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Elizabethtown - Susan Sarandon

Elizabethtown

Interview by Rob Carnevale

Q. What’s trickier: the emotional confusion you have to convey or tap-dancing to Moon River?
A:
The dance. Cameron videotapes everything – rehearsals, wardrobe fittings, everything. We were trying to figure out what inappropriate thing we could be wearing that would make it more inappropriate or more graceful. Despite the professional clothing that she buys, she’s probably had five lessons at tops. The real challenge was to find the tone of that scene as transition, to embrace the humour and shock, but also focus on her gift to him so that it has a certain dignity to it, even though it’s impossible to tap dance to Moon River.
Trying to find the balance of making it too broad. The fear that I had about doing the rest of the stand up, which was an even longer scene, was okay, because she’s terrified. Her gesture in this very hostile environment, even though she’s not processed her grief. I felt this was the moment to make her gesture so that they can work through their resentment on both sides.
So just the fact that she shows up and has palpable resentment is a very courageous act. I think the whole scene intrigued me – I was worried that she’d seem as if she was using this moment to break out her act. I didn’t want that to happen. That would have been really sick.

Q. Is it true that you once took up belly dancing and then gave up because it was too difficult?
A:
I threw my back out after a few lessons. I’m such a type A personality that I did it with such a vengeance that I almost crippled myself. You’re really accessorised, but it’s like a foreign language: if you can’t use it all the time, what’s the point?

Q. What’s the most romantic thing you would like done to you, hypothetically speaking?
Sarandon:
I think when someone does something thoughtful… A great picture or remembering something you like … I think it’s the idea that someone listens to you and spends time doing it, or takes the time to construct something. Like with Claire, the fact that she takes the time to make something like that. I always appreciate it when someone makes something for me. Anything that’s thoughtful and not just going out and shopping is a romantic thing. Not that I turn down jewellery!

Q. Where in the world would you sprinkle someone’s ashes?
Sarandon:
When my dad passed away he was living a very eccentric life in Maine and we pulled the car up to the lake where his house is and turned on a song on that was his song and my brothers rowed out to the lake.
I took a lot of road trips across the United States before I had kids. It’s great. You have to do the back roads though. I’ve camped in the Grand Canyon with my sister, I’ve gone into ditches. It’s one of those things you need to do. So I’ve criss-crossed, there’s a lot of great places.

Q. Elizabethtown comes across as quite an optimistic film. Given the cynical state of politics, do you think it’s important to be optimistic at this time?
Sarandon:
I think if you can’t imagine change then it’s not going to happen. Doing as much grass roots stuff that I do, that gives me hope because the people that do have information are doing things about it. People still care. It’s kind of like the garden of Eden. There’s still a certain amount of people that don’t want to eat a bite of the apple because they’re afraid they might get kicked out, they don’t want to take responsibility because they’re dad might shun them or something.
Then there’s other people who want to know and that’s where I put my hope. They’ve been moving a long and those are the people that are going to make change happen. So I am optimistic, especially with kids.
I don’t think you have much choice. As things deteriorate, I’ve chosen to believe that things can change after they break down.