warner Bros. Entertainment

In her latest Hollywood turn, Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon takes on a familiar role in an unusual setting. Sarandon plays Mom Racer, shepherding the gifted and conflicted Speed Racer through an anime world.

The Wachowski Brothers' Speed Racer infuses the Racer family's personal drama with a broader theme of corporate takeover of sports and the media. Sarandon says she was interested in the project because she loved the Wachowski's Matrix pictures, and because she liked their human touch. "The fact that they were brave enough, in the midst of this cacophony of sound and saturated color and races and everying, to have space for the family, to have those moments — you [usually] don't see an attempt made to have a heartbeat in the middle of that," she says.

The Wachowskis "don't even do drugs," she says, "and it's probably the trippiest movie I've ever been in."

'The Patron Saint of Older Ovaries'

The long-time partner of actor Tim Robbins and a mother of three, Sarandon shares political passions and ordinary pursuits with her family. She comments on her family's reaction to the New York Rangers' second-round loss in the NHL playoffs. "They were close and yet so far," she says. "We're just coming out of our funk."

For Sarandon, an active supporter of Democratic causes, politics hit home, too. She notes the irony in Speed Racer's anti-corporate stance, when the film itself is a product of a major studio, Warner Bros. "Certainly we need those big structures for something," she says. "It doesn't mean they all have to be corrupt — just like all Republicans aren't bad."

Pressed to name two such Republicans, Sarandon demurs. "I've met a few," she says. "Maybe none in the limelight, but then, you know, I'm not a huge fan of all Democrats, either."

"You know, the Republican thing, people always ask me, 'Well, what would you feel if your daughter dated one?' " she says. "Would I be upset? We've just become so polarized, but when you stop to listen, you find good people everywhere."

Her career is studded with hits, from Bull Durham to Thelma and Louise and Dead Man Walking. Sarandon has played characters ranging from vixen to nun. "You just have to choose according to things that interest you," she says.

Often, as in Speed Racer, Sarandon is cast as a mother. "I think, first of all, there's a taboo about playing a mom, so it was a field I could dominate," she says. "I think that women who have children are very, very interesting, and I don't mind exploring bad moms, good moms.... I love women. I love the fact that they're so fragile and so strong, and a lot of them happen to be moms."

Sarandon gave birth to her first child at age 39 and her third at 45. "I think I'm actually the patron saint of older ovaries," she says.

All I Want Is to Be on a Lunchbox

One role has escaped Sarandon — that of an action figurine. She laughs about reports that she was miffed that her Speed Racer character did not get the plastic treatment. "Devastated," she jokes. "I spent the whole beginning part of my career turning down anything that had merchandising, and now all I want is to be on a lunchbox. And they didn't make an action figure — what does that say to young girls? I could have a pancake thing, and I make the car — that's the modern-day mom."