The role of Bette Davis was one Susan Sarandon had avoided playing until she was presented with Ryan Murphy’s scripts for “Feud.” Her performance as the legendary movie star has won raves — though she admits she’s hasn’t watched it herself.
Congratulations on “Feud.”
I haven’t seen it. It’s always heartbreaking when things are cut or you look at yourself and you think, “Well, I could have done that better or more courageously.” So I’ve decided just to dine out on everybody else saying they’re having a good time.
What made you sign on?
When Ryan [Murphy] came to me with this as a film, I just felt that it was a one-joke; they’re bitchy and so what? When he revisited it with me as a series years later, he seemed to have a handle on it. I love the fact that you could give it a context that was more interesting [and] ask bigger questions about Hollywood now.
What did you see about what he was going to explore with Bette?
We have much more in common than I thought in terms of our being outside of the Hollywood community and not being really comfortable with the idea of being a movie star. I felt that he was going to expose a lot of things that we really didn’t know about her. At the basis of the feud was this pain. I also thought it was really interesting that, just in my career, which now has been 50 years, I’ve seen a change in women’s attitude — kind of the generation before me, because most of the power structure was male-dominated. I think a lot of those women saw other women as their foes; you had to align yourself with power, which at that time was pretty male. Now, there are so many women producing and directing, and actors that are women who are able to get projects [made].
Would you explore more opportunities to make another TV series?
Sure. I have a book that I think makes a better TV series than a film because it’s complicated. A limited TV series I think would be a much better place for it than trying to make a two-hour movie where things tend to be more simplistic, especially if it’s talking about race or inequity of some sort.
What do you think Bette and Joan Crawford’s relationship was at the end of their lives?
It was pretty hard to get over that Academy Award thing. Even at the end when Joan in “Feud” says, “I’m sorry I wasn’t nicer to you,” I was thinking, “Nicer to me? How about you apologize for completely sabotaging my career at that point.” I choose to believe that maybe they could have worked it out if everybody hadn’t benefited so much. They were like the early “Real Housewives” of wherever.
Things you didn’t know about Susan Sarandon
AGE: 70 BORN: New York City, as Susan Tomalin OLYMPIC MOMENT: Carried Olympic flag in 2006 opening ceremonies of Winter Games in Turin, Italy TURNING TABLES: Co-owner of SPiN Ping-Pong social clubs FIRST FAMILY MEMBER: Played Tricia Nixon in 1972 Gore Vidal play “An Evening With Richard Nixon and …” on Broadway